Wichita State v Ohio State

Craft and Company ran out of miracles this time


Ohio State junior point guard Aaron Craft has established a bit of a pattern in the NCAA tournament. As the Buckeyes faced down Iowa State in the Round of 32, it was Craft who pulled up with the game on the line and coolly buried the game-winning three point shot. Against Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen, Craft saw LaQuinton Ross open on the wing and fed the hot hand – it was another dramatic three-point splashdown to save the Buckeyes’ title hopes.

Not this time. Not against Wichita State, the No. 9 seed stocked with freshmen and transfers. The Shockers pulled out to a sizeable lead, as high as 20 points in the second half, which gave the Buckeyes a chance to rev up their eye-popping comeback mojo machine, and it looked like Craft and Company would do it again.

Craft nailed a trey with :06 left on the game clock to get the score to 70-66, and when WSU’s Tekele Cotton missed both free throws on the other end of the floor, Craft had another shot at closing the final gap. This time, however, the hole was too deep. The Buckeyes needed four points to play on, and Craft’s three – which missed – wouldn’t have changed the outcome even if another prayer had fallen in.

In the end, Craft’s past caught up with him. He hit only two shots – both of them from behind the arc – throughout the game, and had as many turnovers to his credit as assists. That was too much wrong to be put right before the clock ran out. Sometimes – most of the time, in fact – it’s better to be consistently good than consistently lucky.

Craft’s teammates were a mixed bag in this one, too. DeShaun Thomas, a CBT preseason All-America choice, went for 23 points on the interior, and sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross continued a string of solid postseason performances by knocking in 19 from all areas of the floor. In the end, two solid performances simply weren’t enough to get the Buckeyes back to the Final Four.

Thad Matta may have yet another shot at the brass ring next season. Thomas, despite his accolades, is rated by DraftExpress as the 62nd-best  NBA prospect in the nation, and Craft is well behind him, ranked 88th. With Ross developing into a dangerous player, and Thomas and Craft back, Matta will have a perfect three-man core to build his next title contender around. Perhaps even one that doesn’t have to rely on the buzzer-beater to advance into late March.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.