The comeback was thrilling, but Ohio State’s offense remains concerning

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Plenty of people had questions about No. 3 Ohio State entering their game with No. 5 Michigan State at the Breslin Center on Tuesday night.

Can a team with such issues on the offensive end of the floor really be the third-best team in the country? Does winning at sputtering Marquette, or beating a depleted Maryland, or a miracle comeback against a thoroughly average Notre Dame team really justify their lofty standing nationally? Did they enter this game undefeated because they’re that good or because their schedule, well, wasn’t?

Tuesday was going to tell us all we needed to know.

Michigan State has played like they are the best team in the country when healthy, and on Tuesday, they weren’t even healthy. Travis Trice didn’t play. Adreian Payne, who has been dealing with plantar fasciitis, also sprained his foot. Matt Costello still found himself playing limited minutes. And yet, the Spartans were still able to stretch a 28-21 halftime lead to 55-38 with just over seven minutes left in the game.

That’s when Ohio State took over.

The Buckeyes are one of the best teams in the country on the defensive end of the floor, and there may not be a better defensive back court anywhere than the pairing of Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft. That defense was on display over the course of those final seven minutes, as the Buckeyes went on a thrilling, 20-3 run to tie the game and force overtime. Hell, they almost won it in regulation. If it wasn’t for an unbelievable defensively play from Keith Appling on a fast break layup for Scott, Sparty would be heading back into the frozen tundra of East Lansing with a loss.

Ohio State ended up losing in overtime, 72-68, but that doesn’t take away from just how impressive that comeback was.

What happened was simple, really.

Michigan State got a bit lackadaisical offensively, thinking they would be coasting in for an easy win. Ohio State took advantage, cranking the screws defensively and making Michigan State look like a men’s league team that was 10 minutes past being gassed. During that 20-3 run, the Buckeyes forced nine turnovers, which led to nine points and put them in complete control of the game.

But here’s the thing: we didn’t learn anything new about Ohio State.

Yeah, they are going to defend you. Yes, they can force turnovers. Obviously, when those turnovers come in bunches they can create massive comebacks. Notre Dame will tell you that.

But this is also still a team that really struggles on the offensive end of the floor. Their only go-to guy is LaQuinton Ross, an inconsistent talent who just-so-happened to have an off-night on Tuesday. He finished the night 1-for-7 with just five points and was benched for freshman Marc Loving down the stretch. Neither Craft or Scott can break down a defense off the dribble. Neither of them are a real threat in the pick-and-roll. Amir Williams, Sam Thompson, Lenzelle Smith. These aren’t guys that need to be game-planned around for opponents.

Those issues were quite evident outside of the seven minutes at the end of regulation.

Ohio State is going to have a lot of nights like this, especially when LaQuinton Ross isn’t shooting the ball all that well. 

But with that defense, there aren’t going to be many nights where they’re ever out of a game.

Bubble Banter: It is a massive night for teams on the bubble

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

YET TO PLAY

SYRACUSE
VIRGINIA TECH
PENN STATE
SETON HALL
PROVIDENCE
ST. BONAVENTURE
TCU
MARQUETTE
LOUISVILLE
FLORIDA
TEXAS
KANSAS STATE
USC

Wichita State’s Landry Shamet out sick against Tulane

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Wichita State guard Landry Shamet will miss the Shockers’ game against Tulane on Wednesday night as he sits out due to illness.

Dressed in street clothes for the AAC conference clash, Shamet has put up All-American-caliber numbers for Wichita State this season as he’s putting up 14.7 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.

Without Shamet in the lineup, it gives Samajae Haynes-Jones a potential shot at minutes as he’s fallen out of the rotation over the last several weeks. Wichita State is still heavily favored against Tulane at home on Wednesday but they have an important three-game stretch to close out the conference season. The Shockers have to go on the road to play SMU and UCF before closing out the conference slate with an important home game against Cincinnati.

Duke’s Marvin Bagley III out for the fourth straight game with knee injury

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Duke star freshman big man Marvin Bagley III will miss his fourth consecutive game on Wednesday night as he continues to battle a knee injury.

The 6-foot-11 freshman suffered a mild knee sprain in his right knee in Duke’s game against North Carolina on Feb. 8 as he’s missed the Blue Devils’ last three games — all wins. Bagley will miss Duke’s contest against Louisville on Wednesday as he’s also missed games against Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Clemson.

Duke still has three regular-season games after Wednesday before the ACC tournament starts as Bagley still has plenty of time to heal and recover before the postseason begins.

Bagley is putting up 21.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for Duke this season as he’s a consensus top-five pick in most 2018 NBA mock drafts. Without Bagley in the lineup, Duke has continued to play well and win games as they’ve still had big man Wendell Carter to handle things on the interior.

 

Rick Pitino: ‘I had no knowledge’ of the violations that led to banner coming down

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Disgraced ex-Louisville head coach Rick Pitino spoke at a press conference in Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon and denied any knowledge of the violations that were committed by Andre McGee, any potential NCAA violations involving the recruitment of Brian Bowen and pushed for Louisville to file an injunction against the NCAA’s decision to remove the 2013 national title banner.

“I take full responsibility for everyone I hire,” Pitino said. “To say I’m disappointed with the NCAA ruling is a gross understatement.”

“I have apologized many times. I feel awful for what happened. I’ve run a clean program all my life. [Sitting where you are], I would agree with you. It looks bad. I’ve coached for 41 years. For 35, as a head coach, nothing has come up.”

Pitino went on to say that he “hired the wrong person” when he made the decision to bring McGee onto his staff. McGee is the one that was responsible for hosting the parties and bringing the strippers and sex workers to them.

“I had no knowledge of the reprehensible things that went on in that dormitory,” Pitino said. “Did a few of [my players] partake in parties they didn’t organize? Yes, they did. That had nothing to do with an extra benefit,” going on to add that attending these parties were not the reason that Louisville won the 2013 national title.

Pitino also denied any involvement in the recruit of Bowen, a five-star prospect that committed to Louisville in a deal that was supposed to get his family paid $100,000 from Adidas.

“In 40 years of coaching, I have never been involved, directly or indirectly, in any effort to pay any money or extend any improper benefit to any recruit or recruit’s family members or representatives,” he said.

Pitino said that he has not had any discussions about coaching again or looking for a job this spring, but he did say that he does “miss it.” He also urged the new University of Louisville administration to fight this decision in court, to file an injunction and do what they can to keep Louisville from having to sacrifice a national title banner.

No other Division I basketball program has ever had a national title vacated.

“The NCAA,” Pitino said, “cannot rewrite history by taking a banner down.

John Wall is heading back to school to get a business degree

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John Wall, the former Kentucky star that helped launch Coach Cal’s one-and-done movement in Lexington, is planning on using a piece of that $207 million contract extension that he signed last July for summer school.

“I’m going back to school this summer to get my business degree,” Wall told the Washington Post this week. “That’s what I’m focusing on. I promised my dad that.”

Wall’s dad died when he was eight years old, and anyone that knows his story knows that it hasn’t been the easiest path for Wall to get from that moment to this moment.

So good for John.

Seriously.

I do believe that it is important to educate yourself, even if that education is something as simple as learning how to run a business on your own.

But I also think that, in the larger context of basketball and, specifically, the one-and-done rule, this is important to note. Wall left school as a 19-year old, made a whole bunch of guaranteed money on his rookie deal, got more guaranteed money on his first contract extension and now is working under a contract that will pay him nine figures with a crooked number in front. Throw in endorsement deals, and by the time Wall hangs up his sneakers, he could end up banking close to half a billion dollars.

That’s more than enough money to be able to pay for three years worth of classes at Kentucky to finish his undergrad degree, get a master’s and become a PhD. For Wall, that financial hit would be like the financial hit you or I take for adding chips and guac at Chipotle. (But not queso. We pretend their queso doesn’t exist.)

My point is this: The time a person has to educate themselves never ends. The time that Wall, or any professional athlete, has to profit off of their ability does, and much sooner than most think.

So the next time you decide to criticize a player for leaving school early to chase their professional dreams or because they’re just looking to get paid or because they don’t care about education, just think about this.