Ohio State v Duke

Ohio State’s lack of balance will be its downfall

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I don’t care what happens in November, it’s impossible to write any team off in the first month of the season.

To an extent; we all know that DePaul isn’t winning the Big East and that Savannah State isn’t making the Final Four.

But at this stage in the season, saying that — oh, I don’t know — Ohio State cannot win the Big 10 this year is a stretch. Even with how good Indiana is and how good Michigan has looked, flat out stating that a team with two all-americans on the roster cannot win their conference is premature, especially when that team went into Cameron and beat up on Duke for 30 minutes.

What we can say, however, is that Ohio State is going to be in trouble on the nights that they can’t find a secondary scoring option.

No one is going to stop Deshaun Thomas. The all-american was defended beautifully by Ryan Kelly and company on Wednesday night, but he still managed to finish with 16 points on 6-14 shooting despite getting into some foul trouble in Duke’s 73-68 win over Ohio State.

The rest of Ohio State’s scoring threats?

Aaron Craft was 3-15 from the floor and had just a single assist. Lenzelle Smith was 4-12 from the field. LaQuinton Ross had nine points and three boards in the first half as Ohio State built their lead, but was a non-factor in the second stanza.

The Buckeyes simply rely too much on Thomas on the offensive end. They don’t have the firepower to truly be considered elite right now. That can change, especially if Ross or Smith start to play more consistently. And Craft isn’t always going to play this poorly. In fact, one of the biggest reasons Duke was able to make their run down the stretch is that whoever was guarding Thomas simply never left him in pick-and-roll situations, daring Craft to shoot. Craft’s strengths may be defense and leadership, not scoring, but he’s certainly not normally a liability offensively, which he was on Wednesday.

The elite teams can combat a star having an off-night. Seth Curry struggled on Wednesday, and Rasheen Sulaimon blew up for 17 second half points. Christian Watford struggled on Tuesday against North Carolina, and Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey both finished with 19 points. Trey Burke didn’t score in the first half against NC State, but he finished with nine assists and no turnovers in the first 20 minutes because he had enough talent around him to simply be a distributor.

Ohio State doesn’t have that luxury.

And that is what will be their downfall.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

USC athletic director Pat Haden to step down in June

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LOS ANGELES (AP) University of Southern California athletic director Pat Haden says he will retire on June 30.

USC President Max Nikias made the announcement Friday.

Haden has run the athletic department for 5 1/2 years, leading the Trojans through a multiyear stretch of NCAA sanctions against its vaunted football program. He created a large NCAA compliance program and improved graduation rates and grade point averages across the athletic department.

The former USC quarterback also received criticism for the football program’s relative underachievement and for his handling of coach Steve Sarkisian, who has sued the school over his termination last year.

Nikias says Haden’s department also raised over $400 million during his tenure.

Nikias says Haden will start a one-year job guiding the renovation of the Coliseum after he retires.

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: Ivy League’s best meet in New Haven

Columbia guard Maodo Lo, right, steals the ball from Northwestern forward Aaron Falzon, left, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015, in Evanston, Ill.  (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Columbia at Yale, 5:00 p.m.

The two best teams in the Ivy League, with matching 4-0 league records, meet for the first time this season. The Lions were close to suffering their first loss last weekend, but an Alex Rosenberg jumper as time expired gave the Lions the win at reigning champion Harvard. Rosenberg’s one of four players averaging at least 12.2 points per game for Kyle Smith’s team, with senior guard Maodo Lo leading the way at 15.8 per contest.

They’ll face a Yale rotation led offensively by point guard Makai Mason (15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg), and the front court tandem of Justin Sears and Brandon Sherrod has been outstanding. The winner get a leg up in the Ivy race, with the rematch scheduled for March 5 in New York City (regular season finale).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: Central Michigan at Akron, 8:00 p.m.

Two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference meet at the JAR, as Akron looks to extend its win streak to six straight. The Zips’ balanced offensive attack has been led by forward Isaiah Johnson (12.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg), who currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding. As for the visiting Chippewas, guards Braylon Rayson and Chris Fowler combine to average 32.7 points per game, with Fowler also responsible for a MAC-best 6.3 assists per contest. CMU’s had some struggles on the defensive glass in league play, ranking 11th in that category, but they’ve done a better job defensively than they did in non-conference play.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • MAAC leader Monmouth is back in action, as they host a Fairfield team led by one of the conference’s best players in senior forward Marcus Gilbert. The Hawks have a deep lineup led by junior guard Justin Robinson, who at this point in time is the likely frontrunner for MAAC Player of the Year honors.
  • Looking to catch Monmouth is Iona, which is a game behind the Hawks at 9-3. A.J. English and the Gaels visit Canisius in a matchup that should not lack for offense. Iona’s more inclined to run, but Canisius doesn’t lack scorers either with guard Malcolm McMillan leading four players averaging double figures.
  • Given the fact that they’re 1-3 in Ivy League play, Harvard’s essentially in the spoiler role unless some chaos breaks out at the top end of the standings. The Crimson can help in that regard with a win at Princeton, with the Tigers (2-1) a game behind Columbia and Yale in the loss column. Princeton’s been the better offensive team this season, thanks in large part to junior forward Henry Caruso who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding.