I'm trying something new. we will see how long I keep it going.
Today, we discuss the Ohio State Buckeyes. In a matter of 11 days, Ohio State went on the road and beat a good Miami Hurricane team, then defeated Notre Dame in Indianapolis, and finished up with close win over previously undefeated Butler. That’s a mighty fine performance from a team that started the year unranked and figured to finish 4th in the Big Ten.
So how are the Buckeyes getting it done? Well, to get right to the point, the answer is defense. Ohio State is currently ranked as the best defensive team in the country, holding opponents to 0.74 points per possession. During the previously mentioned three game stretch, they held Miami to 68 points in 70 possessions, Notre Dame to 62 points in 70 possessions, and Butler to 51 points in 63 possessions. Most impressive of those three has to be the fact that they held Notre Dame to so few points, considering the Irish are averaging 1.23 points per possession.
The thing that has made the Ohio State defense so dominant is their field goal defense when teams try to score inside. Ohio State is holding oppenents to a 37.5% field goal percentage on 2-point attempts, which is 6th in the country. Not only that, but the Buckeyes are blocking 24.0% of their opponents 2-point attempts. Sophomore big man Dallas Lauderdale has had the greatest impact in this aspect of the Buckeye defense. Lauderdale has blocked 23.5% of opponents 2-point attempts while he is on the floor. From the sound of it, you may be thinking Lauderdale is some giant center, but he is only listed as 6’8”. It is rumored, however, that his wingspan is 7’4” which makes him truly gifted. The bottom line is that teams are having great difficulty scoring inside on the Buckeyes, and Lauderdale has been a huge contributor to that fact.
Don’t be fooled to think that Lauderdale is the only reason Ohio State has been playing great defense. The Buckeyes are also playing good defense out on the perimeter. This is evidenced by their opponents shooting 29.4% on their 3-point attempts, which can be attributed to the heavy minutes given to 6’5” David Lighty, 6’6” Jon Diebler, and 6’7” Evan Turner. Thad Matta has the Buckeye’s playing a 2-2-1 press and then a matchup zone in the halfcourt. The matchup zone can look like a 2-3 or a 3-2 zone at times. This allows the bottom corners of the 2-3 zone to come out and guard the perimeter, so Lighty, Diebler and Turner all come out and play the perimeter along with 6’2” starter Jeremie Simmons who is usually near the top of the key in the zone.
The other thing the zone has allowed the Buckeyes to accomplish is a low amount of free throw attempts for opponents. They are typically in position to make opponents shoot over them or disrupt their shot altogether if it’s not blocked. As a result opponents only attempt 0.21 free throw attempts for every field goal attempted.
With all the missed shots from opponents, it is essential that the Buckeyes rebound on defense. The worst defensive game for the Buckeyes in terms of points was the Miami game when they gave up 68 points in 70 possessions. It is no surprise then that this was the Buckeyes worst rebounding game as well, as they allowed the Hurricanes to rebound 44.3% of their own missed shots. For the most part though, the Buckeyes have done a decent job on the defensive glass, allowing opponents to rebound only 28.6% of their own misses which is 46th in the country. An occasional steal also helps defensively, and Evan Turner has played a key role in that so far with 19 steals on the season in only 6 games.
Where the Buckeyes are lacking so far is on the offensive end. They have been an average team offensively this season, averaging 1.03 points per possession which is 119th in the nation. They rely heavily on leading scorer Evan Turner, who has been very good at times. Turner is a workhorse who uses up around 30% of his teams possessions. The only problem is he hasn’t been the most efficient scorer. He shoots a good percentage at around 53%, and he can get to the foul line evidenced by his team leading 35 free throw attempts. However, he has been prone to the turnover. So far he has turned the ball over at a rate of ¼ of every possession. With Turner as a go-to guy, this has limited the Buckeye offense.
Jon Diebler has been the second best scorer on the team, and he shoots pretty well from behind the new arc. He gets almost all of his points with 3-pointers, so an off-shooting night kills his production. Dallas Lauderdale doesn’t use very many possessions offensively, but he can grab offensive rebounds and contribute that way. The highly touted BJ Mullens can provide some offense off the bench, but it has come in small doses so far.
It will be interesting to see how Ohio State’s season plays out. Will they be able to maintain the level of defense they have set so far? They will have to unless the offense improves.