Believe In Buford

By Chris Lauderback on April 2, 2011 at 6:00a
Buford's midrange game can be soaking wetWe're with Willie-Bu

These are tough times for true Buckeye fans. While what seems like the rest of the college sports world relishes our early tournament exit and the metamorphisis of TatGate into Tresselgeddon, we're left trying to circle the wagons, an effort made more difficult by dissension in the ranks with varying opinions on both topics.

It seems as if Tressel is finding some salvation in a nervous fanbase dying to give him benefit of the doubt in thanks to his track record outweighing what increasingly seems like some either very brash or very, ahem, curious decisions beyond the sidelines. Thad Matta is also widely receiving a pass (as he should) after back to back seasons failing to escape the Sweet 16, both times as the higher seed.

Meanwhile, it doesn't seem Wililam Buford is receiving quite the same love after his 2/16 stinker equipped with a few ill-advised shots played a major role in Ohio State's season ending loss to Kentucky. It's not as if he's being burned in effigy but the interwebs have seen opinions actually hoping Buford turns pro to implying he's selfishly just out to get his. Then, after Buford said he's coming back for his senior season, that was met with a majority meh.

Inarguably, Buford was awful against Kentucky. It's easy to say if he hits a few more jumpers Ohio State wins because it's true. In a game that saw many Buckeyes play below their standard, Buford was the faceplate for the loss. And rightfully so. He knows it. And it has to be gnawing at him. My opinion is this performance will serve as a catalyst for another offseason of seasoning that will see the WB come back as an improved all around player motivated to erase the sting of missing 14 shots in Newark. This kid is already a proven scorer thanks to a combined ability to shoot from deep and create looks via a sturdy midrange game, complete with an NBA body. 

How can a rational fan not be ecstatic to get one more year from this kid? If you aren't, is it because you don't think he'll end up staying or do you not believe his game is worthy of being worried about losing? Me, I believe in William Buford's game. You should too.

The epic fail to Kentucky was a terrible ending to a very productive season for a kid that was the 2nd leading scorer (14.4 ppg) on the best team in the country entering the Madness. He led the team in FT% (84.3), trailed only Diebler from distance (44.2%) and shot a very respectable 46.2% from the flloor overall, pretty damn good for a guy that took 138 three point shots (32% of total FGA) and found himself matched up against the opponents best wing defender every night.

It's also easy to forget Buford generally played well in big games. Unsure of exactly just how good this team was in November if only because the freshmen were truly freshman, Buford rose the occasion in game number two at Florida with 16 points and a season high eight assists to go along with three steals as the Buckeyes broke open a close game in the 2nd half before cruising to a 93-75 victory.

No doubt, he didn't fare as well two weeks later at Florida State hitting just 4/12 in 19 foul plagued minutes, playing probably his 2nd worst game of the year. Putting that behind him, WB did his thing during the rest of a soft non-conference slate that was seemingly built to let Sullinger and Craft evolve into their roles. Finally kicking of the B1G slate, Buford responded with 24 points propped by 5/7 from distance in an 85-67 spanking of the Cryin' Creans. Coming off some 3/11 masonry at home to Minnesota, Buford backed up that effort with a heady 19 point, nine rebound, one turnover, 40 minute effort on the road in Crisler Arena helping OSU escape with a 68-64 win.

Averaging 14 ppg with steady play over the next two tilts against lesser foes PSU and Iowa, Buford suffered from a gimpy ankle and never got it going in Champaign (2/8, 7 pts) in what was at the time the 2nd toughest conference game to date. It's hard not to give him a pass on this one as he played his 2nd fewest minutes of the B1G season thanks to the injury.

Proving the injury was healed and that he indeed can be a big game performer in a much-hyped matchup against a 12th ranked Purdue squad sitting at 6-1 in the B1G, Buford keyed an early 16-5 start for the Buckeyes with two triples before finishing with 19 points on 5/6 from beyond the arc as OSU skated to a 87-64 statement victory.

Averaging 13 points over the next three outings, the Buckeyes headed to Kohl for a grudge match against #14 Wisconsin. Though the game is rightly remembered as the day the Buckeyes saw their 24 game winning streak snapped, this is game the Buckeyes led by 15 in the 2nd half. Buford had a huge hand in Ohio State's ability to build a huge lead on the road in the most hostile environment in the B1G. Trailing 24-19 late in the 1st half, Buford blew up scoring 15 points during a 21-6 run that put the Buckeyes in front 40-30 shortly before the wheels came off and Wisky went bonkers from the field. He finished with 21 on 10/18 from the floor with only one turnover in 40 minutes.

Three days later against a trying to be resurgent Michigan State team, Buford poured in 23 on 9/15 shooting, again with only one turnover in another 40 minutes of action. WB scored five straight points after Sparty cut the Buckeye lead to 53-51 with 9:37 to play, hitting two of the three FG's Ohio State would muster over the final 9:11 as the team turned to the free throw line to secure a 71-61 win.

With those back to back battles taking some wind out of the entire team, Buford was one of four Buckeyes who didn't show up at Purdue (1/5, 7 pts) in a 76-63 loss. His response to Purdue Harbor Lite over the next four games was to average 17.8 pts against Illy, Indiana, @PSU and Wisconsin. Buford was deadly in the revenge match aginst Bucky hitting 6/8 from the floor including 3/3 from distance in an 18 point performance to wrap up the regular season.

The conference tourney started with a blame it on no shootaround 3/14 effort in a six point win over Northwestern but a determined Buford played extremely well in both the 68-61 win over Michigan and the 71-60 defeat of PSU to sweep the regular and post season conference titles. After playing 43 minutes against the Wildcats, Buford logged another 80 minutes in the final two games and shot an impressive 14/29 from the field. He also showed the kind of teammate he is by sticking his nose in Jordan Morgan's grill after Sullinger and Morgan came together under the hoop and Morgan took exception. Buford backed up his jawing with six straight points during a 16-0 run that put Michigan in their place.

Entering the Big Dance, Buford stayed hot scoring 18 against UTSA and George Mason, on a combined 14/26 from the floor 7/12 from three point land whiole averaging 5.5 boards and 3.5 assists. He was playing absolutely fantastic basketball over a four game stretch of tournament games averaging 17.5 points on a combined 28/55 FG (51%) preceeding the off night versus Kentucky.

Looking at his overall performance as a junior in conjunction with what OSU has coming back, there's a laundry list of reasons why Buford is the key to hopes of Ohio State again running the title table in the B1G and making any kind of run in the tourney.

As it stands, Buford is the lone perimeter returner that has proven he can consistently put up points and stretch defenses with the ability to knock down the three. With talk of Craft and Scott playing at the same time already coming out of Thad's mouth, who do you think is going to be the guy expected to pump in 17 a night from the perimeter?

In tight games down the stretch, who else do you trust to take big shots in situations where Sully is taken away? Thomas? I truly believe Thomas will be a force next year but I see that in a more complimentary, slashing, offensive glass working fashion. Craft? Surely, he will have improved his outside shot heading into next year but he needs to be no better than the 4th leading scorer if this team is going to be good enough to compete for a championship. That's not a knock, that's just his role yet. One of the incoming blue-chippers? Not likely.

Bottom line, if Buford isn't around to provide leadership and help Sullinger carry the offensive load, it's a longshot for OSU to win either of the conference crowns and any chance of a deep tournament is slim to none and slim's out of town. So, while you are looking for something to believe in as you wake up each day nearly afraid to see what's happened next to the your favorite college program, believe in William Buford. We need him more than too many fans have yet to realize.



Comments Show All Comments

RB's picture

Great write up, couldn't agree more.  Buford has been a big part to the recent Buckeye bball achievements, and has been a model Buckeye since his arrival on campus.  People overlook that he could have bolted after each of his first two years.  How good of a decision that would have been is questionable, but nevertheless, give the guy credit for sitting tight.  I'm not going to ostracize him for one terrible game, poorly timed albeit, when he's been a great Buckeye for three years and is a key to further successes next year.

Neilwoodgables's picture

Fact remains that he should been looking to pass that ball.  You have to be smart enough to know when it isnt your night.  I saw 2 or 3 of the most incredible passing sequences that of which buford couldnt finish on point blank. After that he kept clanging 'em which is understandable but taking the last shot was a bad move.

I Hate Michigan.



Reens's picture

He's taking too much heat for this. I agree that off nights happen, but sometimes players have to shoot through them. Let's not forget that behind Sully's high percentage buckets, WB was had the highest shooting percentage on the team and helped get this team to where it was.

Taking the last shot wasn't a great idea. But let's keep it in context. Had he made that shot, all is obviously forgotten and Buckeye Nation is begging him to stay one more year. And rightfully so since he had the second most points on the team behind Sully. Fact is, he didn't make that shot and everyone needs a person to point to. There's no denying that he had an atrocious game, but let's not act like he's not an important piece to this puzzle and an even bigger piece to Sully developing into what he needs to be.

iball's picture

If Buford had passed instead of attempting those shots, most fans would be criticizing him for not being aggressive enough.

Even the number 1 overall seed is an underdog to win the tournament. No team is favored over the field.

Having WB back is huge. Is anyone giving UK credit for playing great defense? I am.

“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

Neilwoodgables's picture

UK played the best defense we saw all year.  Nobody is denying that.  WB is a good kid and we should all be stoked that he is coming back but that shouldnt doesnt change the fact that he took a horrible last shot, after shooting terribly all night and it lost us the game.



No venom towards the kid....just a poor decision that the 2010-2011 team will have to live with the rest of their lives.

I Hate Michigan.



RBuck's picture

Neil, do you know how much time was left when WB took the shot? Do you know if anyone else was open? I don't because I was focusing on the ball as the camera was.

I would guess that there was at most 2.5 seconds left..probably a little less. Enough time to take a shot and have a chance for a put back. I have no problem with WB trying that 3 ball regardless of how his shooting was that night.

Long live the southend.

Neilwoodgables's picture

3.0 seconds.  All 5 UK defenders inside the 3 point line and a line of bucks across the top of the ark to the right of where he shot it from.

didnt even wait until he had anybody near the rim

I Hate Michigan.



RBuck's picture

Thanks. Looks to me like Lighty could have just about drove to the basket for a tie if Buford could have gotten the pass off (which is harder to do than it seems). Anyhow, if Diebs couldn't take a 3, WB is my second choice.

Long live the southend.

tampa buckeye's picture

A timeout should have been call after uk made the shot.   You almost never see that happen in the NBA.  Matta has never been good at using his to's.  It was a pretty good look considering and it was on line just didn't fall.  

You still have to love him coming back one more year.  Buford, Sully, craft, thomas and Ross/thompson would just be sick.  

Reens's picture

Echoing RBUCK, he couldn't wait til anyone was near the rim. There were 3 seconds left, he had a good look and if he missed (we know he did) it would still give some chance for a quick put-back. It is easy to look at this in a freeze frame but he sprinted down the court to get that look. Could he have passed? Probably, but what he has there is a clean look.

Jack Fu's picture

It's not just that shot. With mere seconds left, without having taken a timeout (and I'm NOT ripping Thad for not taking one), pretty much any shot you can get off is a decent one.

No, what chaps my ass is the three or four other shots he took in the last couple of minutes, each of which basically confirmed my only fears for this team. All season long, it was clear that an inside-outside game featuring Sullinger getting the ball in the post and either scoring or kicking it back out was our best offense. And all season long, there were flashes where Buford showed that he wasn't really comfortable with that. There would be two-minute stretches in random games where you could just tell he was thinking to himself, "Eff it, this is MY team," and he would launch a few of his patented step-back 19-footers.  And, way more often than not, our offense sputtered in those situations.

He took several shots like that in the last few minutes of the Kentucky game, and they hurt us way more than the last, desperate attempt with seconds left. The worst part about it was that I could see it coming all year and there was absolutely nothing anyone could do about it. I am not unhappy the kid is coming back. He has been very good for three years. But his shot selection leaves something to be desired, and I hope it gets better in the offseason.

BuckeyeChief's picture

I was very critical of him after the game, which I shouldn't have been (suggesting he leave, etc.). One lingering thought was that they should've went for the tie. I am still not a Matta as a coach guy, though he is an amazing recruiter though.And yeah, i'm still salty, skipping the games this weekend. I haven't done that until the last two years. Endings have SUCKED.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Neilwoodgables's picture

I am not crucifying the kid.  I am simply pointing out that he took a bad shot considering his success shooting the ball that night.  I am still pissed there was no timeout called after they crossed half court.   

I Hate Michigan.



KenK's picture

After seeing that sceeen-shot, I continue to have no issue with Buford taking the shot. From that distance, a long rebound would not be out of the question. I didn't really see anyone in better position to pass to; even then, an additional pass is one more opportunity to mishandle the ball.

Neil, thanks for the screengrab, nice job.

Johnny Hooker: "He's not as tough as he thinks". Henry Gondorff: "Neither are we".

The_Lurker's picture

When trailing, almost any shot in the final seconds is a good shot. Period. Buford has made that shot often enough. It's ridiculous the way some people are acting. Every shooter has off nights, and every shooter is taught to forget the last shot, just go get the next one. Matta pulled him off the court, talked to him, and put him back out there. All you can do is let a guy shoot out of it. Matta took some criticism for sitting Butler, who was struggling against Florida in 2007. He played it differently this time. Two different choices with the same outcome, so what do you do? Without Buford, we're not in that game, we're not conference and conference tourney champions and we're not a #1 overall seed. Far too many people who have never walked in The WB's shoes are quick to judge and to forget that shit this case, shit happened by about an inch. That shot could have just as easily been missed by Craft, Diebler or Lighty.

Chris, thanks for writing this. I'm giddy at the prospect of having Buford back. The vast majority of the time his sweet jumper is money and a determined WB could end up as the school's all-time leading scorer. He'll still be criticized, because we have some fans who've been spoiled senseless. The spoilage of Buckeye Nation is complete when people are turning on Buford or criticizing him for not passing the ball with just seconds left as he tried to WIN the game.

Failure is not a person. It is an event. WB failed in his goal but that doesn't make HIM a failure. We all fall short of goals sometimes. It's not the time to dwell on what didn't happen. It's time to pick up our hurting brother and move on.

Scott K's picture



"There's a fine line between stupid, and....clever.  David St. Hubbins/Nigel Tufnel

iball's picture

Who leads OSU in receiving yards in 2011?




“There’s one thing I have learned through all my adventures and conquests - it’s that some people are just wired for success. I had no choice when it came to being great - I just am great.” – Kenny Powers

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

I am happy that the WB show will air for one more season in Columbus. Bad shot or not. Dude is a baller. And will be a leader next season....

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama