This Sunday's showdown with Michigan just got a little more special as the Wolverines overcame Nebraska's ability to control the tempo, defeating the lowly Cornhuskers, 62-47, to keep their unblemished record intact.
At 16-0, Michigan tied their best start in school history and became the first B1G since the 2010-11 Buckeyes to win their first 16 games (OSU reeled off 24 straight).
Last night, it was again Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. leading the charge. The backcourt duo combined to score 33 points and grab 14 boards while freshmen Nik Stauskas (13 pts) and Glenn Robinson III (14 pts) also reached double figures.
With Michigan playing as well as any team in America and currently ranked #2, I call upon all the diehards and especially you casual Ohio State basketball fans to channel your inner Aaron Craft in hopes of creating a little Buckeye karma ahead of Sunday's 1:30 p.m. tip.
I expect each of you to suffer at least one floor burn diving for a loose remote sometime this weekend. If you don't, you diminish the chances of Craft duplicating last March's effort in which he harassed Burke into missing 10 of 11 shots with eight turnovers in a 22-point Buckeye demolition. You don't want to mess with the wicked combo of karma and science, do you? I didn't think so.
Sure, it's a little odd for the Buckeyes to be underdogs at home in conference play but remember, the Buckeyes have won 16 of the last 19 against the Sun and Blue, including two of three last year, and it's going to take every ounce of player and fan passion to make it a cool 17 of 20.
POINT OF CONTENTION. While both Craft and Shannon Scott made key contributions in Tuesday's much-needed victory over the Boilers, the Big Ten Geeks took a look at the pair's performance and let's just say they aren't all that high on Craft.
Craft was a beast in the 2nd half, scoring 13 of his 15 points as the Buckeyes held off a few Purdue runs to capture the 10-point victory. The typically offensively-challenged point guard has now reached double figures in three of his last four outings and has handed out 19 assists against just four turnovers.
Still, as noted by the Geeks, it was Scott who triggered the first half run that gave the Buckeyes separation:
After just five minutes of play, the Buckeyes’ Aaron Craft picked up his second foul and headed for the bench, with his team leading by a point. Replacement Shannon Scott would ignite the team, helping to grow a double digit halftime lead that Ohio State would not relinquish, despite some valiant efforts from the Boilermakers. Scott was excellent in many ways, but most impressive was his ability to create for others on the offensive end. Scott finished with eight assists against just one turnover, and it should be noted that four of his assists led to layups or dunks–the true mark of a creator.
For the game, the Buckeyes were actually +9 with Craft on the bench and just +1 with him on the court. Further, Purdue's turnover rate was just 8.3% with Craft on the floor and 10.7% with him on the bench. Still, even though Scott had a strong performance in other areas, his 1/5 shooting night brings his three game tally to 2/11 from the field, including 0/3 from distance and 2/6 from the stripe.
You can certainly make the case for putting Scott ahead of Craft in the rotation based on the stats but with Aaron's track record defensively, especially in holding Burke to a combined 6/22 from the floor with an amazing 13 turnovers in the two OSU wins over Michigan in 2012, I'm not ready to throw in the towel on Craft.
That said, considering Michigan starts three guys at 6'6" along with the 6'0" Burke, Scott and Craft might see plenty of time together on Sunday unless the offense is struggling mightily to make shots.
NASDUNQ. With teams finally getting into their conference slates, Seth Davis notes this is the time of year in which the contenders, and more specifically the pretenders, begin to shake themselves out. As such, Davis recently published his Stock Report giving each team a Buy, Sell or Hold rating. Now, you might think Davis is overly Duke-bro, and you'd be right, but he also watches a boatload of hoops. His take on Ohio State is about what you'd expect:
OHIO STATE: SELL
I have been saying since the preseason that I thought the Buckeyes were overrated, and nothing I've seen since has changed my mind. The fact that their two losses came to Duke and Kansas has not yet affected their ranking, but I suspect that will change in the coming weeks. This is as good a perimeter defensive team as you will find, but Ohio State's lack of offensive versatility is putting too much pressure on its D. Thad Matta was hoping that Aaron Craft would emerge as a viable No. 2 scoring option to Deshaun Thomas, but his shooting percentages are way down from last season. The two biggest X factors, LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams, have largely been non-factors. And freshman Amedeo Della Valle, a naturally gifted scorer, is too much of a defensive hindrance to earn minutes.
I can't argue with anything Davis notes in labeling Ohio State a SELL but it's important to note it's still early January. Just because the team hasn't evolved at a pace we hoped for doesn't mean they won't make significant strides by March.
A HARSH REALITY. The real Dr. Saturday, aka Matt Hinton, took one last look at Alabama's national championship season and while we all hate it, the harsh reality is that Saban might only be in the middle of a dynastic run. It seems his only worthy adversaries are Urban Meyer and a select few other programs, no matter what we think about built-in advantages such as oversigning, forcing medical hardships, etc. Consider:
- Alabama is the first team in 15 years to capture back-to-back titles.
- Bama is one of only five schools (along with Army, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Ole Miss) that can realistically claim three national championships in a span of four years.
- Eight starters from the 2011 team were drafted by the NFL last April, six of them off the nation's No. 1 defense.
- Six starters on this year's team were once five-star recruits, a staggering number considering that fewer than 30 incoming prospects in the entire nation earn that status in a given year.
- For the first time in school history, Bama produced two 1,000 rushers and their quarterback became the first to throw 30 touchdown passes in a season.
The Returning Champs. The most terrifying part of the Tide's run? Just how young they are. Ten starters in the championship game were freshmen or sophomores, including Yeldon, who finished as the most prolific freshman rusher in school history, and the leading receiver, fellow freshman Amari Cooper, who went over 100 yards receiving in four of the last five games and finished just one yard shy of 1,000 for the season. Along with a handful of other first-year contributors and redshirts, Alabama led the nation in yards from scrimmage by freshmen. Of the top dozen tacklers on defense, five were sophomores.
In all, 20 full or part-time starters are scheduled to return in 2013, a number that should still rank among the best in the SEC after the inevitable handful of early departures for the NFL Draft. One guess where they're expected to start in the preseason polls.
Look, I hate them too, and want to punch myself for glossing them, but damn. Imagine how sweet it will be if Urban's Buckeyes get a chance to knock them off for all the marbles.
IN THE CLEAR? The attorney for Texas linebacker Jordan Hicks, the former Lakota West star, said yesterday that no charges will be filed against against his client, or anyone else for that matter following an investigation into an alleged rape that saw both Hicks and Case McCoy be sent home prior to the Alamo Bowl:
“I just got off the phone with the San Antonio police department detective in charge of the investigation of my client, and he has informed me that no charges will be brought against Jordan Hicks or anyone else in this matter … .The investigation is closed,” Minton said in a statement. Additionally, I have spoken to Mr. Hicks and his family, and they are understandably relieved. Mr. Hicks will be returning to the University of Texas once school resumes.”
Of course, not long after Minton's remarks, the San Antonio PD's Special Victims Unit said it's still reviewing the case.
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