Sure Shot

By Johnny Ginter on January 10, 2012 at 2:00p
Here he comes

For the past three seasons, William Buford has supposed to be the missing piece of the puzzle; the final element of a national championship winning formula that would put Ohio State over the top and exorcize some of the demons that have infested our sports programs that apparently all practice over ancient Indian burial grounds.

That hasn't happened. In big games, most notably against Kentucky last year, Big Willy Style becomes more Code Red and less He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper. It's unfortunate, because otherwise Buford's stats suggest a pretty terrific collegiate career: in the past three years he's averaged nearly 15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and fewer than two turnovers per game. When all is said and done, he'll be near the top of several Ohio State records, and deservedly so.

Still, there are a few major things that continue to hold him back, and it is getting to the point where Ohio State fans and the coaching staff needs to accept that at this point in his career, Will Buford isn't going to evolve into Evan Turner 2.0. He is who he is, in all of his crotch grabbing, sass-giving, erratic jump shooting glory. And that's fine; he still can be (and must be) a critical part of the current OSU machine.

But he isn't going to be the team's MVP on anything but some very random and hopefully opportune nights during the basketball season, and it's only during this year that the reasons behind this are really starting to emerge. In past years, gaps in Buford's game were covered up by his teammates. Not this year. Now, those glaring problems are evident for all to see, and it seems like they're likely to continue unless other members of the team can hide them once more.

First, let's take a look at last season, where Buford averaged 14.4 points and hit over 44% of his threes. Both pretty great numbers, and he was the perfect compliment to a relentless inside scoring threat in the person of Jared Sullinger and a deadeye marksman named Jon Diebler. If he ended up having an off night, no big deal, you had other guys who could pick up his slack. In narrow victories against Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern last season, Buford was a combined 8-33 shooting for a total of 23 points. We could shrug that off in wins, but in losses, especially against Purdue (1-5, 7 points) and Kentucky (2-16, 9 points), his lack of contribution cost Ohio State the game.

The common thread in all of these games is his poor three point shooting. When you hit as many threes as Buford was last year, you might have a tendency to over rely on them, and in his worst games Buford was 5-17 from three, good for 29% and 15 points lower than his season average.

This season continues that trend. Buford is averaging 15.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game, but it's arguable that he's actually playing worse then he did last year. In loses against Kansas and Indiana, he was a combined 11-30 (not terrible) and was 1-8 from three point range (terrible). And it's not just loses in which he's been utterly ineffective from three; in blowout wins he can be similarly awful (going 2-15 against Lamar, Nebraska, and Iowa, for example)

This is the weirdest thing

Here's what I think is happening: Buford is watching tape of himself against Valpo, where he scored 25 points and was 4-4 from three, and Northwestern, where he scored 28 points and was 5-7 from three, and assumes that that's his game now. It's not. Those are aberrations, and if the Buckeyes find themselves relying on that version of William Buford, they're likely to see more games like that against Kentucky, because it's pretty evident at this point that he is not a guy you can rely on to be either your primary scoring threat or your primary long range threat.

Two things need to happen: one, for the coaching staff and other guys on the team to acknowledge that Buford is fundamentally a streaky jack of all trades, and not someone you can lean on for consistent points. This isn't the knock on Buford that it appears to be, however. He's a great player who can bring a lot to the floor on any given night. The problem is that you never really know what night that's going to be.

Two, other players need to step up and fill the roles that Buford was supposed to occupy this season. In the past nine games Deshaun Thomas has actually been one of OSU's most consistent and accurate shooters, and it might be time to let the Microwave do his thing on a more regular basis. Thomas has made a huge effort to find his shot and to understand his game, and it has clearly been paying off. Matta also needs to find a relatively consistent three point shooter. Aaron Craft was supposed to have made an effort in the offseason to become that guy, but so far that hasn't panned out. It's difficult to see who on the team has a chance to become that guy, but someone needs to emerge.

OSU's problems do not start or end with William Buford, and I don't mean to downplay the very obvious strengths that this team has. But if the goal this season is to win a national championship, the Ohio State Buckeyes must become a much more complete team than they are right now, and that begins with acknowledging that William Buford is going to be both a godsend and a liability down the stretch.


Comments Show All Comments

BucksfanXC's picture

Happy Birthday Willie Bu!

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Johnny Ginter's picture

today's his birthday?!?

hahahah aw man

ScarletFever's picture

lol yes.  11w drops the hammer down on his b-day.

= D In seriousness, this article is spot on.  I expect 44 to deliver mega points unless it's on the road against a top Big10 team... or in the round of 16 and beyond.  Sadly though that's when we need him the most.


flipbuckeye's picture

That is cold, brother.

BucksfanXC's picture

Haha, yeah. I just saw it on Twitter like an hour before you posted this. I was hoping you didn't know or else you are stone cold.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Urban Ohio's picture

Buford's birthday is 1/1/1989

Newcomerstown Trojans between Woody and Beaver.

BucksfanXC's picture

I have it at 1/10/1990

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

He should attack the basket more instead of settling for so many jumpers.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

Breakawayspeed's picture

I have such a love/hate relationship with WB. 

He couldn't get his shot off at all against Iowa.  His front-of-the-rim floater was weak and short of the mark.  If his shot isn't there early, he should just play D and set up Jared or DeTom.  But,....Nooooooo!  He just keeps shooting and wasting posessions.  Against teams that can hang with us, it has proven fatal. 

Its a clear pattern.  Does Matta not see this?

Buckeyebrowny919's picture

I just laughed way harder than I'd like to it really his bday? Lol

To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift - Steve Prefontaine

buckeyeEddie27's picture

In addition to attacking the basket, better overall shot selection would be nice.

I know there's a game Saturday, and my ass will be there.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

I have no problem with him shooting, he needs to for this team to reach its goals.  I also agree he needs to drive more and try to get to the line.  My beef with his game is that he wants the ball in his hands at the end of games.  He is not that player.  He must recognize this and look to pass in those situations, or have the other players look elsewhere when the clock is winding down.  Not sure how you go about getting this done, but he took the last shots vs. UK last year and vs. IU this year with terrible results.  I wish he would look for more dimes and realize Sully wears the same uniform.

tampa buckeye's picture

Why is everyone so surprised about buford being soft?  He has never liked contact and judging from his bird chest the inside of a weight room.

 He is a shooter and a streak shooter at that.  He makes terrible plays off the dribble and turns it over non stop as a sr.

I expect better and I'm sure Willie does of himself.  Show us some balls willie dunk on somebody, take contact and score. You are a NBA player if you do that.  If not better start learning Greek.

nw_ohio_Buckeye's picture on.

"The minute I think I'm getting mellow, I'm retiring. Who ever heard of a mellow winner?" ~ Woody Hayes 

tampa buckeye's picture

Oh and if I was Thad Matta I'd bench his ass to prove a point.  

LouGroza's picture

The defensive end of the court seems to be where he is exploited. Seems to just be going through the motions. Maybe dreaming of that next possession jumper? Always seems to get beaten to the rim or doesn't provide weakside help.

nw_ohio_Buckeye's picture

I also have a love/hate relationship with Will. Have watched him since he was a frosh at Libbey High School here in Toledo. When playing against inferior competition he could take over games. In the state championship at The Schott his sr. year, Libbey was up 16 points in the 2nd half and they (incl. Will) let it get away. That can't happen. A good team leader does not let that lead get squandered...EVER!

This year especially his ball handling skills and defense have been exposed. He drives but turns it over a lot more than he should when he does. Against Iowa he was 3-14, far and away the worst shooting percentage on the team (other than Amir 0-1, I don't count that.) He can be good but he is supposed to be a Rock on a very young team. As soon as Thomas started to emerge as a #2 scoring threat, I predicted Buford wouldn't handle it well and would force his game and play tight. Except againt inferior competition that's happened, imo.

All is not lost by any means. But Will has to get honest about how he can best serve this team. He's been around this system and needs to step up and be a leader, not try and be the man. I agree with Tampa that he needs to step things up or the next level will remain a dream. He'll get drafted likely because you hear everybody laud compliments on him (many well deserved.) But he'll get physically "worked" if takes his current game on an NBA floor.

Now's the time...Let's Go Bucks!

"The minute I think I'm getting mellow, I'm retiring. Who ever heard of a mellow winner?" ~ Woody Hayes 

BucksfanXC's picture

I always say if Buford misses his first shot, he should get benched for the night. You can always tell from his first shot.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

baddogmaine's picture

When a player is the primary scorer then that guy has to keep shooting because that's how the team scores. That does not describe the Buckeyes. Sullinger is the primary scorer, and to my amazement Thomas is turning into a servicable Option #2. Buford would like to move up the OSU scoring ladder but quite simply the Buckeyes can not afford to support him. Buford is not likely to win the Buckeyes any games by himself, but he can and has cost us games. IMHO senior or no his free passes as a brick layer last only until one of the underclassmen becomes stronger on defense, at which time if WB is hogging the oxygen he should get bench time. Of course teaching a new player how to guard B1G players without fouling is no easy task and it may be that for that reason Buford can not be taken off the floor. But unless and until he does better in big games - both in shooting and decision making (2 TOs at the end of the Hoosier game were dreadful) he should be told that his primary function is defense. And if that makes him pout we weren't going to win any kind of title anyway.

thePhilipJFry's picture

wow, absolutely no understanding of how probability works.

Tim's picture

Against Kansas, Buford was terrible in the first half, but in the second half, he scored something like 10 of 12 (or 12 of 16 or something like that) when he started posting up and using his mid-range game on smaller guards.  I completely agree that when his three-point shot is off, he should drive or go with the mid-range game.  He uses the backboard better than any guard I remember other than Daequan Cook, so if he would just realize when his jumper isn't falling, I think he could still be very effective.

DefendOhio's picture

Buford looks like he lost his game. 

thatlillefty's picture

WB can be a great shooter, but the best player on the team is Sullinger.

Feed Sully the ball down low and work the offense, inside-out. Let the big guy's play set up the perimeter shooters... or with the way Sully is shooting tonight (2/2 from 3pts for the first half), let him be our deep threat too, lol.

thatlillefty's picture

well now we can say w/ confidence this was a well timed article

regardless whether it was WB's bday (for shame Johnny)

zbd's picture

Buford plays stupid basketball.  He takes off balance shots, shoots with nobody ready to rebound, forces drives to the basket for turnovers, loses his temper when someone blocks his shot, doesn't pass off to the open teammates.....................all performed tonight in the loss to Illinois.  I would rather lose with freshmen who give 100% and hustle all the time.  I like Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott even Amir Williams.