Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, March 20, 2014
Please, tell me you aren?t shocked by Ohio State?s 60-59 loss to Dayton in its opening NCAA game. Yes, the seeds said it was an upset, as the Buckeyes were a No. 6 seed and the Flyers were a No. 11 seed. But this was little more than a good-not-great Ohio State club. Has been all season.
And Dayton may have been under-seeded coming out of the Atlantic-10, which had six seeds. (Remember when Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski beefed about that?) That?s as many as the Big Ten.
The Big Ten is off to a tough start in the Big Dance. If you are scoring at home (and I know Big Ten haters are) the conference hailed by many as one of the best — if not THE best-in the nation is 1-2 in the NCAA tourney. Iowa lost in overtime to Tennessee last night in a play-in game. Wisconsin dismantled American today. Later today, Michigan State takes on Delaware and Michigan plays Wofford.
Ohio State was hurt by a number of factors. One was the lack of production by LaQuinton Ross, who was playing like one of the Big Ten?s top players recently. In the six games leading up to the NCAA opener, Ross scored 19, 19, 22, 19, 26 and 19 points. Ross also was strong on the glass, grabbing 15 and 13 rebounds in separate Big Ten tourney games. But on this day, the 6-8 junior hit just 5-of-12 shots for 10 points. He was 0-for-3 from long range and had just two rebounds to go along with five turnovers.
The fact that Dayton shot 44 percent vs. a tough Buckeye defense and equaled Ohio State on the glass with 28 rebounds was surprising.
Aaron Craft did his part, scoring 16 points with four assists and five boards. But he had five turnovers in his Ohio State swan song. The Buckeye big men disappointed, as Amir Williams and Trey McDonald failed to tally a single point and combined for just two shots. More bad news: The OSU bench had just nine points, as Ohio State went 3-4 in its last seven games to finish the season 25-10.
It was an Ohio State season that began with the promise of a 15-0 start and No. 3 ranking. It then zig-zagged from there with a spat of losing and winning streaks that had most questioning the team as it intermingled good wins (Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska) with confounding losses (swept by Penn State).
All season, the Buckeyes struggled in the half court. Shooting also was an issue. And no one really emerged as a consistent go-to guy with Deshaun Thomas gone a year early to the NBA.
Now, the season is over in Columbus, and so is Craft's illustrious. And the Big Ten?s reputation is on the line. But, again, Ohio State wasn?t expected to do much in March. Still, an opening win certainly was a reasonable expectation. But this was a motivated foe in Dayton that wanted nothing more than to dump in-state big brother Ohio State. Mission accomplished.
Now, the focus, attention and scrutiny will be amplified on Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State, the trio that?s expected to carry the Big Ten?s flag-and reputation.
It?s still early.
|About Tom Dienhart
|BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.
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