Ohio State basketball: why it’s time to panic

On Saturday, the Ohio State basketball team lost to Michigan State by 10, snapping a 39 game home winning streak. The Bucks shot just 26 percent from the field, their worst home shooting night in 15 years. It was their third loss in conference play, and despite the fact that this team is still ranked in the top six, I think their longterm prospects of success in March are highly questionable.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that this team is going to continue to succeed and win games. I still think that they will win the conference and that they will be a 1 or a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament,. I’m not worried about any of that. I’m not suggesting their suddenly going to tank.

Also, I still believe that – in terms of talent – they are as good as any team in the country. Furthermore, I believe that any player who is starting for this team is good enough to start on any team in the country. The talent they have from their starting five is phenomenal, and against most teams, they can be overpowering because of supperior talent.

Clearly it’s not the end of the world if they have an early exit from the tournament. If they win the conference yet lose in the 2nd or 3rd round of the Big Dance, is that a good season? By most accounts, yes.

And while I would acknowledge that yes, of course it’s a good season if you can win the Big Ten (especially given as good as the Big Ten has been this year), a bad 2012 tournament would be the third consecutive season in which the team has struggled in March. In 2010, as a two seed, the Bucks lost to Tennessee in the third round. Last year, as the number one overall seed, they were defeated by Kentucky in the third round. Upsets happen, but OSU has been as good as any team in the country over the last three regular seasons. They’ve failed to make it past the third round in back to back years. If that were to happen this year, I don’t see how that three year stretch can ultimately be viewed as good considering such lackluster tournament performances. Upsets happen, but they’re not supposed to happen to you every year.

All I’m saying is that I think this team is venerable.

I realize that the games still must be played, but this team lacks a scorer who can create and drive the lane at will. William Buford and DeShaun Thomas can both be electrifying scorers, but they can also both be bone chillingly cold. In March when the teams are playing in larger arenas and the depth perception is effected, often times 3-point shooting gets worse, not better. This coupled with coach Thad Matta’s opposition to playing the bench leaves very few options when this team struggles to score from the perimeter. And. In the four losses this team has endured this year, it has been shown time and again that they struggle when playing from behind.

I don’t think that they’re going to get knocked off in the first round. But I think the streaky shooting will inevitably cost this team in March.

As a fan, clearly I hope that I’m wrong about this team. For where they are in this season, four losses isn’t such a bad number; but I feel that it has been the way in which they have lost those games and the weaknesses which have been exposed which is a cause for concern.