Get Out of My Dreams

By Ramzy Nasrallah on February 27, 2012 at 2:00p
38 Comments
Among the many requests from last summer's site survey, "more Billy Ocean" is one where 11W has consistently & shamefully fallen short.You wake up and suddenly: You're in love.

William Buford has it all wrong: Buckeye fans do not hate him some of the time.

The Schottenstein Center's all-time leader scorer bowed with a Senior Night loss following the requisite career nostalgia week that celebrated his unexpectedly-lengthy stint in Columbus.

The WB will leave with thousands of points to go with hundreds of rebounds and assists. His contributions to Ohio State basketball are impossible to dismiss.

Equally impossible to dismiss: Having twice as many turnovers as points versus the Michigan teams this season and playing terribly in each of the Buckeyes' three NCAA tournament exits, culminating in last season's 2/16 shooting catastrophe against Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen.

So Buford has accumulated historical statistics that accompany numerous big game failures, the latter of which serve as the catalyst for his specious remarks about fans hating him. Sometimes.

His notorious, forced performances in high-profile losses demonstrate how important he is - or believes he should be - to the team: If Buford plays even slightly below average against Sienna, Tennessee or Kentucky the Buckeyes advance another round in each of the past three tournaments.

Instead Buford has been a serial violator of continuously picking at a throbbing pimple instead of just leaving it alone. It isn't that he just has bad shooting games at inopportune times; it's the way that he takes a cold shooting streak, super-sizes it and unnecessarily transforms it into a defining characteristic of his game.

It isn't difficult to understand why Buford forces the issue with regularity: The only role he's ever had has been that of the go-to guy. Buford was ranked the #3 shooting guard in the country coming out of high school in 2008; the two ranked ahead of him are already NBA starters and the only other three five-star twos all currently earn NBA paychecks.

Buford was Ohio's Mr. Basketball and a McDonald's All-American his senior year after being Toledo's City League player of the year three times. His expectations for himself are higher than yours are of him. Putting the team on his back is supposed to be his forte. It just hasn't proven to be a successful endeavor a few too many times.

And because he's been a Buckeye for so long, the refrain has become too familiar. This is that "they hate me some of the time" Buford refers to. In absorbing the fans' palpable frustration he's actually giving himself too much credit. He's had ample opportunity to correct that unfortunate perception.

If you're having trouble remembering Ohio State basketball pre-Buford, it's for a good reason: He committed to Ohio State the day before Halloween in 2006.

That was even before the Thad Five of Greg Oden, Michael Conley, Daequan Cook, David Lighty and Othello Hunter had played a single game together. The only prominent name with greater longevity during the Thad Matta era is Thad Matta.

Part of Buford's perception problem is the dream that fans have of what he should be at this point in his career: As far as Matta rotations go, he's basically been a four-year starter. Try and name some others. Aaron Craft doesn't count yet.

Consider he's a senior and a scorer and one would automatically assume he's elevated his game into that of a right-handed Calbert Cheaney; an unguardable and unflappable swingman who drops in 18-foot shots effortlessly when he isn't effectively driving and creating his own shot.

That hasn't been the case. On Sunday with six minutes remaining and the Buckeyes clinging to a five-point lead, Buford took it upon himself to close out his final home game. He missed a bad three-pointer, which Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor answered with an open triple on the other end.

On the Buckeyes' next possession Buford forced and missed another bad shot which turned into a Wisconsin layup on the other end. Matta took a timeout.

Buford got the ball on the inbound and shoved his man to the floor, giving the ball back to Wisconsin which promptly took the lead. For those of you scoring at home in crunch time: Bad missed shot, bad missed shot, offensive foul, turnover, lead squandered, game lost.

One part Bauserman; one part Iraqi scud missile.Strung upside-down for a left-handed genius.

The game recap by which history conveniently edits crucial details tells a different story: "William Buford, playing his final home game, finished with 15 points. It doesn't sound too bad, if you ignore the importance of timing.

There is no player fans want to love more than a four-year star void of observable character issues or personality flaws. By that standard, Buford should be one the most beloved players in school history.

Where the frustration begins for Buckeye fans is where #44's performances in big games come to a screeching halt. Buford's shortcomings are reminiscent of another maligned four-year player who also wore the scarlet and gray, accumulated historical statistics yet left scores of fans disappointed.

Anyone who hasn't their Ohio State football memories from the turn of the century clinically erased (HMOs should be required to cover this) remembers the frustration of the Steve Bellisari years. He was the athlete-converted-to-quarterback who preceded the Troy Smith venture. Only one of those two experiments was considered a success.

Stat sheets remember Bellisari kindly: Almost 5,400 yards passing to go with over 600 yards rushing and 38 touchdowns. Look at historical Ohio State statistics for quarterbacks and you'll see his name listed frighteningly close to the top.

What made Bellisari so frustrating was what we thought he would be: An incredibly athletic and intelligent left-handed cannon with Steve Young potential that justified moving him from defense (where he was predetermined to be the next great Buckeye safety) to offense. He wasn't ignorant to his own ability and routinely forced the issue in key situations. It was his mandate; eerily similar to Buford in crunch time.

More often than not, the result was crippling interceptions or what would currently be referred to as Bauserbombs in critical situations. Bellisari definitely experienced the same brand of scorn during his tenure that Buford spoke of last week. As with Buford, it wasn't personal. No one hated Bellisari.

Both he and Buford are merely human vessels for a position that outlasts all of its occupants. They're just stewards for the two Ohio State sports that matter the most; seniors chartered with being better than they were capable of being. The consensus daydream we all had was that they were destined for stardom, and their respective teams would ride their coattails to glory.

Bellisari's squads were utterly forgettable, whereas Buford's teams have all just been tantalizingly good enough to not be great. In some ways this provides a taller challenge for Buford; while Ohio State's quarterback is the most important athlete on campus, gaining a bid from the Citrus Bowl instead of the Outback Bowl is meaningless compared to getting to the Final Four rather than flaming out in the round of 16.

And that's where Buford finds himself as the elder statesman of a team in obvious decline that had been projected as a number one tournament seed for several months. The disquieting news for Buckeye fans is this precarious position likely emboldens him to try and be better than he is. Historically this has been a welcome development for opponents like Siena, Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan State, Michigan, and as of yesterday, Wisconsin.

Should Buford attempt to put the team on his back and collapse under its weight once again, he might feel that scorn one more. And as has been the case throughout his college years, it will be misinterpreted as hate towards him. Buckeye fans not only love their senior swingman, they want to love him more.

That's because nobody hates who Buford actually is. Sometimes they just hate who he is not.

38 Comments

Comments

Maestro's picture

I saw Bellisari in the crowd while I was running the Columbus Marathon years ago.  Forward momentum is the only thing that kept me from stopping and vomiting on him.

vacuuming sucks

Baroclinicity's picture

I actually sat one seat directly behind him at the Miami Hurricanes game in 2010.  He was great to talk to - down to earth, accomodating to the fans.  It was hard to watch him during those years he was under center (I went to the UCLA game in Pasadena in '01), but once you make personal contact like that, it's easier to like the dude.

Maestro's picture

I'm sure he is a good dude.  

vacuuming sucks

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

Scchhteeve was a great safety when he was in high school. Not sure how he ended up at QB.

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Rooster Buckburn's picture

Very nicely written:

Both he and Buford are merely human vessels for a position that outlasts all of its occupants. They're just stewards for the two Ohio State sports that matter the most; seniors chartered with being better than they were capable of being. The consensus daydream we all had was that they were destined for stardom, and their respective teams would ride their coattails to glory.

Moses Cleveland's picture

Ramzy, I usually love your writing and I always have enjoyed your perspective. Except this time.

I can’t exactly explain why – but I have been a big fan of Buford since he was a high school player in Toledo. Maybe it’s because I attended college in Toledo. The city is split 60/40 between Ohio State and TSUN. I was happy to see a kid from Toledo with such high credentials go to The Ohio State University.

Since then, I have always felt he was the guy who had solid contributions who never asked for, or received the spotlight. If you look at his stats last season – he was a consistent performer on most nights sans the tourney game vs. KU.

This year I was excited to see him shine in the spotlight, and I admit he has played poorly in some of our biggest games. There’s no excusing his poor shooting in big games. It sucks.

However, I can’t get over how much flack Buford takes from writers on 11W and other blogs. For instance; I follow a bunch of OSU bloggers from this site and another on Twitter. Whenever WB makes a mistake – he gets trashed immediately by everyone. But when another player makes a mistake, I do not see the same vitriol targeted towards that player. I also rarely see anyone on Twitter praise him when he has a lights out game, or makes a good play. I understand fan’s frustrations – but when I guy gets called for charging when he is trying to be aggressive does everyone need to comment and name call?

I just don’t like the tenor of this article. I don’t think you can compare William Buford to Steve Bellisari. SB came to Ohio State from Florida and wasn’t always the best citizen off the field, and was certainly a disappointment on the field. Whereas, Buford has been a model citizen off the court, and really hasn’t asked for a lot of attention from the media.

I feel badly because I think he’s had a one hell of a career at OSU, yet hardly anyone will admit they are a WB fan. I know he came in with a lot of expectations, but he certainly doesn’t have a big ego. If anything – his biggest problem is his lack of an apparent personality. He is clearly not the most assertive, gregarious person on or off the court.

It hurts me when he fails during certain games – but overall – I think Buckeye fans everywhere should lay off the kid. He may be a millionaire someday – but right now he is still a college kid, trying his best on a team with a bunch of sophomores and big personalities (Sully, Thomas, etc)

Go Bucks.

CincyOSU's picture

For the life of me I do NOT understand the hatred towards Buford. He has been nothing but a loyal student athlete to this university yet we attack him like the plague and pick him apart and  blame him for every loss. I especially love how we are now blaming him for the losses to Tenn and Sienna(when he was a Fr.). Perhaps a better player to "blame" in those particular games would be Jon Diebler who shot 3-20 in those games...yet we find a scapegoat in Buford? So Buford occasionally plays poorly in big games...does this make him terrible? Not a clutch player, perhaps...but the sole reason for losing particular games? Come on. How is it Buford's fault in the last game against Wisc? Maybe a better player to "blame" would be Deshaun Thomas...what about his TWO terrible 3 pt attempts OR his bad FT shooting? Yet, we find a way to blame Buford. I really dont get it....

Moses Cleveland's picture

CincyOSU,
If this was facebook - I would "like" your post. I’m relieved to know I am not the only guy in the room who notices the unwarranted negative bias towards WB.

Imagine if we blamed other Buckeye players as much as WB. I'm sure Aaron Craft and Sullinger would be targeted often based on their inconsistent play.
 

M tots's picture

I agree that the "hate" has gone too far.  However, WB is a senior.  And a 4 year contributor on top of that.  More is (and should be) expected of him than any other player on the roster. 

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

Matta takes his share of blame from fans as well.  When you are one the best doing it over time, as both Coach and WB have done, it comes with the territory.  I think we can handle missed shots.  Mental errors by a 4 year starter are tougher to stomach.

Ramzy Nasrallah's picture

If I have to explain what the column is about that either means I didn't do a very good job of writing it or people aren't doing a very good job of reading it. Happy to take the blame.

This is not let's-pile-on-Willie-Bu-and-blame-him-for-everything piece. It's just impossible to write about Buford without broaching what's being objected to in the comments thus far. This is about an outgoing senior with a mixed legacy with an examination into why he's perceived the way he is.

I actually had to strip it down and edit out a lot of hard facts to keep it from coming across as too harsh - not only how poorly he shoots in big games but when in those big games he's missing shots. He's 11/41 shooting in Ohio State's three NCAA tournament losses. Ohio State goes as Buford goes. You could argue he's the most important player on a team that includes a high-performance PG, an AA center and a shoot-first scorer.

Kalamazoo Steve's picture

I did not take it as a rip on Willie B.. It was a fair critique, imho. And there is no doubt they only go as far as he takes them.

mclovin's picture

High performance point guard -- if ur gonna bust Buford's balls, I don't see why you're giving a pass to craft. Mr defense has been horrible this year. Seems lIke his man has beaten us in almost all our losses. No negativity towards craft though. Let's continue to make Buford the focus of this seaon's failure.

acBuckeye's picture

I agree with everything Ramzy wrote. However, McLovin, I also see your point. Craft has been the source of my frustrations many times this year as well. While still very good with his on-ball defense, he gets lost when his guy doesn't have the ball far too many times. Offensively, he needs to be much more aggressive. When he finally showed some fortitude against Wisky and took the open jumper, he succeeded. Teams give him that open shot at the top of the key, and its really an easy shot. He starts hitting that, and he's much tougher to guard, b/c he has blow-by ability.

Buford is the easy scapegoat, however Sully was a complete no-show Sunday save for his late-game shot that put us back up. He promptly blew it though by leaving his guy wide open on the other end. That was HIS fault.

Maestro's picture

Caribbean Queen, now we sharing the same dream, and our hearts they beat as one, no more love on the run.

vacuuming sucks

Lucys Daddy is a Buckeye's picture

^^^^

 

This.  Definitely this.

...And when we win the game, We'll buy a keg of booze....And we'll drink to old Ohio til we wobble in our shoes...

bukyze's picture

So is this Buford's fault due to not developing on his own, or Matta's fault for not developing him?

biggy84's picture

Great article Ramzy!

Buckeye Chuck's picture

I don't really agree with the comparison to Bellisari, who truth be told was barely competent. A better analogy might be to Art Schlichter, in the sense that while Art's career was obviously terrific, there was the sense at the end of expectations unfulfilled. If someone had said after the 1979 season that Schlichter would not play in another Rose Bowl nor win a Heisman at any point, most Buckeye fans would have had trouble believing it. In the same way, Buford's senior season is coinciding with what is shaping up as the first underachieving season by a Buckeye basketball team in a very long time.

Actually, typing all that reminds me of what may have been the single most disappointing Buckeye sports team of all time, including this past season's football team: the 1980-81 men's basketball team, from my freshman year. That squad had almost everyone back (except, crucially, Kelvin Ransey) from a team that got to the Sweet 16, had a bunch of seniors plus Clark Kellogg as a sophomore, and still had to win its last 2 games just to finish over .500. Herb Williams broke the OSU career scoring record that season, and consensus at the time was that it was criminal that an underachiever like Williams was breaking the record of a winner like Jerry Lucas. That team had problems other than Williams, but he took the blame in the same way Buford is taking it now.

The most "loud mouth, disrespect" poster on 11W.

RBuck's picture

Eldon Miller was the downfall of that team with his poor schemes and mass substitutions at inappropriate times. I remember the Tennessee game that year when they had Sam Bowie. During the first 5 minutes both teams were running and scoring on each possession. I'm thinking this might be the best display of college hoops I'd ever seen. Miller then pulls the starting five and the Bucks go down 20 in a heartbeat and it was over.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

tennbuckeye19's picture

FYI:

Not to be a jerk and go correcting people, but Sam Bowie played @ Kentucky not Tennessee. In the 1984 draft he was selected with the #2 pick by Portland after Houston took Olajuwon #1 and ahead of Michael Jordan, who was taken #3 by Chicago. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Bowie

 

RBuck's picture

Yeah you're right. First of all it couldn't have been the 81-82 season because the game I remember, Herb Williams was playing and he graduated in '81. I guess I'm all effed up on my recollection. But regardless, Miller totally ruined probably the best college basketball game I had ever seen 5 minutes in.

"It's just another case of there you are". ~ Doc (1918-2012)

RedStorm45's picture

I agree with Ramzy's post, great write-up.  Coming out of high school, he was touted as a big time McDonald's AA.  We expected one, maybe 2 years out of him.  He performed well, but not great, usually overshadowed by Evan Turner or Jon Diebler.  Still, he was a solid contributor, but the facts don't lie in showing us that he hasn't put a monster game together in a big time situation.  I don't recall a "take-over the game scenario."  No monster 20 point 2nd half on the road against a top 10 team to bring the team back from a double-digit deficit.  No game winning shot at the buzzer.  No "steal, lay-up, block, dunk and-1" scenarios.  The frustration with the fans is that we can see his talent at times.  When he's the #2 or #3 perimeter option, he can flat out go off, but mostly because he's against the opposing team's worst defender (last year).  I think it's more of a frustration from the fans that he hasn't panned out into a college all-american.  He's been stuck on 3rd team all-big ten.

BuckeyeMike74's picture

I thought it was a great article and spot on.  True he is a "kid", but this is the bigtime.  This is why you go to a school like tOSU.  To accomplish great things with everyone watching.  If you don't think you will hear it when you don't step up, especially as a senior, maybe you should have gone to Ohio University or Cleveland State.

Go Bucks!

Troy0782's picture

Is it just me or does Billy Ocean look remarkably like Michael Vick in that photo?

SouthBayBuckeye's picture

What if Billy Ocean was white?

 

/ESPN'd

Banned from ATO since June 3rd 2PMish PST

Jack Fu's picture

I thought the exact same thing. I initially thought it was some sort of Vick photoshop.

RE: Buford:  Nobody hates him. He has been a four-year starter, a more than solid contributor that whole time, and an exemplary citizen off the court. He has accumulated a mountain of statistical accomplishments. He is a great Buckeye. But damn man, the dude has just been a liability in big games. Over and over again. His struggles in such games became impossible to ignore a while ago. And they've just continued. Pointing out and lamenting that fact is not "hating." It's being minimally observant.

I hope like hell that he turns it around. I'm not particularly confident it will happen, but I do hope.

Jdadams01's picture

I don't hate Buford, but the guy simply makes mistakes that senior, our year contributors shouldn't. When he is off, he forces bad shots. He behaves as if he is the type of player who can shoot his way out of a bad shooting night, but I've never seen him pull it off. And it buries the team. These nights also seem to always be in big games. The fact that he has taken more shots than anyone in the team yet has something like the 8th best FG % is the most telling stat.

Hockey Buck's picture

Last year Buford was the only one, sans Sully, that had my complete trust and he really only let me down at the worst possibly time, against kentucky in the tourney. Since then, he has drastically forsaken my trust in him.  The good news is there is one more chance, albeit slight to win it back. Either way, thanks soon to also be, defunct WB.  Go Bucks and great luck.

RedStorm45's picture

You trusted WB over Diebs?

acBuckeye's picture

I completely agree Hockey. Up until last year's UK game (a performance by Buford that NOBODY saw coming, btw), Willie B was the guy i counted on the most. He always seemed to break out that silky smooth jumper to either keep a big run going, or to bust up the other team's big run. I always remember going "that's in" in my mind when he put up a shot that we really needed, and most of the time he delivered.

I kept waiting and waiting for that moment against UK and it never happened, and too many times this season it hasn't either. He just simply is trying to do more than he is capable of doing.

JakeBuckeye's picture

Ramzy, I wish you would have saved your funeral piece until after the season was over. Willie and the Bucks have a run inside of them.

buckeyedude's picture

Kind of off subject, but being from Toledo, I always pull for the kids from T-town wearing the scarlet and gray. Ransey, Jackson, Hopson, Buford, to name a few. Just wondering if anybody knows if Matta is recruiting Kenny Hayes' "little" brother(6'8") Nigel, at Toledo Whitmer? There are a lot of good basketball players that come out of Toledo....possibly more than football.

 
 

zbd's picture

Agree with the comparison to how Herb Williams was a disappointment even though he has good stats.  Buford is the Tony Romo of OSU bb.  He has a way of finding ways to screw up important games.

Poison nuts's picture

Good piece. Still - sometimes I wonder if it get's inside Willies head knowing how critical we are of him. Like a big game is coming and he chokes - not because of the big game - but thinking of the scorn he'll get if he blows it. Which could contribute to him blowing it.

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

buckeyechad's picture

I think it definitely gets in his head, whenever he makes a shot now he has a look that's almost like "thank god I made it"

Poison nuts's picture

Thats what I'm saying. On one hand this is a major school and if you don't like the heat you shouldn't be in that kitchen...on the other hand I know I would feel & play differently if everyone watched me that closely no matter how confident I was.

"Death created time to grow the things that it would kill" - Detective Rustin Cohle.

Buckeyeneer's picture

I take it pretty easy on Buford. I guess that is because even though we have had great success over the past 10 years. I remember the dark ages before the days of Jimmy O. I feel we are pretty blessed given how well we have performed over the past few seasons.

"Because the rules won't let you go for three." - Woody Hayes
THE Ohio State University