BTN’s Jim Jackson caught up with six Big Ten names working out at the NBA’s pre-draft combine in Chicago. Jackson talked to Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Draymond Green, Jordan Taylor, Meyers Leonard, and Robbie Hummel. If you’re running games down at the gym, that’s a pretty good first six right there.
Ohio State’s season came to an end in the national semifinal in a close loss to Kansas. The Buckeyes led for the vast majority of this game, and most will probably remember the game as a great comeback by Kansas, but the truth is that Kansas played a much better game than Ohio State. Consider that the Buckeyes were held to 32 percent shooting on two-pointers for the game. Further, OSU was held to rebounding just a quarter of the available offensive rebounds.
Ohio State was our preseason pick for the cream of the conference, and, despite a bumpy Big Ten slate that left them sharing the title, the Buckeyes are now the last B1G standing. The Sweet Sixteen was rather cruel to Big Ten teams not from Columbus; let’s start with the happy news and work our way through the rest.
Josh: It’s time to reflect on another season of Big Ten hoops. I think the rest of college basketball has finally taken notice of something that’s been true for the past 18 months or so–the Big Ten is the best conference in college basketball. Still, you look at the conference today, you see two great teams, 3 pretty darn good teams, a team good enough to make the Dance, and then mediocrity. Heck, even a couple of pretty bad teams. I mean, it’s hard to say the conference underachieved, but here goes–the conference underachieved. Sure, this is still the best action you’ll find, and it’s not close, but we’re still talking about a league that’s probably going to get 6 bids, with only a couple of standout teams. Does that sound much different than the past decade, when the Big Ten wasn’t measuring up to the likes of the ACC and the Big East?
Aaron Craft is a very good defensive player. Let’s get that out of the way. Whatever you think of the next few paragraphs, remember that we all agree that Craft’s defense would improve just about any collegiate basketball team.
With Keith Appling draped all over him, William Buford hit an absolute dagger of a shot to help Ohio State down Michigan State and ensure a three-way tie atop the Big Ten conference for the season. While that makes banner manufacturers very happy, it was not the result the Spartans were expecting after they found themselves up by 9 after the first half. Ohio State won this game by keeping MSU off the glass, getting to the free throw line, and by the excellent work by whoever had the job of talking Buford into coming back to school every May. With Jared Sullinger largely ineffective, Buford put the Buckeyes on his back, carrying them with 25 points on 14 shots.
Winning on the road in the Big Ten is never easy. Doing it in back-to-back games is even tougher. Doing it with game-winning shots in the final seconds twice, that’s incredibly rare. Ohio State would know. The Buckeyes needed Jared Sullinger’s bucket with less than four seconds left to win at Northwestern on Wednesday and William Buford’s ridiculous jumper with one tick left Sunday at Michigan State. The late wins were as clutch as any this season, as they helped Ohio State claim a share of the Big Ten crown, along with Michigan and Michigan State. Watch Buford’s shot now and see Sullinger’s in this post.
This week on “The Journey,” you got to experience Senior Night with some of the Big Ten’s biggest stars, including Michigan seniors Zach Novak and Stu Douglass, Ohio State’s William Buford, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and Iowa’s Matt Gatens. It was moving footage, to say the least. Watch a segment from Sunday night’s show now and catch three terrific bonus clips inside this post.
As we hit mid-February, the thoughts of college basketball fans naturally turn to the impending NCAA Tournament, especially to that dreaded B-word that gives college coaches heartburn–bubble. The Big Ten is not immune to this syndrome; in fact, four conference members find themselves squarely on that bubble. One of them was in action last night, while the other three will play tonight. Let’s examine these squads that are teetering on the edge.
Last Tuesday, we watched Illinois and Michigan State fight it out to a 42-41 final. A week later, Ohio State and Purdue matched that point total on the first possession of the second half in an entertaining 87-84 Ohio State win. Both teams used outstanding three-point shooting and minuscule turnover rates to power themselves above 1.30 points per trip, marking a season-high output for both sides.
Can you see it? I can. It’s stratification in this crazy Big Ten title chase. Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan sit atop the standings with 5-2 league marks. Right behind that trio are Wisconsin, Illinois and Purdue with three conference defeats.
Expectations are big at Ohio State. And William Buford and the Buckeyes aren’t running away from them. It’s Final Four or bust for the Buckeyes. Why not? This team is loaded with talent, including Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, among others.
With an amazing 43-point performance from Brandon Paul, Illinois shocked Ohio State in Champaign. Coming in, this looked like a game that the Illini might hope to keep close with their defense, but it seemed unlikely that Bruce Weber’s struggling offense would be able to scrape together enough points against the nation’s top defense. That analysis went out the window once Paul got rolling.
Every Sunday night during the hoops season, BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina recaps the week that was on the men’s hardwood and hands out his weekly honors. See Brent’s latest installment, for action from Dec. 26-Jan.1, in this post. And get ready for the coming week of Big Ten action with our Big Ten scoreboard.