11W Roundtable: What Have We Learned About Hoops?

By Michael Citro on January 25, 2013 at 1:00p
How will the Buckeyes fare if Deshaun is flying solo on offense?

The basketball Buckeyes have completed a full third of the B1G conference schedule and we’re headed into the home stretch leading up to the league tournament and the big dance in March.

I’m joined by Kyle, Chris, and fellow new guy Vico for a discussion on Ohio State hoops. Where is it headed? What kind of outlook does it have? Which players are stepping up and who should be playing more?

Consider these our HOT SPROTS TAKES.

The media refrain this season is as repetitive as George Harrison’s “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You.” (My sincere apologies if that pesky earworm gets lodged deep inside your brain.) Ohio State has to find a second scoring option behind Deshaun Thomas and blah blah blah. Oh, and did you know Aaron Craft is an outstanding on-ball defender?

All we know right now is that the haves and have-nots are separating themselves in the B1G race, and a key injury could dramatically change things. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played. That won’t stop us from weighing in on what we’ve seen so far.

As always, we welcome your thoughts in our comments section below.

Now that the Buckeyes have completed a third of the conference schedule, what have we learned about them so far?

Chris: In a nutshell, I think we’ve learned they are pretty good defensive team that struggles to score points as a result of so many players not yet showing an ability to take on a significantly expanded role.

Vico: At this point in the season, I think we learned that a preseason top five ranking was a bit optimistic. This is not a particularly "elite" team befitting a top five ranking, even if it's a very good team with a lot of nice qualities. Further, I think we've learned we miss Jared Sullinger more than we would like. Evan Ravenel is a nice workhorse and Amir Williams has potential, but neither have been what Sullinger was for us for the two years he was here. As such, questionable post play may be the culprit that gets us in March.

Kyle: A lot, in my opinion — that Deshaun Thomas is really good, that the team needs at least one more scorer to truly be a conference title threat, and that they’re remarkably inconsistent. Guys like Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross really haven’t been in the heat of the battle during their careers. I understand that. But Thomas, Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Evan Ravenel have. Still, far too often Ohio State looks like an inexperienced team out there. That should not be the case at this point.

Michael: We’ve learned that Ohio State’s offense is not to be trusted outside of Thomas. Scoring by committee is fine, but these guys are missing too many committee meetings. We’ve also learned that Amir Williams can be a frustrating player to watch at times. I still think his ceiling is high, but he must have stronger hands in traffic, contribute more offensively, and learn how to defend a simple drop step.

Which team looks like the one to beat for the regular season conference title?

Vico: Have to say it's the Wolvereenies, right? That's not to say I think Michigan is a national title team. I don't think they'd match up well with Kansas, in particular. Still, their guard play is fantastic and the team has only really improved with the addition of freshmen like Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas, and Mitch McGary. They're deadly in transition.

Kyle: Indiana and Michigan are the class of the Big Ten. I really don’t think there’s much argument there. Both teams have phenomenal starting lineups and a good dose of bench players that can produce. That’s exactly what you want in a Big Ten title team. But I’ll go one step further and proclaim the Hoosiers and Wolverines as legitimate Final Four contenders.

Michigan State has a nice team, but there are still too many holes offensively and defensively for the Spartans. Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois would be the next teams in line.

Chris: I know the Michigan love-fest is in full force nationally, but I still see Indiana as the team to beat in the league. They just have so many guys that bring different specialties to the table and after trying to hate on the kid all year, I see Cody Zeller as the piece that pushes Indiana to the top of the conference.

Michael: I’m inclined to agree with Chris. I like what I’ve seen from Victor Oladipo in particular this season. The Hoosiers have the league’s dominant big man in Zeller and plenty of help on the perimeter. That said, if Indiana slips, Michigan will pounce. In addition, I like Sparty as a dark horse because they are already grinding out close wins the way a tournament team does. Those Mitten State clashes will be key. Tom Izzo can flat out coach and if the Hoosiers and Wolverines slip up, Sparty seems capable of taking it.

Where do you realistically see this Ohio State squad finishing in the conference?

Kyle: I’m thinking 11-7, which would put them a notch below the leaders. There’s definitely no shame in going 11-7 in the toughest conference in the country. The Big Ten Tournament will be loads of fun.

Chris: I think fourth is still realistic with fifth being worst case. The current reality is that Ohio State has lost to four of the five good-to-great teams they’ve played so far this season: losing at Duke, to Kansas, at Illinois, and at Michigan State, while beating Michigan at home.

I don’t think it’s plausible, unless Thomas is superhuman, to be up there with Indiana and Michigan and, head to head, I don’t like the matchups with Sparty. The Bucks fall to fifth if Bo Ryan keeps it up. After Tubby’s recent outburst and Minnesota’s poor showing in Evanston on Wednesday night, it looks like the Gophers could be primed to fizzle and I don’t see them finishing ahead of the Buckeyes.

Vico: Ohio State is playing as if it were the third, likely fourth, best team in the best conference in college basketball and I think that's ultimately how things unfold. The Buckeyes don't look the caliber team of Michigan State, Michigan (who we did beat in Value City Arena), and Indiana. Incidentally, that's how the standings look right now. We may get kicked up a spot if Indiana has a meltdown this season, which I don't put above Tom Crean.

Michael: Like my fellow 11W-ites, I see Ohio State’s ceiling as third or fourth place, and the basement is probably fifth or, God forbid, sixth. The light would need to come on quickly for someone like LaQuinton Ross or Amir Williams for this year’s team to challenge Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State.

"Ohio State has struggled to do anything offensively besides ride Thomas like a rented mule."

Does the lack of a secondary threat behind Deshaun Thomas mean this team can’t go deep in the postseason?

Chris: To me it does. I know the mantra about defense winning championships, and the Buckeyes do have a nice team defense going on right now, but Ohio State has struggled to do anything offensively besides ride Thomas like a rented mule. In the tourney, it’s all about matchups and if they run into a long and athletic squad that’s committed defensively, Thomas may not have enough bullets left to overcome the lack of help.

Vico: Yeah, likely. I think we'd all like it if all our main players were viable scoring threats. I think the bigger issue might be not that there's not a second scorer, but that our best shooter is also Deshaun Thomas. Other players can score. Guys like Sam Thompson are even finding a baseline jumper from range. I find it more problematic that we don't have a guy who can reliably shoot over zones, and not necessarily that Thomas is our clear No. 1. That Craft has regressed on offense, especially shooting off pick and rolls, is a problem for me as well.

Kyle: No question. In the tournament, I just don’t see how you can only have Thomas score and still win. Thirty points from Deshaun and then nine each from Craft and Lenzelle simply won’t get the job done. Ohio State has struggled against ranked opponents all season, so I see no reason that will change in the tournament. But if they can identify a secondary scorer and get consistent production, this team can be a Sweet 16 threat. Once you get there, anything can happen.

Michael: I’m going to disagree here and say not necessarily. I think this team’s defense alone could keep it alive in postseason play, provided someone gets hot at tourney time — and it doesn’t have to be the same person every night. Think of these Buckeyes as a poor man’s version of Sully’s supporting cast two years ago. That team made the Sweet 16 and was one horribawful shooting night by William Buford away from the Elite Eight.

Which young player has shown the most growth since last year?

Vico: This is clearly Shannon Scott. Shannon Scott last year was the awkward, however promising, newbie that LaQuinton Ross is this year. Fortunately for us, his play this year has justified Thad Matta's decision to pursue him in lieu of Trey Burke, who, in all fairness, has done quite well for himself in Ann Arbor. That Scott looks capable and confident on offense (minus that last shot against Michigan State) is great by itself. That he's playing as committed on defense as Aaron Craft makes him an important X factor for this team if it's going to make a lengthy run in March.

Kyle: Shannon Scott. It’s night and day with him. He was so timid, threw some lazy passes and really didn’t create much a season ago. We’re talking a McDonald’s All-American here. You would’ve never guessed that last year. You started seeing glimpses of his college potential during Ohio State’s run to the Final Four, when he backed up Craft when the starter got in foul trouble. But I don’t think anyone expected the firecracker he’d be this season. Craft is good, don’t get me wrong. But things are completely different when Scott is running the offense. It seems much more fluid and active. Buckeyes get down early against Kansas, Scott engineers a big run. At MSU, OSU gets in a big early hole, Scott comes off the bench — bam, 15-0 run. The guy is for real.

Chris: I think the obvious answer is Shannon Scott, and that’s saying something considering he’s such a poor shooter (41% FG, 33% 3FG) at this stage of his career. His clear deficiency aside, Scott has still, at times, shown the ability to make the offense go. He looks to push the ball off defensive rebounds, which is crucial considering Ohio State’s problems executing in the half court. He’s also been solid off the drive and finding teammates (4.5 APG in 20 MPG) and I love his on-ball defense.

Michael: OK, you guys. I get it. Obvious question is obvious. I’m going with Scott too, for all the previously mentioned reasons, particularly his soaking up of the Aaron Craft School of Defensive Wizardry. I’ll give a secondary shout out to Sam Thompson for the reasons I stated in an earlier article. Although Thompson still lacks consistency, he’s certainly shown much more versatility than J.D. Weatherspoon did during his time in Columbus (i.e. he can do more than dunk).

If you’re Thad Matta, do you tinker with the starting lineup? If so, how do you change it up?

Kyle: I would not. Granted, there isn’t exactly tons of production coming from either side, but I like having Scott, Ravenel and Ross come off the bench. They’re all capable starters and can play a lot of minutes. Getting them in once the game is flowing seems to be working.

Vico: I'm not sure. I think the easiest critique to make is that Amir Williams doesn't always play like he's a credible starter. However, he does certain things that Evan Ravenel cannot do. While Williams can be jangly and a bit clumsy at times, Ravenel isn't always the sure thing either. Really, I think our starting five is fine and faithfully represents the top five we have on the squad. Ohio State's play on the pivot will just leave us wanting for this entire season.

Chris: The only thing I’d change is putting Ravenel back in there ahead of Amir. I really don’t care which one plays more minutes, but I just don’t think Amir did anything to earn the starting spot. It seems like it was purely an attempt to jumpstart the kid’s intensity and confidence but in conference play, Ravenel has been the more effective player.

Sam Thompson doing Sam Thompson things.We know Sam Thompson likes to make posters.

That said, I can certainly understand those who think maybe Scott should start for Lenzelle and Ross should start for Thompson. As much as I think Ross isn’t playing enough for various reasons, I don’t think he’s earned the right to start.

With Scott, he’s such a poor shooter it’s hard to put him out there with Craft and Thompson at the same time since they have their own shooting issues. That lineup really enables a defense to sag or double Deshaun at will.

Michael: I would like to see what would happen if Scott started for Lenzelle Smith Jr. Until Tuesday night, Smith was really struggling against B1G teams not named Nebraska. Turnovers were way up and scoring (and shooting percentage) was way down.

If I were Thad Matta, I’d get Scott involved from the opening tip and see if Smith could provide some energy off the bench, the way Ravenel does (at times). If the experiment flopped, I’d switch back. Also, if I were Thad, there would be very few good pictures of me. Wait, maybe I am Thad Matta.

Which players do you want to see on the court more? Less?

Michael: A lot of people would suggest Ross in this spot, and yes, I’d like to see him more too, but there are nights when he doesn’t even look like he belongs out there. Certainly there are far too many instances where he shows an uncanny knack for how not to dribble a basketball.

I’d like to see more of Amedeo Della Valle when teams are relying on their zone defense, as he might give Ohio State the best opportunity to shoot over it. Then again, I'm in favor of more of what Vico calls ADV's "floppy haired mayhem" whenever possible. I’d also like to see Trey McDonald more when both Williams and Ravenel are flailing, even if it’s just to present a different look. McDonald is clearly not more gifted than the other two pivots, but he seems to provide energy when called upon, and energy is contagious.

I’d like to see less of Smith until he gets out of his recent funk.

Chris: I want to see more of Ross. I’m not implying he’s a savior but I do know he is the only player besides Thomas that can create his own shot with any regularity, and he’s also a better rebounder than he gets credit for. Of course, with that you get a questionable basketball IQ and shoddy on-ball defense but he looks to have a higher ceiling than any of the wings not named Deshaun.

Plus, this team isn’t cutting down the nets. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter — Thad should absolutely try to win every game — but the only way Ross gets better is with minutes. With Thomas heading to the NBA after this season, somebody will need to step up and score points next year. If it’s not going to be Ross, who is it going to be?

Vico: Should Shannon Scott play more? Matta always sits him in each half until the under-12 media timeout. If I'm Matta, and I'm definitely arm-chairing this right now, I may rethink Scott's ability to contribute more to this year's team. It may be worth rethinking this, especially if Lenzelle Smith's offense continues to struggle. When his offense is missing and he struggles on defense (thinking of the Duke game), I think Smith could sit more for a given game and Scott could play more.

Kyle: That’s a tough question to answer. Due to the inconsistencies across the board, you just don’t know what player you’re going to get on a given night. People have been clamoring for more Ross for over a year. I don’t necessarily think that’s the answer. Sure, he could play more minutes on most nights, but I don’t think a substantial change is what OSU needs. His defense is still pretty bad and he doesn’t even know where to be in the offense at times.

The one person I think everyone can agree on getting more playing time is Scott. There’s no question the offense flows better when he’s on the court. Just think if he’d been this good a year ago. Some people bang on Lenzelle, but his defense and rebounding seems to be huge in most games, and when he shows up on offense, he is the game changer. If Lenzelle scored 10-12 every night, this team would be scary come March.


Comments Show All Comments

Baroclinicity's picture

Chris' answer in the last question really resonated with me.

...but the only way Ross gets better is with minutes. With Thomas heading to the NBA after this season, somebody will need to step up and score points next year. If it’s not going to be Ross, who is it going to be?

Indeed.  I'm more frightened for next year than this current one.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

German Buckeye's picture

Sorry, Amir Williams is a bust - terrible hands, no offensive game at all, can't rebound for a 6'11 dude.  Last game had 6 blocks and ZERO rbeounds in like 17 minutes.  Rebounding is attitude and toughness, traits he evidently lacks.  Sorry to be hard on this kid but calling a spade a spade.

RedStorm45's picture

So...a young Jeff Withey? Not saying he'll turn into the guy, but Withey wasn't always the big-time center we've seen the last year and a half.

Killer nuts's picture

It's definitely too early to call him a bust. He's half way through his sophomore year and had very limited playing time as a freshman. The guy has a high ceiling and a lot of upside

Toilrt Paper's picture

Matta HATES to Red Shirt, but if ever there was a case for a Red Shirt it would have been Williams.

Killer nuts's picture

I'd say Trey Mcdonald would've been a great candidate for a redshirt

collards's picture

The team is soft and lacks fundamentals.


Toilrt Paper's picture

The profundity that AAU ball is will lead to the above.

Jack Fu's picture

Think of these Buckeyes as a poor man’s version of Sully’s supporting cast two years ago.

There's no second scorer, it just ain't happening. They need to embrace their apparent identity and just be the great-on-defense, scoring-challenged team they are. Keep the D up, keep Deshaun fed, and pray that one other guy's shots are falling on any given day. Absolute floor is a first-round exit to a scrappy mid-major; absolute ceiling is last year's Louisville team.

Michael Citro's picture

The point of that statement was that on any given night, you didn't know which guy on that 2010-11 team (aside from Sully) would hurt you. Could be Diebler. Could be Lighty. Could be Buford.

Similarly, this year's team has one known (DT) and four unknowns (really six or seven). Whereas you could count on at least one of those guys from 2010-11 to score, you can't this year (hence poor man's version). Maybe "homeless man's version" would have been more accurate.

Still, I think the talent is there. Smith is capable. Craft is too. Thompson shows flashes but then disappears. Ross is inconsistent.

You wound me with your Oprah. Or any Oprah. Oprahs, as a rule, are bad.

Jack Fu's picture

Forgiveness please.
And given your clarification, if you substitute "poor" with "homeless," then we're getting to the neighborhood. As someone who firmly believes that the 2010-11 team was the best of the Thad era, and maybe the best since the Jimmy Jackson days, comparing these guys to them sets off my "whoa whoa whoa hang on a second" alarm.

OldColumbusTown's picture

Completely agree with this, Jack Fu.  Homeless is a much more agreeable term, to me, when comparing this team to the '10-11 team.  Sure, you didn't know who would light up the scoreboard as the "2nd scorer" for that team, but we're talking about who would put up 20.  You could already count on Diebs, Lighty, Buford, even Craft, to get their 8-14 per night.
This year's team, we're asking who is going to put up double figures to go along with DT's 20-25.  And, you really can't count on anyone at all to consistently put up their 8-10 points, night in and night out.

gwalther's picture

Agree. I had an instant reaction resulting in a below post disagreeing with the comparison as well. 2010-2011 team was the best of the Thad era in my opinion as well. A better comparison would be the ET Sweet 16 team that lost to Tenn three years ago.
And we had multiple guys that COULD hurt you on that team. Buford, before disappearing the next year, was a great threat, as was Diebler. Big big difference from this years team. And we also had dominant big guys.. Sully and Lauderdale. This year, we have Undersized Evan and Ghost Amir.

Class of 2008

bukyze's picture

I really thought Lenzelle would step it up this year and be a solid scoring contributor for us.  No idea what's up with him.  But he does seem to grab a lot of big rebounds.  I also agree with Michael in wanting to see more of Trey McDonald.  I'm not so sure if he isn't as good as Ravenel or Williams - haven't seen enough of him to say for sure, but like you said, he does bring energy, and I like what I see.  Amir - all the potential in the world, but seems to be in outer space most of the time.  As a poster stated above, I'm much more afraid about next year than this year.  I predict we finish 4th at best, possibly 5th.  No way we are equal to  TSUN, IU, or MSU.

d5k's picture

We are very equal to MSU.  Losing by 3 on the road in the big ten is equivalent to a win on a neutral floor statistically.  And any metric you want to look at has us as good or better.

bukyze's picture

I agree with most of your points, but if my life depended on it, I'd be betting Izzo and Sparty to finish ahead of us.  I can't remember the last time they haven't gotten noticeably better at the tail end of the season.  We will get better, but I doubt noticeably.

DefendYoungstown's picture

bball is alright but I can't wait for da Fooseball to start!!!!!

What we can't do in the air we'll do on the ground.

RedStorm45's picture

11-7?? You're saying we lose 1 or 2 at home? I have losses at UM, IU, and Wisconsin...and perhaps a home loss to finish 12-6.  Alright, nevermind, 11-7 doesn't sound as crazy as I thought.
Scott needs to play 30+ minutes a game.  I get the whole Scott/Craft dilemma being terrible at shooting, but what is Lenzelle lighting it up? No.  Sam? No.  He gives you another gear, great defense, great transition, good ball movement in the half court (granted, no one can hit shots).
I get the Ross sentiments too, but he looks lost about 1/2 the time.  He sits in a corner on offense sometimes.  Sure, he can make some 1-on-1 moves but within the offensive flow? Not really.  Still struggles on defense and boxing out.
Haven't been impressed with McDonald or Della Valle in garbage time or the early games...turnovers, out of position, etc.  Although with McDonald, it's hard to be much worse in the post than what we've seen this year.  He could fill in for 3-4 minutes each half and I don't think the team would suffer for it.  There's also 5 fouls to use up down low if they need it (say, against Zeller).
I said it before, but Jim Jackson always tells us about Jent fixing Craft's "hitch" in his shot.  Bring it back.  Look at his % with the hitch (his first 2 years) v.s. this year.  I'll take 46-47% over the bricks he's throwing up now.

Donny T's picture

I know this is heresy, but Scott should be starting over Craft. The drop off in defense and scoring is minimal, but the team flows much better offensively when he's in there and that's the key to this team's success. Craft does not like to push the ball as much as Scott does, and Scott can get to the rim more often than Craft. I don't like Scott and Craft on the floor at the same time, either. They get in this bad habit of passing the ball around the perimeter for 25 seconds.  Then again, I would prefer those two over having Smith on the floor. He's regressed badly. Does not do much except wait around to pop the occasional 3. Yeah, he gets a few bounds now and then, against less talented teams. But he often makes bad passes, (except for the Harlem Globetrotter weave pass, he's got that down pat) rarely drives to the hoop and is so-so on defense, i.e., not so good that it would hurt to sit him. He seems to wait to pick his spots, except there's apparently only 1 or 2 spots a game for him. He's just taking up space.
Starting lineup I'd like to see: Scott, Thomas, Ross, Williams and Ravenel, with Smith, Craft and Thompson coming off the bench. Get the offense going first. If an opponent is getting hot, bring Craft or Thompson in early to shut them down. You play Ross and Williams for the experience they will need to have by post-season. Williams can focus on shot-blocking, with Thomas and Ravenel to handle rebounding. It's not perfect, but there is no perfect line-up for this team.
They have a string of four relatively easy games. Now's the time to experiment a little.

OldColumbusTown's picture

I'm not going to say it is heresy, because I've honestly felt that way at times this year, too.  But, Craft does so much with the way he controls the game, on both ends, that he's almost comforting to the other players.
Yes, Scott can get to the rim.  I've heard others say this as well.  Here's the problem - more often than not, when he gets to the rim he is either out of control, or gets up in the air and realizes he has no chance to make the shot.  He's had some pretty reckless drives to the rack.  Craft, on the other hand, may not get there as easily or as often, but he's shown a much better penchant for finishing with either hand, even in traffic.
Craft and Scott each need to spend hours upon hours taking jump shots.  It is literally the only thing holding them/this team back from being extremely potent on offense.  If they each were just legitimate threats from the outside, it would open up sooo much for this team offensively, to go along with the best defensive backcourt in America.

tennbuckeye19's picture

Don't disagree completely, but I think OSU needs Craft on the floor as much as possible. 
Also, I'll give you the upcoming Penn State and Nebraska games. Yes, OSU should win those games. Wisconsin @ home and @ M*chigan are not what I would call relatively easy games. 

Donny T's picture

true. Not sure what schedule I was looking at. :) Either way, they need to start shaking things up.

buckeye4life050233's picture

I more want to see us get in sets that put slam thompson in positions to attack the basket and get fouls or dunks/layups.  to many times he is catching the ball in the weave at the top instead of mid-baseline or slash from the free throw line from a baseline pass.

shamgod's picture

HOT SPROTS, coming through!

Jack Fu's picture

Keep reaching for that rainbow!

collards's picture

I want someone starting with the heart to go get a rebound especially defensive. It is horrible to work hard on d for 30 seconds, cause a bad shot and then have to play d again because nobody has the guts to bang.


Killer nuts's picture

I think the key idea to plant into this team's head is to attack. If Thad can convince this team to attack the rim relentlessly on offense rather than settle for jumpshots when they're available we could be very difficult to defend. If you look at our roster we have a lot of guys that can be lethal going to the rim if they dedicate their efforts to it. The jumpshots we take aren't necessarily bad shots but in my opinion they tend to be shots that we can get at any point in the shot clock. If we spend the first 20 seconds of each possesion attacking and don't get anything then I'm OK with those shots but I'd like to see Scott, Thompson, Lenzelle, Craft, and Laquinton try to put pressure on the defense by penetrating. I suspect it would lead to better looks from the outside and higher percentage shots in the paint which could be the recipe for success to this team finding scoring outside of Deshaun.

Lee in Altoona's picture

Anybody else going to be at Bryce Jordan tomorrow? The most arrogant Buckeye gear I got is a Troy Smith jersey... which isn't really hoops... but, it's like really scarlet and all.

rgarrett22's picture

I was at the game. I yelled "OH-" at the top of my lungs several times. :)

gwalther's picture

Michael - in my opinion that team two years ago was better than last year's that made it to the Final Four. Disagree with your comments comparing this team to that one. 
Otherwise- great stuff from everyone. And I do agree with Michael that this team can get to the Sweet 16... But that's because it's more like Evan Turners team 3 years ago.

Class of 2008

Michael Citro's picture

Again, the intent of the comparison was in team type, not team's quality. And a poor man's version of that type.

gwalther's picture

Yeah, I got you. I just agree with JackFu's comments above.

Class of 2008

hspbuy1's picture

  I'd be interested in seeing Thad put 2 big men in at the same time, maybe put McDonald in with Ravenal sometime during a game.   Get some "meat" under the boards!  Just a thought.