Ohio State Basketball: Buckeyes' Best Situational Lineups in 2013-14

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 11, 2013

Ohio State Basketball: Buckeyes' Best Situational Lineups in 2013-14

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    The Ohio State basketball team is off to a perfect 8-0 start and has a matchup with Bryant University on the docket Wednesday. Anything less than a 9-0 start would be incredibly surprising at this point.

    However, more challenging games are right around the corner. Notre Dame and the loaded Big Ten await the Buckeyes in the near future, and Thad Matta is still working on getting his rotation completely ironed out.

    Read on to see the Buckeyes’ best situational lineups for the rest of the season.

Starting Lineup

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    Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams

    This has been Ohio State’s starting lineup all season, and it has won every game. Of course, it’s not quite that simple, but why fix something if it’s not broken?

    The Craft and Scott combination is arguably the best defensive tandem in the country. Smith Jr. leads the team in points per game. Ross has finally started to show signs of being the superstar most expected before the season started, and Williams has performed much better than anticipated.

    The Buckeyes’ best lineup may include Sam Thompson as a cog, but this starting lineup blends with each other effectively. It has scorers (Smith and Ross), defensive forces (Craft and Scott) and the team’s leading rebounder. There is no reason to change it now, plus Thompson gives Matta a spark off the bench with his athleticism.

Mid-Game Losing

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross

    When Ohio State is losing in the middle portion of the game, Matta should look for a spark.

    While Williams has played better than he has throughout his career in the early going, the best way to do that is by going small. With Thompson in there for Williams, the Buckeyes would have five versatile athletes that can pressure ball-handlers, finish in transition, hit from the outside and generally speed the game up.

    There will be more turnovers and easy opportunities on the other end, which should allow the Buckeyes to climb back in the game over time. This lineup would have some rebounding issues in the long run, but it can give the Scarlet and Gray a spark in the middle of the game.

Late-Game Winning

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross and Marc Loving

    When Ohio State is leading late in the game, there are a handful of things it wants to take care of to ensure victory.

    For one, the Buckeyes need to avoid turning the ball over and allowing the opponent to climb back in the game with easy baskets. Craft, Scott and Smith are the best three ball-handlers on this team and should be able to take care of that.

    Ohio State will also need to hit its free throws down the stretch when the opposition fouls to stop the clock. Loving leads the team in free-throw percentage at 82.6 percent and has looked very comfortable from the stripe even as a freshman. Craft will have the ball in his hands and is second on the team in percentage. He will likely be the one Matta wants taking critical free-throws down the stretch.

    Finally, this lineup includes Ross and Smith, probably the best two scorers on the roster. So if a crucial basket was needed, there are options.

Late-Game Losing

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams

    If Ohio State is losing late in the game, it is going to need to excel on both ends of the floor with every possession being so critical. It will also have to grab every rebound on the defensive end to avoid the opposition from killing the clock with a shot clock reset.

    The perimeter defense from Craft and Scott is well-documented but having Williams out there gives the Buckeyes the best chance to defend the rim and grab the important rebounds. 

    On the offensive side, Craft and Scott can both penetrate and force the defense to collapse. Ross and Smith are the best scorers on the team and will be waiting on the perimeter for resultant open looks. Also, Williams can finish at the rim if he gets a dump-off look.

     

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