Ohio State Basketball: 5 Reasons Aaron Craft Is the Nation's Top Point Guard
Sure, there are point guards that probably have a brighter NBA future and those that score more points than the Buckeyes’ leader. But, to quote Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated:
Nobody has better overall command of the game on both ends of the floor than Ohio State's 6-foot-2 sophomore.
Craft has the tendency to control entire contests from the defensive side of the ball, and his offense, although rarely discussed, is constantly improving.
He is the perfect floor-general for Thad Matta’s squad and will continue to harass the rest of the Big Ten in 2012-13.
Here are five reasons why Craft will be the best point guard in the nation this upcoming season.
Stats courtesy of www.basketball-reference.com.
There seems to be a split in today’s NBA about what makes the perfect point guard.
On one side, there are players such as Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook who look to lead their teams by slashing the lane and scoring.
On the other hand, there are guards such as Rajon Rondo and Steve Nash who control the flow of the game and look to set up their talented teammates.
If Craft had to be categorized, he would probably fall in the latter category. He is basically an extension of Matta on the floor who uses his high basketball IQ to set up his teammates and pick his scoring spots.
In fact, Matta basically lets Craft dictate how many minutes he is capable of playing each night.
Moreover, in his career, Craft has shown the mandatory ability to take care of the ball with a better than 2.2 assists-to-turnovers ratio.
He dives for loose balls, looks to get those around him involved and has entirely earned his coach’s trust. Not a bad formula for a point guard.
Craft’s play on the defensive side of the ball is where he has made a name for himself, and for good reason.
The Buckeye general thrives on harassing opponents, forcing turnovers, drawing charges and generally doing the dirty work that probably won’t land him a spot on SportsCenter.
His work did not go unnoticed by the national media, however. Sports Illustrated invented the “Aaron Craft Turnometer” and credited Craft with forcing a turnover on nearly eight percent of his opponents’ possessions.
He also accounted for an astounding 37.5 percent of Ohio State’s turnover production during the NCAA tournament.
His official numbers of more than two steals per game and 98 total steals (good enough for second in the nation) don’t even begin to tell the entire story of Craft’s defensive prowess.
But I bet other Big Ten point guards could tell you the story if you asked.
Better Shooter Than Advertised
Yes, Craft is known for his defense and doesn’t score a lot of points.
He averaged about seven points per game as a freshman and just fewer than nine per game as a sophomore.
However, Craft has a better shot than advertised. In fact, he shot 50 percent from the field last season and is a 37-percent three-point shooter and 72-percent free-throw shooter in his career.
It’s not just the respectable percentages that help establish Craft as more of an offensive threat than he is given credit for. It is his tendency to recognize when his team needs a basket and then his wherewithal to go out and get it.
Never was that more evident than in last year's final regular season game against Michigan State. He tied the game in the final minute with a clutch mid-range jumper and helped set up William Buford’s game-winning shot.
Craft also stepped up his scoring production in the NCAA tournament, possibly foreshadowing a more prominent scoring role this year with the departures of Buford and Jared Sullinger.
Not Afraid of the Spotlight
In addition to the aforementioned critical jumper against the Spartans to help clinch a regular season Big Ten co-championship, Craft played some of his best basketball last season when it mattered most.
It was Ohio State’s second game of the NCAA tournament, and there was legitimate reason for Buckeyes fans to fret.
It looked as if the underdog Gonzaga Bulldogs, who had just seized a second-half lead after hanging with Ohio State all game, were going to send the scarlet and gray home much earlier than anticipated.
But it was Craft who stepped up and played perhaps his best game of the season. He scored an uncharacteristic 17 points (again, recognizing when his team needed the scoring) and set up his fellow Buckeyes with 10 critical assists, including one to Sullinger for a crucial late basket.
Not to mention the fact that he basically suffocated Gonzaga's guards with his defense in the final 10 minutes.
Craft also scored 17 points and dished out eight assists in the early season showdown with Duke and single-handedly shut down rival Trey Burke of Michigan in the Big Ten tournament.
The Ohio State point guard will undoubtedly be ready to play in prime time this season.
Rivalry to Fuel Fire
One thing Matta and Buckeyes fans never have to worry about is Aaron Craft losing his edge.
And they have another point guard in Ann Arbor of all places to thank for that.
Following Michigan’s home victory over Ohio State last season, some began to question Thad Matta’s decision to forgo recruiting point guard and Columbus native Trey Burke, something that bothered Craft.
Just read the quotes from Deshaun Thomas in this CBS Sports piece—Craft is obviously motivated by his rivalry with Burke. They are the best two point guards in the Big Ten (and possibly nation) and will again be battling this season.
It was clear how motivated Craft was by Burke’s victory in Ann Arbor when the two met again in the Big Ten tournament.
Craft completely dominated Burke the entire game with his trademark defense, forcing eight turnovers from Michigan’s lead guard and holding him to a paltry 1-of-11 shooting.
Craft has plenty of defensive performances to choose from, but that may have been his best.
Still don’t think Craft will be the best point guard in the nation next season? Then you must know more than the nation’s college basketball coaches.
CBS Sports asked nearly 100 coaches which player they would most like to add to their team next year, and Craft finished first among point guards and third overall behind Cody Zeller and Shabazz Muhammad.
Craft will show the nation this season why so many other coaches covet his services.