Brackets everywhere will begin to take shape today as people all around the country will enter into an office pool or a friendly contest with some friends. Some bracket filler-outers will look meticulously at each possible scenario and analyze each match-up with as much depth as a major network college basketball-analyst, while others will simply ask for a little information regarding a school’s colors and mascot to narrow down the field of 65 to one.
Whether you are one of the people who delays filling out their bracket until 11:59 AM Thursday afternoon, right before the tournament tip-off at 12:00 PM, or one of the color and mascot extraordinaire, a little assistance never hurts.
It is especially hard to fill out your bracket when you have fan affiliations for a team in the “Big Dance” with an opportunity to make some noise like Ohio State. Do you use your head or your heart to make your picks?
The answer is your head with a little help from your heart. Nobody knows your team better than you, but no logical bracket is complete without statistical analysis and plausible reasoning for selecting a National Champion.
Have no fear Buckeye fans, the following provides the statistical evidence and coherent reasons you need in order to pick your beloved Buckeyes as National Champions.
Ohio State has something in common with five of the last six teams to sit atop the college basketball world. When filling out your bracket, you always look for something that separates some teams from the rest and links them to previous champions.
One player for the Buckeyes connects this year’s squad to the elites among the latter half of the previous decade. This one player could hold in his hands whether or not Ohio State will be cutting down the nets on Apr. 5 in Indianapolis.
Evan Turner is the name that comes to mind. If you wanted to connect this year’s Buckeye team to past champions like the ’88 Kansas Jayhawks or the ’03 Syracuse Orange, then sure Turner would be the player. Although he does give Ohio State ample opportunity to win the title, the player that connects the Buckeyes to the 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels, the 2008 Kansas Jayhawks, the 2007 and 2006 Florida Gators, and the 2004 Connecticut Huskies is three-point marksmen Jon Diebler.
This season, Diebler has shot over 220 three-pointers, 227 as of Mar. 12. Shooting nearly 42 percent at 41.9 percent from the land of three, Diebler has positioned himself as one of the top three-point shooters in the nation. Come tournament time, he will be a high commodity for the Buckeyes.
How many times has a team needed a big three to win a game in the NCAA Tournament? How many tournament games have been decided because somebody went off from downtown? While I do not know the exact answer to these questions, I do recall recent circumstances where this type of performance or event has occurred.
In recent title games alone, timely three-pointers have decided the outcome. In 2008, Kansas needed a huge three from guard Mario Chalmers to send the game against Memphis into overtime, where the Jayhawks would eventually win. As a Buckeye fan, I remember the 2007 title game all to well. Remember timely three after timely three by Florida guards Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green every time Ohio State got close?
What about the 2008 NCAA Tournament that featured sharp-shooter Stephen Curry, who lead the Davidson Wildcats to an Elite Eight appearance with dazzling displays of three-point shooting? In the first-round game against Gonzaga, Curry went eight-for-10 from three and shot over 44 percent from three in the tournament overall before Davidson was defeated by eventual champion Kansas.
Five of the last six NCAA Tournament Champions have had a player shoot roughly 42 percent from three-point range while putting up at least 185 three-pointers. North Carolina’s Wayne Ellington shot 41.7 percent on 204 attempts, Kansas’ Brandon Rush shot 41.9 percent on 191 attempts, Florida’s Humphrey shot 45.9 percent on 246 attempts in both 2007 and 2006, and UCONN’s Ben Gordon shot 43.3 percent on 240 attempts.
The only team who did not have a player fit this criterion in the last six years was the 2005 North Carolina Tar Heels. While they did not have a 42 percent over 185 three-point guy, they did have two players in Rashad McCants and Raymond Felton who shot over 42 percent on 160 plus three-point attempts.
Looking at this year’s tournament field, there are only four players that shoot roughly 42 percent having shot at least 185 threes. Those players include Cornell’s Ryan Wittman at 42 percent on 238 threes, Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn at 42.5 percent on 247 threes, New Mexico’s Roman Martinez at 42.2 percent on 223 threes, and Ohio State’s Diebler.
Based on recent history, it would mean that one of the four teams that these four players play for would have to win it all. Out of Cornell, Baylor, New Mexico, and Ohio State, the Buckeyes are the most complete and have the best shot at winning the title.
Along with Diebler, Ohio State has three other starters average in double-figures: David Lighty, William Buford, and Turner. Combine that with the “hustacity” (combination of hustle and tenacity) that the Buckeyes showed in the Big Ten Tournament, it becomes evident that Ohio State has what it takes to bring home the championship.
This is the last-call for Jayhawk, Wildcat (Purple and Blue), Blue Devil, Orange, Mountaineer, and all other band-wagoners to hop aboard the Buckeye express. Head conductor Evan Turner, poised to lead his team like Danny Manning and Carmelo Anthony led the ’88 Kansas Jayhawks and the ’03 Syracuse Orange to National Championships, and assistant conductor Jon Diebler are headed for Indianapolis.