Created on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 Written by TIM BIELIK tbielik@MorningJournal.com @Bielik_Tim,writer
Sunday’s loss for the Ohio State Buckeyes on the hardwood at Wisconsin wasn’t just an embarrassment, it was downright unwatchable.
OSU lost to the Badgers 71-49, giving the Buckeyes their third loss in their last four games. Their only win in two weeks: a home win over a depleted Northwestern squad that OSU didn’t take control of until the late minutes.
Say what you will about why the Buckeyes aren’t living up to the expectations at the beginning of the season when they were ranked No. 4 in the AP Preseason Poll.
Maybe it’s because DeShaun Thomas, who far and away leads the team in scoring with 20.1 points per game, is not getting any help.
Maybe Thad Matta has lost the touch that has helped him get to two Final Fours and three straight Sweet 16 appearances.
But the reality of this year’s OSU team is this: they’re not that good.
College basketball, more than any other sport, can see teams take dramatic swings in performance. Kentucky is the perfect example, as it rolled to the national championship last year but could miss the tournament entirely this year.
Fans also should remember that the Buckeyes didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament in 2007-08 the year after they lost in the national championship game.
To their credit, OSU hasn’t had a loss to a team which was unranked at the time. Yet the Buckeyes have only beaten one team who was ranked at the time which came on Jan. 13 against then-No. 2 Michigan at home 56-53.
The issue with this team is that the expectations of this team after losing both Jared Sullinger and William Buford, the latter of whom was far too inconsistent for too long, were too high. It’s not reasonable for any team to lose that much and expect to finish in the top two in the Big Ten, which is the best conference in college basketball these days.
Indiana is among the top national championship favorites, Michigan and Michigan State each have a chance to win No. 1 seeds in the tournament and Minnesota, which is seventh in the conference, still looks far clear of the dreaded bubble.
All those things considered, it’s not a bad thing that Ohio State is in the top five of the conference despite all of those aforementioned losses.
But the most disappointing part of the season is that OSU’s young players have not stepped up or had the type of seasons they were expected to have.
After having two big tournament games last year with Sullinger dealing with foul trouble, Amir Williams has not quite had the season he was expected to have. The sophomore center has not been the imposing defensive presence he was expected to be, and he continues to look tentative.
Sophomore swingman LaQuinton Ross has become even more of an enigma, as we continue to see great promise from his play yet just as often come back scratching our heads and wanting more. He had a big game in the Buckeyes’ loss at Michigan with 16 points, but has combined for just 14 points in the last three games.
Even more shocking is that Aaron Craft’s production has tailed off since Sullinger’s departure as his lack of a quality offensive game has been exposed.
Matta does deserve a lot of blame for not giving these youngsters quality experience in the past, a criticism of his coaching that has been continual. He only seems to have his biggest success either when he has a big-time freshman burst onto the scene like Greg Oden and company did in 2006.
But calling for his head is simply asinine. Should Roy Williams be fired at UNC even though just four years after he won a national title, his Tar Heels are irrelevant this season?
This game is among the most cyclical because losing just one or two players can completely change the landscape for a team.
That’s what’s going on with Ohio State.
They’re not very good this year, but they’re not really a disappointment, either.
Expectations were unreasonably high for this group. In fact, don’t be surprised if they’re one of those teams that get upset in the first round.
It’s just that kind of year for the Buckeyes.
Turnover on downs
Staying in the Big Ten, the conference doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the phrase, “Enough is enough.”
Reports surfaced on Tuesday that Virginia, Georgia Tech and North Carolina have all received offers to join the Big Ten, which comes just months after adding Rutgers and Maryland who won’t officially join the conference until 2014.
Aside the fact that none of those three teams can bring anything like what Texas A&M added to the SEC, it makes no sense to bring in more mediocre football schools hoping to raise the profile of the conference.
It’s going to be really weird to call it the Big Ten if it has 20 teams one day ...