2010 NCAA Tournament: Ohio State Keys to Victory
The cheering heard after the University of Northern Iowa defeated the Kansas Jayhawks last Saturday wasn’t just from the Panthers’ contingent, it was from the entire Midwest Region.
With the prohibitive favorite now out of the tournament, along with three out of the top four seeds, the Ohio State Buckeyes now stand as the favorite to reach the Final Four.
In order for the Buckeyes to achieve this goal, there are five areas Ohio State must focus on to continue their march to Indianapolis.
When Jon Diebler is on, the Buckeyes don’t lose—it’s as simple as that. Diebler’s success or failure this weekend will have a direct correlation on whether Ohio State advances.
Early in the season when Evan Turner was hurt and the Buckeyes were struggling, it was Diebler’s poor play just as much as it was Turner’s injury that got Ohio State off to a 1-3 start in the Big Ten.
However, when he is playing well, Diebler is the perfect piece to the Ohio State offensive puzzle. Because of his shooting ability, Diebler stretches the court and opens up driving lanes for Turner and David Lighty.
When the Buckeyes are going good, either Turner and Lighty are finishing at the basketball, or kicking it out to an open Diebler because of the collapsing defense.
Evan Turner's Turnovers
The transition to point guard for Turner in his junior season has to be considered an overwhelming success. Turner led the Buckeyes to a Big Ten regular season championship, a Big Ten Tournament Championship, and now has Ohio State on the brink of a Final Four.
However, over the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, a chink in the armor might have been discovered. Against both UC Santa Barbara and Georgia Tech, Turner was picked up full court, and was under duress every time he had the ball. This led to a poor offensive performance against the Gauchos and to nine turnovers against the Yellow Jackets.
With Tennessee and their full-court ball-hawking defense on tap for Friday night, Turner must adjust his game to the pressure and keep his turnovers to a minimum if Ohio State wants to advance.
Dallas Lauderdale Must Be an Intimidating Presence
Lauderdale is the Buckeyes only true big man and thus a lot of pressure is put on his broad shoulders. In Ohio State’s first round game against UC Santa Barbara, Lauderdale had 12 rebounds and eight blocks and made the Gauchos think twice before driving into the lane.
This type of performance needs to be replicated against Tennessee on Friday and in the possible future rounds ahead. When Lauderdale is impacting the paint on the defensive end, it sends Ohio State to another level.
Stay Out of Foul Trouble
Thad Matta rolled the dice earlier this season in deciding to shorten his rotation to six players and his team responded winning 15 of their last 16 games. The cohesion his rotation is playing with has allowed the Buckeyes to succeed, and so far they have avoided foul trouble.
However, the lack of a bench has to be a concern to Ohio State fans because it is likely that at some point in this tournament, a starter will get into foul trouble.
Because of Matta’s reluctance to use his bench, P.J. Hill and Jeremie Simmons, the two players most likely to play if a starter gets into foul trouble, have rarely seen the court over the last two months and would be thrown into a high pressure situation and forced to perform.
Whether or not Hill or Simmons can rise to the occasion is yet to be seen, but just to be safe, the Buckeyes would be advised to stay out of foul trouble.
Defense, Defense, Defense
The one thing that always goes unnoticed when discussing Ohio State is how well they play defensively. A perfect example of that was during their second round game against Georgia Tech.
At the beginning of the game the Buckeyes were struggling from the offensive end. Ohio State could not buy a bucket and eight minutes into the game only had five points.
However, the Buckeyes did not let their offensive ineptitude affect their defense and, because of their defensive intensity, stayed close in the beginning of the first half.
In total, the Buckeyes forced 21 Georgia Tech turnovers and showed they have more than one way to win a big game.