Buckeyes 69, Hokies 56
The ACC-Big Ten Challenge is underway, and the Bucks held up their end of the deal by beating last year's 4th-place ACC team, Virginia Tech (I know!). The team was pretty hot/cold, as in the Butler game, streaking to a 12-4 lead, then letting VT go on a 7-0 run. They closed the first half with a 15-2 run, and extended the lead to 21 points. The lead stayed a relatively comfortable 14-17 points for most of the early part of the 2nd half, until OSU decided to score 5 points over a 13-minute, 22-second span, letting the lead dwindle down to 57-54. The Bucks then closed the game with a 12-2 run in the final 3:00. Well why not.
Following are some interesting thoughts on the game, courtesy of Big Ten Wonk, with my reactions afterward:
"1. Ohio State is an NBA-style team in an NBA-style arena. Last night Bill Raftery said it just as Wonk was thinking it: everyone in an Ohio State uniform wants to create their own shots. Assists are passed (har!) by in Columbus. The Buckeyes were seventh in the conference last season (all games) in assists per field goal--a surprisingly low standing for a hard-core POT such as Thad Matta's team. Instead, it's all about spacing, isolations, and taking your man in the post (Terence Dials--see below) or off the dribble (everyone else).
And as for the venue, as its very name suggests Value City Arena is the college hoops equivalent of U.S. Cellular Field: a relatively new yet strikingly lifeless NBA-ish facility that represents an opportunity missed. If you're a Michigan or Indiana fan and your team plays in a horrible venue you can at least console yourself with the thought that said venue is old and will be replaced someday soon. Not so Value City."
First of all, I wouldn't go so far as to call the offense "NBA-style," although I was disheartened (Language nerd note: is there a counter to the word "disheartened"? Can one be "heartened"?) by how stagnant the offense looked at times, with the ball being swung around the perimeter with no apparent purpose, except maybe to get Dials the ball in the post, which is certainly an admirable goal. I mean, send a guy streaking through the lane or something, for Christ's sake. But more on that after the next point.
With regard to the arena, I have to grudgingly agree. Although the place certainly got loud back in the Redd/Penn and Brian/Boban/Brent (Brown, Savovic, and Darby, respectively) days, it is a strikingly passive and sterile environment most of the time. Is it still because there is no viable student section, save for the 30 or so kids behind one of the baskets? I don't know. But it bugs me.
"2. No Big Ten player has more of an impact on his team's offensive strategy than Terence Dials. When Dials is out of the game (as he was for 16 minutes last night, though foul trouble wasn't an issue--what was up with that?), Ohio State runs a traditional motion offense. (Pass, go down low, set a pick, post up, gesture madly for the ball, cycle back outside, lather, rinse, repeat.) But when Dials is on the floor the Buckeyes are a strict 1-4 team on offense. It's as if the three-point line is an electric fence and every non-Dials player is wearing one of those restrictive collars. The ball and the other four OSU players stay outside the arc until there's either a post feed or a three.
And Wonk's not so sure that should be the case. Your intrepid blogger is second to none in his praise for Dials, a hard-working undersized big man. But Matta runs the offense like Dials is the second coming of Bill Walton, Tim Duncan, or, um, Greg Oden. (Oliver Stone moment: so maybe this is all preparation for next year. Hmmm....)"
Dials certainly isn't the "second coming" of any of those fantastic players, but he has turned himself into a marvelously proficient low-post scorer, and I don't think there's any doubt that a 1-4 set, with Dials as the primary target, is the way to go. But I agree with Wonk that the other four players need to do a little bit more than stand around the perimeter. The spacing is fantastic (one thing that I noticed and really loved), and it really helps in getting Dials the ball. But PLEASE do something other than stand around while you swing the ball around the perimeter waiting to enter it into the post. Some choice triangle principles would help a lot, methinks...
Hang on, Kornheiser just said that if UCLA beats USC this weekend, UCLA should play Texas in the Rose Bowl. Oh man. That statement is going to strain his credibility regarding college football more than anything short of him saying "John L. Smith is the best coach in the Big Ten" possibly could. Yowsah...
Anyways, as for "times when Dials isn't out there," yes, a motion offense is the best bet. But when a team is in a situation like OSU would be -- namely, that the one guy who's out of the game is the one viable post player on your roster -- I've always figured that the flex would be the way to go. But that's just me.
"3. J.J. Sullinger is underrated--through no fault of Wonk, who gushes over the guy daily. Is there a reason why we never hear 'Sullinger' and 'NBA' in the same sentence? Here's a guy who's 6-5, built, shoots .446 on his threes, and rebounds like a tasmanian devil. That profile sounds an awful lot like Nick Anderson to Wonk. Is there a reason no one's talking about Sullinger in terms of 'the next level'? Just asking!"
I think this is a "stats don't tell the whole story" story. When you look at the facts Wonk presents, his argument seems valid. But have you ever watched a Buckeye game and thought "Man, that J.J. Sullinger looks like an NBA player"? If you're like me, the answer is, uh, "No." On a more analytical note, I think he can't handle the ball well enough to play guard in the NBA, and the odds of someone giving him a shot at being a 6'5" rebounding machine, in a league populated with 6'7-6'10" small forwards, are pretty damn small. Still, I guess it's something to think about.
To finish, it's finals time again. I'll be gone until they're done, except maybe to discuss this year's thebowl.challenge and who will be doing SOC notes for which early bowl games this year. You ready, Nips and Torgs?!?