It's going to take a lot of luck and some damn good play, if Ohio State is going to make a run in the B10 tournament.At times they have shown flashes of brilliance and the potential to pull off an improbable run, but the problem has been sustaining that level of play for a full 40 minutes.
Adding to the difficulty, Michigan State (8-1) and Wisconsin (7-2) are the two hottest teams over the last nine games.However, Thad is 13-2 in the past 2 postseasons and if he is to win another tournament, the Buckeyes must shore up the following areas.
The Buckeyes must get inside scoring. If BJ is set to leave after this year, then this is his chance to improve his draft stock. I have said before, Mullens has seemed disinterested since the end of January, whether it's from a lack of touches or a fear of the late season, pre-NBA injury. Over the last 10 games, BJ has averaged 8.7 points and 5.4 boards, hardly the sign of an NBA lottery pick. While OSU doesn't need a Koufos-like NIT run, anything close to a double-double is a necessity. Lauderdale and Madsen must combine for at least 8 points and help put some pressure on the opponents' bigs.
Minimize the opponents offensive rebounds. It is just an accepted fact that Ohio State's zone defense is going to give up more than its fair share of O-boards. The opposition had at least 10 offensive boards in 12 of 18 conference tilts, leading to 102 more FG attempts and a 6-6 record in those games. Wisconsin and Michigan State combined to grab 45 of their own misses against the Bucks, leading to 28 more shots over the three games. Boxing out must be a group effort this weekend.
Guard the 3-point shooter. As Bob Baptist pointed out in his last OSU Insider, the last 6 opponents have made 43.4 percent of their 3 pointers, attempting 47 percent of their shots from there and making no fewer than 9 treys. In B10 play, the Bucks gave up 158 bombs on 411 attempts, easily leading the conference.
Get penetration into the paint from the guards. Jeremie Simmons, PJ Hill and Jon Diebler must drive the rock into the lane in order to put pressure on the defense. Good things will happen if they can get penetration; BJ and Dallas can slip open under the rim, they can force a foul or kick it out to the open shooter. The three have combined for just 24 assists over the last 4 games and too often settle for hot potato around the perimeter.
Give the ball to Turner early and often. ET was not going to let Ohio State lose either one of those games last week and it was a great move by Thad to put the ball in his hands for the stretch run. He should have a chip on his shoulder, after being passed over for the POY award earlier this week and needs to get it going from the start. Turner shot just over 50 percent on the season and lead the conference in FT makes and attempts. The tournament setting is a great chance for a player such as Evan to get into a zone and carry his team for a 72 hour stretch.
Play in the tournament starts today at noon, when Minnesota takes on Northwestern. Regardless of how the Buckeyes fare, this should be another dynamic Big Ten tournament, with all but two teams having a chance to make some noise.