Ohio State Basketball: 10 Reasons Buckeyes Could Be Early Out in NCAA Tournament
There are moments in the NCAA Tournament when thousands of college basketball "experts" rip up their brackets because the team they picked to win it all got bounced in the first or second round.
I know. It happened to me last year when I picked Kansas to beat Villanova (in my defense, I picked that preseason and decided to stick with it; it would've been legendary had I picked the tournament final before the season started).
Upsets of that proportion typically don't happen very often, especially when talking about No. 1 or 2 seeds.
Ohio State is pretty much guaranteed a No. 1 seed barring an absolute collapse in these last few games, and with the high seeding, many people will be picking them to make a long run in the tournament.
With every top-seeded team, there are instances that would spell disaster in the first weekend. Ohio State is no different.
For the record, do I think OSU will go out in the first weekend? Absolutely not. I view them as one of the favorites to win it all, and it will be hard for me to not put them in the Final Four. However, if they do indeed lose early, it will definitely be because of one or more of these 10 reasons.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Looking at Joe Lunardi's most recent bracket predictions, he has the Volunteers as a No. 8 seed.
Why should the Buckeyes be worried about a team as inconsistent as Tennessee? Because they were the ones who bounced OSU from the tournament last year.
The teams still have many of the same players who were in that Sweet 16 showdown, though there are a few newcomers. For OSU, it's Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas and most importantly Jared Sullinger. For Tennessee, it's Tobias Harris.
Ohio State is clearly better than Tennessee in almost every aspect, but the Vols will not be intimidated by a top-seeded Buckeye squad simply because many of their players have beaten them on the big stage in the past.
2. Hot Shooting by the Other Team
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
It's okay, Buckeye fans. E'Twaun Moore won't be haunting the NCAA Tournament like he did when this senior dropped 38 points against OSU in one of the best performances of the season.
In their two losses, the Bucks have been the victim of one player shooting lights out for long periods of time. Against Purdue, it was Moore. Against Wisconsin, it was Jordan Taylor.
Hopefully coach Thad Matta has tried to find the antidote for this problem, but until it comes to life on the court, a hot shooter on another team will be a big problem come tourney time.
3. Everyone Goes Cold
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
On the other side, against Purdue, anyone not named Jared Sullinger shot terribly. Sullinger made as many field goals (nine) as the rest of his teammates combined. Making only 18 field goals might get them past a high school team, but not an NCAA Tournament squad.
The two that will be key for the Buckeyes are William Buford and Jon Diebler (both pictured). One of them has to be able to make outside shots consistently in order for the Buckeyes to avoid an early exit.
David Lighty and Aaron Craft will also need to drive the lane and either get to the paint (Lighty's specialty) or pull up for a 15-foot jumper (Craft's ideal move). Neither is a big outside shooter, but solely relying on the three-point shot aside from Sullinger will be problematic.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Ohio State has been extremely fortunate thus far to have not had to deal with an injury to one of its best players. Duke suffered the Kyrie Irving injury, and Pittsburgh had to deal with Ashton Gibbs sitting out a couple weeks.
An injury to one of its perimeter players wouldn't be Armageddon considering Craft is more or less a starter anyway, but it would shrink the already minuscule bench that Matta employs. While I think Jordan Sibert and Lenzelle Smith are solid players, I wouldn't trust them in any way if they had to play big minutes in the tournament simply due to lack of big game experience (and I'm not talking about AAU).
Probably the last thing anyone in Columbus wants to see is Jared Sullinger being assisted off the court after crashing into someone. An injury to the kid WOULD be Armageddon. The Buckeyes don't have any other inside presence offensively except for Deshaun Thomas, who's streaky. The injury would make the Buckeyes one-dimensional, and that doesn't translate into a multiple week stay at the NCAA Hotel.
5. Lack of Scouting
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
No one has ever accused the OSU coaches of not scouting opposing teams well, especially now that there are game tapes of every tournament team.
Nevertheless, Matta will still need to do the same thing he does when he, or his assistants, scout a team like Purdue even if they're going up against a No. 16 seed. No one wants to be the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round.
That would be worse than Michigan losing to App State.
6. Lack of Motivation
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Probably one of the biggest issues top teams run into that first weekend is their lack of motivation. The teams in their mini-bracket are far and away inferior, but when talent doesn't show up, it loses to lesser talent that works their butts off.
Northern Iowa proved this theory correct last year, along with some clutch shooting. The Buckeyes can ill afford to come out disinterested. Otherwise they will suffer the same fate the Kansas Jayhawks did last season.
7. Letting Inferior Teams Hang Around
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Allowing teams to hang around gives them the thought that "hey, not only can we keep up with these guys, we could beat them!"
While most of the time that's an absolute farce, believing in something can make it true in some cases.
In Big Ten play, OSU has had this problem. At halftime, they were down by six against Iowa on the road. Against Penn State at home, they were tied at half. Then against both Northwestern and Michigan, they held a slim lead at the midway point.
Each time they pulled out the win, but not by much. This needs to be avoided.
Part of their problem may have been these teams know Matta's style from playing against his teams multiple times each year.
Another part may be that the Buckeyes lack that killer instinct to completely dominate a team and to give them no inkling that they're in the same stratosphere as them.
It would probably be a good idea for them to find their killer instinct, and fast.
8. Full-Court Press
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Not many teams run it consistently (Missouri does), but I fear a team coming out and running the full-court press for 40 minutes.
The OSU ball-handlers are not the greatest. Buford is able to fake it early in each half, and Craft is good for being a freshman. I'm just not sure how either would react to a defender in his face for the entire game making him work to get past half court, let alone run their offense.
It's also something the Buckeyes haven't seen for extended periods of time, so it's unclear how they would combat it or if they've prepared for it during practices. One would hope so.
9. Sullinger Gets into Foul Trouble
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Similar to the problem OSU would face if Sullinger got hurt, but not quite as disastrous. Still, Sullinger getting into foul trouble early in either half would make the Buckeyes one-dimensional and perimeter-heavy.
Opposing defenses would get away with single-covering guys like Dallas Lauderdale and Thomas down low while sticking to the shooters, preventing a kickout three.
The Buckeyes simply aren't nearly as dangerous with Sullinger playing cheerleader on the bench as when he is dominating the paint.
Such is the case with every top seed if its best player is forced to sit.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
I'll be honest: I got to nine reasons and couldn't think of another feasible one.
It's been well publicized how the Buckeyes have been so cohesive as a unit with no one demanding a certain number of shots or wanting to be the focal point of the offense. Each guy has bought into Matta's system.
In March, things may change.
Sullinger may decide he hasn't been used properly and will stay around the three-point line launching bombs.
Diebler may think he's LeBron James and start driving the lane with reckless abandon and then quit when the team starts losing.
As an Ohio native, I hope neither happens.