Will Ohio State's Young Stars Buck the Trend?
Good news Buckeye fans.
With Ohio State's thrilling overtime drubbing of No. 12 Purdue, the Buckeyes have put themselves in position to challenge for the Big Ten title.
Another reason for celebration during this current three-game winning streak is the emergence of the next trio of Buckeye superstars.
Sophomore Evan Turner and talented freshmen William Buford and B.J. Mullens have taken their games to a new level over the last few games. But on Tuesday night, in front of a rowdy Ohio State crowd who relentlessly waved their scarlet rally towels, the trio kicked it into overdrive.
Turner was spectacular running the point for most of the first half, save an uncharacteristically bad performance from the charity stripe. Though he played the entire game, he turned it up in overtime where he scored six of his 26 points.
Buford scored effortlessly, seemingly knocking down every shot on his way to a 22-point performance, and B.J. Mullens added 17 while shooting 93 percent from the field.
As a team, the Buckeyes shot an astounding 60 percent from the field against a Purdue defense that is holding opponents to 43 percent on the year. The Buckeyes outscored the Boilermakers 16-8 in overtime while shooting 70 percent from the field.
Turner, Buford, and Mullens were the major difference in this game and will be the key ingredients for Ohio State's success down the home stretch. Thad Matta is getting strong, but there have been inconsistent performances from role players Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler, Jeremie Simmons, and P.J. Hill, who have all only shown flashes of brilliance.
The young Buckeyes are getting stronger and are starting to hit their stride. The home stretch features games with Minnesota, Penn State, Illinois, and Purdue—all teams who are currently one game ahead of them in the standings—and Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern. The Wildcats are the only team the Buckeyes will see twice.
A strong closing performance will give the Buckeyes a ton of confidence and a good seed heading into the Big Ten Tournament.
All is good news, and the Buckeye faithful should be excited about the future—or should they?
Though the end of the season is still potentially months away, I can't help but think about what the future holds for this talented trio of young Buckeyes.
Will Turner, Buford, and Mullens be the next Oden, Conley, and Cook? Is 2009 the last time that we see these players in a Buckeye uniform?
There are many reasons as to why these young men should stay in school and play, but it seems the days of staying in school are in the past. The list of players who actually play out their eligibility is growing smaller and smaller with every passing season.
Ohio State has been hit hard by the "one and done" bug, losing four players to the first round of the NBA draft in the last two seasons. The result has been subtle but noticeable, especially in the basketball program's recent graduation rates.
The Buckeyes have had the luxury of reloading every year, replacing lost stars with new ones every year, and continuing to have success on the court. But how long can this "one and done" practice continue before it really starts taking a toll on the program?
We'll have to wait and see.
Until then, I will remain optimistic and fully expect to see these young Bucks back in scarlet and gray for the next few years. The promise of this team in seasons to come could be enough for Turner, Buford, and Mullens.
But will the lure of the NBA be too strong?
Only time will tell.
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