NCAA Bracket 2011: 6 Reasons Ohio State Is Destined for a Championship
Top overall seed. Favorites to win the NCAA championship. Easy road. Dominant team throughout the year. No, I'm not talking about Ohio State.
I'm talking about Kansas, last year.
Being the favorite doesn't necessarily mean everyone lies down and lets Goliath walk over them. Northern Iowa certainly didn't, and that was the downfall of the Jayhawks in 2010.
For some reason, I don't see it happening to the Buckeyes this year.
While everyone talks about the lack of a great team, I don't agree. Ohio State has been great. Its resume shows it. Two losses, both on the road against top-tier teams, is not something to be upset about. It's not like the Buckeyes lost at home (Kansas) or got beat by an inferior team (Duke).
So, since the Buckeyes have to win six games, here is a reason per round why they will be cutting down the nets in April.
1. Strength of Schedule
Unlike teams such as BYU, San Diego State, Duke and North Carolina, who were either victims of a poor non-conference schedule or a bad conference, the Buckeyes beat quality teams in and outside the Big Ten.
In the first couple months, OSU beat five current NCAA teams: Oakland, UNC-Asheville, Morehead State, Florida State (on the road) and Florida (ditto). While the first three teams may not jump out at first, I think Oakland and Morehead State have a decent chance at winning their first round games against Texas and Louisville, respectively. Florida is a candidate to make the Elite Eight, and Florida State is a 50-50 shot to win its first round game against Texas A&M.
Most people know about the Buckeyes' accomplishments in the Big Ten. Only two losses, both on the road to Wisconsin (a four seed) and Purdue (a three seed). The Buckeyes won 11 games against NCAA teams.
Tally it up and the Buckeyes own 16 wins over NCAA teams. I would be shocked if another team outside of the Big East schools had more.
2. NBA Talent
Look at the last 11 national champions and notice how each team had at least two future NBA players. Some, like Duke back in 2001, had as many as five.
While talent isn't everything, it's certainly a giant factor in being able to win six straight games against top tier opponents.
Most people will look at the Buckeyes roster and only see Jared Sullinger as a future NBA player. Wrong.
William Buford is a prototypical shooting guard in the NBA, and should he stay for his senior year, he could be a lottery pick in the 2012 draft. He's a solid ball-handler, can shoot from distance, plays adequate defense, can create his own shot and is athletic enough to be a future NBA player.
Then there's Jon Diebler. While I don't see him ever being more than a seventh or eighth man, he does one thing at an elite level: shoot from long range. In the NBA, if a player is able to do one thing at that high a level, he'll be able to make a living. Diebler's also shown his ability to drive at times this season, kind of like how J.J. Redick did during his senior year at Duke. While I don't see Diebler being as good as Redick, he won't be too far off.
I also think with the right circumstances, David Lighty (an athletic on-ball defender) and DeShaun Thomas (a raw scorer) could get an opportunity at the next level.
Three seniors and one junior make up the starting five. In these days, most top teams are lucky to keep players for two years, let alone three or four. These four players' experience have helped the young freshmen mature and bail them out of their common mistakes all season.
Don't expect it to change in the next few weeks.
David Lighty's valuable experience of being a top dog that everyone is trying to take down back in 2007 will help keep the Buckeyes in the right mentality of not taking plays off.
The worst thing top seeds can do is allow inferior teams to hang around into the second half. I don't expect Lighty and co. to let that happen, at least in the first few rounds.
Again, looking at the recent champions, few of them were one dimensional. Each team was able to be effective from the paint, and the outside. The Buckeyes fit that mold.
If a team attempts to shut down Sullinger with double teams, Diebler and the other shooters will kill the opponent. If a team lets Sullinger do one on one down low, he can drop 30 points easily.
The Buckeyes have also rarely been in a situation where only one player is making shots (in their loss against Purdue). Usually it's Sullinger scoring 15-20 points and then one of the guards adding another 15-20 with the rest hovering around 10.
Not many other teams in the country have that kind of balance, which will make preparing for them defensively a nightmare for opposing teams.
Remember last year? I'm sure coach Thad Matta and the returning players do. While it's not like OSU was expected to win it all like it is this year, the Buckeyes were favored to beat Tennessee. Unfortunately, as Kansas and Villanova also found out, the favorite doesn't always prevail in March Madness.
The Buckeyes will be favored in virtually every game they play. One hopes Matta uses the Buckeyes' loss to Tennessee as a tool to keep them playing at a high level no matter the opponent or the score. These seniors, outside of Lighty, have never made it to the Elite Eight, let alone the finals. They'll want to go out on a high note as one of the best teams in OSU's storied history.
There's a reason OSU is the top overall seed in the country: consistency. Matta has not allowed this team to take plays off and its record shows it. Outside of two games in some of the toughest environments in the country, these guys have outplayed every team they've come across.
Considering they won't be going to another team's home building, and the Buckeye fans travel incredibly well (especially if they make it to the Final Four), the environment will not be a problem.
This team has proven it can win big games on neutral floors as evidenced by their Big Ten tournament championship. While it's not like they beat Wisconsin or Purdue (thanks to Michigan State and Penn State), their performance showed these guys are consistent enough to win back-to-back games against quality teams on the big stage.
It also helps they start the tournament in Cleveland, so it will probably be like a home game for them in the first two rounds.