Kansas vs. Ohio State: Why Aaron Craft Is the Buckeyes' X-Factor

Hayden DeitrickFeatured ColumnistDecember 20, 2012

Aaron Craft will look to lead the Buckeyes to victory against Kansas this weekend.
Aaron Craft will look to lead the Buckeyes to victory against Kansas this weekend.Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

In this weekend’s matchup between Kansas and Ohio State, Buckeye point guard Aaron Craft will have to play his best because this game between top-10 teams will likely come down to his ability to defend and lead the offense.

Ohio State will go as Aaron Craft will go. That is how the season has unfolded thus far, and it is how the season will continue to go for the Buckeyes.

Craft can always be counted on to be a stalwart defender. As one of the best on-the-ball defenders in the country, Craft should have no trouble disrupting Elijah Johnson and the Kansas offense.

Craft’s defensive prowess will undoubtedly be necessary for OSU as they attempt to halt the impressive Kansas offense.

Don’t be surprised to see Craft shift over to defend Kansas’ diaper dandy, Ben McLemore, in an attempt to slow his pace of 15.9 PPG.  If Craft can crash the passing lanes and disrupt Kansas’ offensive sets while defending on and off the ball, OSU could have a field day in using turnovers to create offense.

This intensity on defense is to be expected from Craft, but Ohio State will need their point guard to extend this effort to the offensive end of the floor as well.

Craft began to show his ability to pick up the slack and take over games toward the end of last season, especially during the NCAA tournament.  One game that comes to mind was Ohio State’s second-round victory over Gonzaga. 

Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas started the game cold against the Zags, and it was up to Aaron Craft to keep the score close until the team’s top scorers could take over.  Craft’s 17 points made that victory a possibility. 

Recently, however, Craft has been going though a cold streak in terms of overall scoring. 

While he averaged 13.6 PPG in the first five games of the season, Craft has only managed to score 4.6 PPG in his last five outings.

Craft has taken considerably less shots since the Buckeyes’ losing effort to Duke.  In that game, Craft made just three of the 15 field-goal attempts he took.  During that 20-percent shooting effort, he appeared to be forcing shots that were not there to be taken.

The Buckeyes have not looked like the powerhouse they are in part because Craft has not been up to par on the offensive end of the floor.

Nobody is expecting Craft to take over a game in the way that teammate Deshaun Thomas does.  Expecting Craft to take his shots when they arise, however, is not asking too much.

For the Buckeyes to be successful against Kansas, Aaron Craft must find a balance between disappearing, as he has recently, and forcing shots, as he did against Duke. 

To be fair, that is what should be expected from one of the nation’s top point guards.

If Craft can get into an offensive rhythm moving forward, OSU will be incredibly difficult to beat this weekend.

Kansas would have no choice but to shift attention away from double-teaming and harassing scorers such as Deshaun Thomas and Lenzelle Smith Jr.

Craft can help open up the offense with his 4.8 APG, but he can do even more to get his teammates good looks by keeping opposing defenses honest.

In this weekend’s marquis matchup, Craft will certainly be an X-factor on the defensive end of the floor. 

If he can be that same X-factor on offense, the Buckeyes should have no trouble taking down the Jayhawks.