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.