Skull Session: Ohio State Deserves a No. 1 Seed, Coaches Give Anonymous Takes on the Buckeyes, and Jae'Sean Tate is Great

By Kevin Harrish on February 9, 2021 at 4:59 am
Brutus is happy in today's skull session.

Chris Holtmann's out here reminding everybody that coaching college sports is basically just parenting.

Word of the Day: Stave.

 NO. 1 SEED LOADING. I'm an eternal optimist, but never in even my most rosy of dreams would I have imagined that Ohio State would find itself squarely as a No. 1 seed in mid-February, but here we are.

Now, there's always a chance they lose six straight and swiftly exit this conversation. Anything is possible!

But here's the thing: five of the six remaining games will qualify as Quadrant 1 games. So even if they drop a couple of them, it's not going to hurt their resume that much. It might just depend on which teams they lose to, because Michigan and Illinois are hunting for that No. 1 seed, too.

But here's my extremely good plan: let's just remove all doubt and win out. That sounds a hell of a lot more fun and less stressful. And it would involve dumping Michigan, a noted basketball school.

 CLOAK AND DAGGER #TAKES. I'm pretty open about my stance on quotes from "anonymous coaches." I assume like 30 percent of it is made up and the "coaches" are more like team managers or graduate assistants or something.

That's probably unfair to the reporter actually putting in the work while I critique from my couch in my underwear, but I just generally feel like it's best to approach these things with a boulder-sized grain of salt.

That said, there's something inherently interesting about the idea of opposing coaches dishing #takes on my team, especially when the reporter basically admits to provoking coaches into talking trash.

"If these reports seem a little harsh, it’s because I probed my moles to provide weaknesses, deficiencies and potential pitfalls for each team. It’s not always pretty, but it’s the only way to get to the truth."

Hell yeah. Let's hear it.

Ohio State: “They’re a very tough-minded team. Their whole is better than their parts. The higher end teams in this league have more talent. I don’t know who their star is. You want to attack their passers to keep him from getting the ball. Kyle Young is one of the most underrated players in the country. The front line of Justice Sueing, E.J. Liddell and Young, those guys are all like 6-7, 6-8 but they’re physical and they post. Liddell is a tough cover because he can shoot out to the 3-point line, but he has the quickness to drive by your big guys. He has a propensity to turn the ball over a little bit. He hasn’t been great against double teams. A team with a good low-post presence can beat them because they are undersized. Duane Washington has been feast or famine with his shooting. He’s susceptible to a cold night.”

So let me get this straight – he intentionally prodded for feedback that's "a little harsh" and is "not always pretty" and all we got was "Liddell struggles when you guard him with two players" and "Duane Washington goes cold sometimes?" That's the most scathing thing you can say?

Damn. This team might just be good, good.

 WHAT A YEAR. Here we are in the middle of February and we're seriously talking about Ohio State as a potential No. 1 seed with Kentucky, Duke, and Michigan State all currently on the outside of the NCAA Tournament.

I'd suggest we were living in the upside-down, but this version of reality actually seems significantly more enjoyable and free of Demogorgons. So let's keep it this way, cool?

 TATE IS GREAT. I'm not sure what is more unexpected – Ohio State suddenly surging to a legit national title contender on the hardwood or Jae'Sean Tate turning out to be straight up very good in the NBA.

But I'll say this – I will have whatever Jae'Sean Tate stock you're willing to sell me because folks just can't stop saying good things about him.

So why is Tate such a huge part of this new Rockets tapestry, after just 20 games into a new season? When glancing at the leaderboard for Rookie of the Year, Tate’s numbers won’t jump off the page. He’s averaging a modest 8.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game. He has nearly twice as many turnovers (27) as he does assists (16). Look a bit deeper, though, and you see the early strides. His outside shooting, the biggest red flag about his skillset, started off poor (shot just 28.6 percent in December) but has since improved — 34.6 percent in January, 37.5 percent this month.  There are also the parts of his game that are so unrookie-like, like his cutting efficiency. Tate is scoring a whopping 1.67 points per possession on such plays, good for the 97th percentile.

Defensively, however, his impact is clear. Per Cleaning of the Glass, the Rockets defend a whole 7.5 points better with him on the floor versus off it. Their defensive rating jumps from 99.6 when he plays to 110.6 when he doesn’t. He already has 53 fouls on the year but that’s because he’s actively seeking challenges and refusing to back down.

Even if numbers never existed, the simple eye test would show you why head coach Stephen Silas trusts him so much. He’s always doing something. Tate’s energy is infectious and constant. He dives out of bounds to save meaningless balls. He moves the ball with poise and shoots the shots the team wants him to take. He slips screens like he’s been doing it in the league for years. He apologizes to his teammates for plays that aren’t even his fault. His smile is wide and full of joy, his politeness piercing through any and all WiFi connections.

There may be absolutely no chance he wins Rookie of the Year, but here he is swatting the shit out of the current Rookie of the Year favorite, and that's good enough for me.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Starálfur" by Sigur Rós.

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