No. 3 Ohio State is a good basketball team.
You don’t make it to January undefeated — you don’t climb all the way up to No. 3 in the country — if you’re a good basketball team.
So we’re not arguing that here, even if no. 20 Iowa’s 84-74 win in Columbus was the second loss in a row for the Buckeyes.
What the Buckeyes are is a limited basketball team, one that has a ceiling thanks to the issues that they have on the offensive end of the floor.
Ohio State is built around their ability to defend, and, quite simply, there is no team in the country better than the Buckeyes when it comes to defense. They have a roster full of really good-to-great on-ball defenders and Thad Matta is as good as anyone in the business at teaching his guys help-side rotations. Put it all together, and there’s a reason that OSU entered Sunday as the nation’s No. 1 defense, according to Kenpom.
But the offensive end is a problem, one that is going to rear it’s ugly head over and over again this season.
We saw it on Tuesday night in the overtime loss to No. 5 Michigan State. The Spartans held the Buckeyes to just 38 points over the first 33 minutes. OSU was only able to force overtime because Michigan State turned the ball over nine times in the last seven minutes, the spark for a 20-3 run. In the overtime, with LaQuinton Ross strapped to the bench thanks to a 1-for-7 shooting performance, the Buckeyes looked lost offensively.
On Sunday, you saw the best and the worst of Ross. He was terrific on the offensive end of the floor, finishing with 22 points, seven boards and three assists. But he also committed three back-breaking turnovers in the final four minutes, allowing Iowa to regain the lead.
Here’s the catch: Matta really has no choice but to play Ross. If he’s not the most important player on the Ohio State roster, he’s not all that far behind Aaron Craft. They need his scoring simply because they have no one else on their roster that is as much of a threat on that end of the floor. Think about it like this: when Ross is on the bench, Ohio State’s best five is probably Craft, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith, Sam Thompson and Amir Williams.
Who, out of that group, scares you offensively if you’re an opposing coach?
Ross is inconsistent and a liability, but he’s a risk that Matta has to play every night simply because he can put the ball in the basket.