Are The Ohio State Buckeyes For Real?

Bradley Leeb- USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State Buckeyes are walking away from their embarrassing loss to Illinois on Saturday with a lot of questions.  Well, I have a question about them too.  Is Ohio State for real?

Initially, this seems like a silly question.  They came in to the season ranked no. 4 in the country, the second highest ranking of any Big Ten squad.  Now, after the loss to Illinois,  they are all the way down to no.  15 in the AP poll.  Now, being ranked the 13th best team out of 346 teams is no small achievement.  However, Oho State came in to this season with very high expectations, and even final four aspirations.  Whether or not those were fair expectations back in October is questionable, but a different question.

Ohio State has plenty of talent to win.  They have two players who run the team.  Deshaun Thomas is one of the best scorers in the country, averaging 20.2 ppg.  He has improved his three point shooting, and is shooting more of them, making him a complete scorer.  Joining him is junior point guard Aaron Craft.

Craft has been just as good of a defender and floor general on offense as ever.  However, he has become a much less efficient scorer.  His true shooting % is at a relatively lackluster 48.7%, down from 59.2% last season.  This is partially due to his large increase of three point shots, up to 35.2% from his 20% last season.

Unfortunately, for Ohio State, they do not have any other major difference makers.  They have plenty of good talented players, like Lenzelle Smith Jr., LaQuinton Ross and the very exciting Sam Thompson.  These are the types of players that help you win games, but cant’ take over and win a game against elite teams.

Sitting here on January 7th, Ohio State is 11-3.  Their three losses are likely the three most impressive losses of any team, to no. 1 Duke, no, 6 Kansas and no. 12 Illinois.  All of these losses were on the road, and these are not losses to be ashamed of.

However, for a final four-minded team, like Ohio State must be, these are teams that would be nice to win against.  To lose all three games can be interpreted as evidence that Ohio State cannot play with the very best teams in the country.  But, to be fair, this is a very small sample size.

So, Ohio State lost to three of twelve best teams in the country.  They must have also beaten some good teams, right?

Wrong.

The best team Ohio State has beaten is Washington.  The Huskies went just 8-5 in conference play, and lost by double digits to the always-dominant Colorado State. The Washington win was Ohio State’s only win over a team where the spread was single digits.  The other three times the spread was in single digits they have lost.  Other than Washington, Ohio State has beaten a bunch of cupcakes. The Buckeyes strength of schedule is 77th right now, the eight lowest of any ranked team.

Although Ohio State has an impressive record and is ranked no. 15 in the country, they have not done anything to prove they deserve any of this praise.  Until they beat some decent teams, Ohio State’s perception will remain the same.

Luckily, for the Buckeyes, they will have that chance soon.  Their next four games are against Purdue, Michigan, Michigan State and Iowa.  If the Buckeyes beat any of those teams, that will become their most impressive win.

It is imperative that Ohio State wins at least three of those games, to make a statement to the Big Ten.  Right now, they are considered the fifth best team in the Big Ten.  That won’t change unless Ohio State starts beating good teams.

Ohio State has not shown that they are a really good team.  They have lost to all quality teams they have played.  The Big Ten is such a good conference that there will be plenty of opportunities to win big games.  Now, the Buckeyes just have to win them.

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