Nothing’s really “wrong” with Ohio State. Nothing that most team wouldn’t take, anyway.
The Buckeyes may have dropped to No 6 in the polls after their loss Saturday to Michigan State, but they remain one of the nation’s elite teams, mostly thanks to their incredible offense.
Ohio State rarely turns the ball over, is lights out from inside the arc and hits the offensive glass fairly well. Those three things will be too much for most teams to handle, especially when you’ve got a guy in the middle – Jared Sullinger – who can usually make things easier for everyone else because of the attention he attracts down low.
The one area that needs help? Perimeter shooting.
The Buckeyes are just below the D-I average (34.3) from beyond the arc. Sophomore Lenzelle Smith’s their best shooter (43 percent) but his playing time is erratic. Deshaun Thomas (31.6 percent) and Williams Buford (37 percent) aren’t real threats. Aaron Craft (35 percent) doesn’t shoot enough.
It’s made one writer lament the graduation of sharpshooter Jon Diebler.
Jonny “3” D was my nickname for him, although I reluctantly concede Jon Threebler became a more fashionable monicker. Diebler made just over half his treys (114-for-227) last season, and the last one he tried tied the Kentucky game at 60.
“We had the best team in the country,” Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta told former football coach Jim Tressel. “But we weren’t the best that night. That’s what makes it so tough.”
The basketball savants like to talk about the graduation of David Lighty, the Buckeyes’ toughest defender, in explaining the current team’s four losses. Recently, attention has also gone to the weight loss of 6-9, 265-pound sophomore Jared Sullinger, which might better equip him to play farther out on the floor in the NBA, but which robs him of some of the bulk needed to bang efficiently in the paint now.
But I make the graduation of Diebler the biggest factor. The three-pointer has been in the college game for a quarter-century now. It can have a disproportionate effect on the outcome of games in the hands of a Diebler-like player.
Diebler’s uncanny accuracy helped boost the Buckeyes to 42.2 percent from deep last year, tops in D-I. (Lighty and Buford were both over 42 percent.)
The offense should be good enough to overcome the lack of a Diebler. Michigan State managed to frustrate Sullinger into 10 turnovers and take the Buckeyes out of their offensive rhythm. But much of that blame lies with Buford and Thomas, who seemed ill-prepared to assume an increased burden with the Spartans throwing big body after big body at Sullinger.
Having Diebler would be nice. But if Thomas and Buford simply produce, they wouldn’t need him.
You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.