Ohio State Basketball: Why William Buford Is the Biggest Key to Winning in March

Alex Callos@@alexcallosCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2012

EAST LANSING, MI - MARCH 04: William Buford #44 of the Ohio State Buckeyes drives the ball around Austin Thornton #13 of the Michigan State Spartans during the second half of the game at Breslin Center on March 4, 2012 in East Lansing, Michigan. Ohio State defeated Michigan State Spartans 72-70 and won a share of the Big Ten Title. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Ohio State basketball team has certainly had their fair share of ups and downs this season, concluding the regular season with quite an impressive victory at Michigan State on Sunday.

That win gave Ohio State a share of the Big 10 Championship and some confidence heading into the postseason beginning later this week.

Fueling the victory for the Buckeyes was their only senior, William Buford. Buford hit the game-winner with one second remaining to give Ohio State a huge 72-70 road victory. He finished the game with 25 points, 19 of them coming in the second half.

For Buford and the Ohio State faithful, it came as a huge relief. The senior has struggled mightily this season in big games, and if the Buckeyes have any plans to make a run deep into March, they will have to do it on the back of Buford.

The season has not been a disappointment for Buford by any means. He ranks second on the team in points, rebounds and assists, but he has failed to show up in many big games. He was held to single digits in road games against Northwestern, Michigan and Indiana. He also only had four points the first outing against Michigan State.

Needless to say, Ohio State lost three of those four games and was lucky to beat Northwestern.

On the other hand, when Buford plays well, the Buckeyes win. It's as simple as that.

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He scored 21 in a win over Florida, 20 in a dominating performance against Duke and 25 against the Spartans—all Ohio State victories.

When at his best, there are only a few teams in the country that can hang with Ohio State. When he fails to show up, Ohio State is hardly a Top 25 team. That is a big gap and could be the difference between a second-round exit and a Final Four appearance.

The Buckeyes have McDonald's All-Americans all over the floor and one of the best players in the country in Jared Sullinger, but nearly all of that talent is freshmen and sophomores.

With so much talent, but still such a young team, when Buford is on and playing well, he is a calming force on the court that this young Ohio State group needs. He has been through just about everything at Ohio State and played with so many talented players. Through it all, he has always been one of the best players on the court.

He has been a starter for the better part of four seasons and is one of the most prolific scorers in Ohio State history. He has the ability to score in a number of different ways, possessing one of the best mid-range games in the country.

That mid-range game will likely propel him to the next level, but for now, he will need to use it to help Ohio State win in March.

So far, so good for the Buckeyes.