Ohio State Reevaluates Goals for Season

By Kyle Rowland on February 17, 2014 at 3:00p

Normally, Ohio State would be in the beginning stages of a Big Ten championship dash. But this season has been anything but normal. Ordinary has been tossed aside for the abnormal, atypical and unusual. Whether it’s the Buckeyes’ unpleasant January – not just outdoors – road wins becoming contagious or Nebraska’s growing list of impressive wins, the Big Ten’s 2013-14 season has been about the unexpected.

At 7-6 and all but mathematically eliminated, Ohio State’s reevaluated itself and set new goals. It’s the first time in five seasons it won’t have an opportunity to win the conference title as the calendar flips to March. Sam Thompson said prior to the Illinois game that he didn’t believe the Buckeyes were a sure-fire NCAA Tournament team, let alone a possible Big Ten champion. Beating the last-place team isn’t a boost to the resume, but 20 wins assure a place in the Big Dance unless Ohio State has a remarkable collapse.

So, what now with the 20-win threshold checked and tournament hopes satisfied?

“The focus changed a little bit,” Thompson said. “We’re all used to being in a position where we’re hunkering down and trying to win a Big Ten championship at this point in the year. Now that we no longer can do that, now that we no longer control our destiny, we really have to play for another cause. We’ve definitely talked about it. We know what we’re playing for.”

Their aim is the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, which comes wrapped with a bow – a first-round bye. They face the winner of the 5-12 game. Ohio State is currently one game behind fourth-place Wisconsin.

“We don’t want to play on Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament, and we obviously want to win the Big Ten Tournament,” Thompson said. “It’s about sending a message every time that we step out onto the floor.”

The defense certainly made an impact on Saturday night. For the third time this season, the Buckeyes limited a team to fewer than 40 points in a game. They’re still an offensively challenged group that must be efficient and resourceful. In their final five games, that formula could lead to several must-need wins.

“We have known all year that we were going to have to rely on our defense,” senior point guard Aaron Craft said. “When we can come out on the road and hold a team below 40, that’s when we know we’re clicking. Our offense also fed off of that.”

Ohio State hosts Northwestern, Minnesota and Michigan State, and travels to Penn State and Indiana. It will be favored in at least three, if not four of those five games. A handful of victories at the tail end of the season will bolster the Buckeyes’ notable but strange resume. Lumped with wins over Wisconsin, Iowa and Notre Dame are losses to Penn State and Nebraska. However, the Cornhuskers are inching closer to ending a 16-year NCAA Tournament drought.  

“Obviously you have to give the other team some credit, they’ve capitalized on our mistakes,” Thompson said. “But I think the simplest answer for how we’ve lost these games is we haven't played like ourselves. We haven’t taken care of the ball the way we need to. We haven’t executed on offense the way we need to. We haven’t executed on defense they way we need to. We haven’t had the mental toughness down the stretch where the game is on the line, we need a stop or we need a rebound or we need a bucket. We haven’t been able to capitalize on those situations.”

It’s possible Champaign, Ill., played host to Ohio State’s grand awakening. In an ugly game where neither team could create any semblance of offense, the Buckeyes turned to its usual stout brand of defense and freshman Marc Loving took over when points were at a premium.

He joked that it was as if a silverback gorilla was lifted off of him. For the team, it may have seemed like a gray whale. Ohio State, put in simple terms, is a poor shooting team. It shot nearly 50 percent from the field in the second half against the Illini and still made less than 40 percent for the game.

If you cover one eye and look at the free throw shooting stats, you’ll notice the Buckeyes are only making 69 percent of their free throws. It’s the best indicator of a team that isn’t likely to all of a sudden become good shooters in late-February.

“The biggest thing for us is to continue to get better. That’s all I am concerned with,” head coach Thad Matta said. “I think this team still has a lot of basketball to play, and that’s what excites me.”


Comments Show All Comments

Optimistic Buckeye Pessimist's picture

Welp, I think we'd all agree that they've gotta start playing Stanford football.

Read my entire screen name....

+9 HS
d5k's picture

We are probably going to be favored in all 5 games.  We are pretty close to MSU in power rankings and computers.  So at home we should be slightly favored unless we have a bad stretch which changes things or they become dominant overnight.  We may have to win out to get a top 4 seed with Iowa at 8-4 and Wisconsin also having a favorable schedule and a 1 game lead after @Iowa.

chili96's picture

I have a hard time believing that we'll win all five, but if we do that would be some good momentum going into the B1G tournament.

I think the season long inconsistent play inside will be our undoing.

Hovenaut's picture

Matta's comments to close the story work for me.

4cardpoker's picture

 Their defense has and will continue to be excellent.  They have and will continue to play hard.  Those are pluses.  

Unfortunately their offensive woes and lack of quality interior play has been exposed by B1G coaches.  The team needs to get stronger physically( Ross, Thompson, ADV, Loving) and have more consistent shooting and inside play.  These are not things that are learned in the middle of the season.  They should be worked on in the offseason so you can refine them during the season.  

This team could make a small run at the end of the season playing some of the weaker competition in the league.  But it's doubtful they get very far in the tournament with the lack of discipline on the interior and the inconsistent shooting on the perimeter

+1 HS
mh277907's picture

I know we are 0-1 when wearing them, but can we keep wearing the new gray "throwbacks?"


+1 HS
buckeyeEddie27's picture

That pic of Slam reminds me of Greg Oden going for the colossal dunk that he too missed.

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

Josh P's picture

Good catch, when Sam went up for that I was .4 seconds away from shooting my brains out of my eye sockets

+1 HS
buckeyeEddie27's picture

I was lucky or unlucky enough (depends on how you look at it) to be at that game.  Our seats were basically in between the foul line and the rim.  My buddy and I both had our eyes on Sam during that sequence and both were like "awww shit!" when Sam streaked to the hoop.  Hoping for a 9.0 magnitude dunk we both hopped up, only to have to awkwardly sit back down.  sigh.

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

TMac's picture

To finish 4th or better they will need to win 4 of 5 games left, which would require them to consistently play better basketball than they have been playing. Can they, absolutely, Will they.....stay tuned

ONE Not Done!

+1 HS
TossTrap's picture

Trouble with that is that the team in front of them (Wisky) will very likely win 4 out of their next 5.

scUM sleepwalking in the first half yesterday killed the Bucks.

First and goal at the five and Arch is getting the ball.

+1 HS
TMac's picture

I thought 4 of 5 was tough enough, I can't confidently see 5 of 5 ....... But crazier things have happened!

ONE Not Done!

+1 HS
IGotAWoody's picture

I think any declarations about what the Bucks or the Badgers are going to do over the final 5 regular season games is folly. The entire B1G has been unpredictable and unbelievably balanced, and OSU and Wiscy, in particular, have been chaotic. Either team could just as easily LOSE 4 out of their last 5!

I know it sounds strange, but I happen to be loving this season, because you never know for sure what any particular game's outcome will be, and the finish is going to be must-watch. Sure, I'd prefer the Bucks to just dominate, and I'd sure as hell love to see them finish the regular season and B1G tourney like they did last year. But no MATTA how it goes, I'm gonna be watching!

“The good life is a process, not a state of being. It is a direction, not a destination.” ~Carl Rogers

+3 HS
hspbuy1's picture

This team just doesn't have a "go to guy" when the going gets tough.   Watching Wiscy handle TTUN I saw a beautiful example of what happens when you shoot well & get rebounds,& their big man was playing lights-out.  I'd be surprised if we win 3 of the next 5. But...............Go Bucks!!!!!!


scrotieMcboogerballs's picture

This is a tough team to watch...but seeing a W is just as satisfying as it ever was...a 4-1 or 5-0 finish to the regular season would mean a lot as far as momentum goes...

"Who do you think you are?!?!...I am!!"  -Pete Weber, bowling legend and dominator of the English language

OSUFlash's picture

Winning 3 of the last 5 is doable but anything beyond that has to considered a bonus. Either way I think we still end up playing on Thursday in the BIG 10 Tourney.