An inside look at Ohio State
It's too easy--and too common--to see a team lose and say, "Hey! That team's not as good as I thought!" So I try not to pile on that way. But when a team wins they're fair game. For instance....Last year Indiana beat Northwestern at home and I said, "Hey! That Indiana team's not as good as I thought!" This year Illinois beat Missouri on a neutral court in St. Louis and I said, "Hey! That Illinois team's not as good as I thought!" Which brings me to Saturday night's 66-64 win by Ohio State over Michigan State in Columbus. Guess what....It's not that the Buckeyes aren't as good as I thought they'd be, per se. But after seven conference games we've seen enough to at least say this much:Forget "He's worth 20 a game just on defense, baby." Fact is: Greg Oden hasn't had nearly the impact on Ohio State's interior defense that I, and everyone else, thought he would have.The Buckeyes' conference opponents are shooting 44.9 percent on their twos. Sure, that's a respectable number for OSU--but it's built largely on hideous shooting nearly a month ago by Indiana and Illinois. Recent opponents are, for the most part, doing much better....Ohio State: opponent 2FG pct.at Wisconsin (50.0)vs. Northwestern (37.5)vs. Iowa (55.6)at Northwestern (50.0)vs. Michigan State (51.3)The Iowa and (second) Northwestern numbers in particular would set off alarm bells for me if I were bedecked in scarlet and gray. And on Saturday night the Spartans were able to come almost all the way back from a 20-point halftime deficit because they made 12-of-16 twos in the last 20 minutes.I had thought that Thad Matta's team could conceivably hold conference opponents to a 2FG pct. in the impressively low 40s--say, like Wisconsin (41.4 opponent 2FG pct.). Apparently I thought wrong.Now, can teams overcome questionable interior D during the regular season? Of course! Last year Florida allowed SEC opponents to make 48.1 percent of their twos--and then held NCAA tournament foes to just 38.3 percent shooting inside the arc. (Said it before: defense won the national championship for the Gators.) But I guess that's my point. It's safer to expect a continuation of a team's personality than it is to wish fervently for sudden schizophrenia.And Ohio State's defensive personality on the interior is surprisingly cordial to opponents.
In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Home team domination continues. Woo! Except in Iowa City....The weekend in hoops--Saturday!Ohio State beat Michigan State 66-64 in Columbus. The Buckeyes led by 20 at the half but allowed the Spartans to score 41 second-half points. Greg Oden made 11-of-14 free throws and led OSU with 19 points on 10 shots. Drew Neitzel made 4-of-12 threes and led MSU with 29 points on 20 shots. And Travis Walton played the more highly lauded Mike Conley to a virtually exact draw: both players recorded four points, five assists, and one turnover. (Box score.)Indiana beat Michigan 76-61 in Bloomington. The Big Ten's best offense looked the part, ringing up 76 points in 63 possessions, thanks to 10-of-20 shooting outside the arc. D.J. White and Roderick Wilmont each scored 15 points for the Hoosiers. (Box score.) Purdue beat Illinois 64-47 in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers scored 21 consecutive points in the first half and David Teague made 5-of-7 threes--one of which was banked in from 25+ feet with time winding down on the shot clock. Teague finished with 28 points, more than any two Illini players. Still, Purdue's offense was merely normal (1.05 points per possession). It was an anemic Illinois offense on the road that was once again decisive: Bruce Weber's team couldn't make shots from outside or inside. (Box score.)Minnesota beat Penn State 65-60 in Minneapolis. In a clash between the conference's worst offense (the Gophers) and its worst defense (the Nittany Lions), the offense won. Minnesota scored more efficiently than they have in any other conference game: Lawrence McKenzie made 5-of-10 threes and led the way with 19 points. More surprising, however, were contributions from Jonathan Williams (a 13-14 dub-dub) and Kevin Payton (12 points on eight shots). Geary Claxton posted a 20-12 dub-dub for Penn State. (Box score (pdf).)Hoops yesterday! Wisconsin beat Iowa 57-46 in Iowa City. This was Alando Tucker's best game--i.e., even better than Pitt. Tucker needed only 14 shots from the field to score 27 points. Funny thing is, the rest of the Badgers, Brian Butch notwithstanding (14 points, including 3-of-6 on his threes), were not a lot of help offensively. No matter. If Tucker plays like this, Wisconsin is indeed as good as their ranking. Meantime Adam Haluska suffered through his worst game: 16 points on 3-of-18 shooting. (Box score.) BONUS reason why I love Bill Raftery! I wasn't DVR'ing the game but I'm pretty sure I heard this from Raf amid the thunderous explosion in Carver-Hawkeye that followed Kurt Looby's second-half slam-dunk putback of yet another Haluska miss: "Loob job!"
Wonk back!Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!Predictions gone bad--the aftermathOn Friday alert reader Michael M. predicted that Iowa would upset Wisconsin this weekend. Even before yesterday's game, one alert reader responded!Hey, any bozo with an internet connection can go around predicting upsets. I agree that my Badgers will have to show up and play at least a solid, if not spectacular, game on Sunday to win at Carver-Hawkeye. But saying that an Iowa win is a foregone conclusion makes this guy sound like a simpleton. Give Mike M. his props if he correctly calls the upset, but please remind us all of what a knucklehead he is if the Badgers win. It’s only fair, Wonk. Brian G.NYC, NYOthers, emailing after the fact, were more magnanimous. Um, a little bit more. Maybe. OK, not really....As I watched the Badger-Hawkeye game I couldn't help but notice that the Big Ten's scoring leader was shut down completely by Badger defenders Flowers and Krabbenhoft. Going 3-of-18 from the field! Great call by Michael M. on the upset.
But I feel you need to address something Adam Haluska does constantly on the offensive end: diving. Haluska is positively Reggie Miller-esque: kicking out his legs, screaming when he shoots, flailing his body every time he goes into traffic. Had Haluska not been to the line 10 times (making 9 free throws), he would have been in single digits.
One the complete opposite end of the spectrum is Alando Tucker. He goes up strong when he shoots and most time he uses superior body control to avoid contact. Admittedly I am biased towards the Badgers, but I can't stand when players like Adam Haluska use cheap tricks to con the referees into sending him to the free throw line.Jeff S.ChicagoTucker also gets an occasional call, though, granted, he's usually admirably stoic when he doesn't get it. As for Haluska, he is squarely in line with an Alford-era Hawkeye tradition: Iowa, to say the least, makes a conscious effort to get to the line. I don't particularly care for it aesthetically but, hey, to each his own.