It's been a rollercoaster ride for the 2009 Buckeyes.
With another young team coming into the season, no one knew what to expect. However, the Bucks won seven straight to start the season including consecutive wins against Miami, Butler, and Notre Dame.
But then David Lighty went down and well, the Bucks haven't been the same. While they managed to win their next two games and start 9-0, it took the Buckeyes 17 games to match the win total of their opening win streak.
So with three winnable games left on the schedule (PU, IOWA, NU), Ohio State sits at 18-8 and the question arises, "What can Buckeye fans expect this coming March?"
Before the PSU game, ESPN's Bracketology had Ohio State as a nine seed, but things are far from set for the Buckeyes. The Buckeyes are perfectly capable of winning out their conference schedule and making a run in the tournament. If this happens the Buckeyes could possibly climb to as high as a five seed.
Unfortunately, it seems that the team could just as easily go in the other direction. The worst that could realistically be expected is only winning one of their three remaining regular season games and a first game knock-out in the conference tourney. This would likely put the Bucks as a team towards the top of the bubble and likely in as a scary 12 seed.
I believe there are three factors that will affect where the Buckeye's end up and how they will do in March Madness.
The biggest liability for this Buckeye team is their defense. Ohio State is ranked eighth in the conference in total defense (65.6 ppg). In the rough and tough Big Ten, it is essential not to have defensive lapses and it seems that Buford and Mullens lack the defensive intensity that is necessary for team success.
2. Solid Point Guard Play
Successful college basketball teams ALL have dependable point guards. Ohio State has been spoiled lately with the likes of Darby, Conley, and Butler, but the 2009 Buckeyes do not have that caliber of floor general leading the team. Simmons and Hill are not doing a bad job, but would need to step their game up for the Buckeyes to make a run in the tourney.
3. The Freshmen
And when I say freshmen I mean Mullens and Buford. Buford is going to score, but has not shot over 50 percent in a game since February 3rd. Buford will need to be an efficient scorer for the Buckeyes to be successful especially when teams shut down Diebler. Let's be honest. We all expected more out of the super-recruit BJ Mullens, but he is still an important part of the team. Mullens has shown flashes of brilliance and if he can be a strong post presence, it relieves pressure off of Turner and Diebler which gives the Buckeyes an added dimension to their attack at both ends of the floor.
I'm sure some of you are saying. "What about Lighty?" Well, he's been cleared for non-contact drills, but even if he came back, he would be far from 100 percent and I just don't see the merit in wasting a year of eligibility for a young team with high potential.
If I was a betting man, I would say that the Bucks will make the tourney as a seven seed and win their first game. A Sweet 16 berth would be extremely successful and anything more would be a Cinderella story.
But the truth is, nobody knows. What do you think will happen?
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