Ohio State appears to have fallen back in to their old ways. This year, minus the win over Michigan, the Buckeyes have had trouble beating ranked teams. With their 59-56 loss to Michigan State on Saturday, Ohio State fell to just 1-4 against ranked opponents. For a team with high aspirations that is simply not good enough.
A lot of this inability to beat the big boys can be connected to their somewhat one-dimensional offense. Deshaun Thomas is a superb scorer. He averages over 20 ppg, the best in the Big Ten. Thomas can score from anywhere on the floor, making him an extremely efficient scoring machine. 40% of Thomas’s shots this season (including free throws) have been three pointers, up from 24% last season. With the higher volume of three point attempts, Thomas also is making them at a higher rate; 35% in 2011-12 and 42% this season.
This has allowed the 6-7 ft Thomas stretch the defense out to the perimeter. One would think that this would lead to better scoring chance for his teammates. Except, that has not happened. The next leading scorer for Ohio State is Lenzelle Smith Jr., with just 10.1 ppg.
The problem for Ohio State is that no one other than Thomas can score. Opponents cannot stop Thomas, but that is alright because he can’t single-handedly beat a team. Nobody can.
Against poor and average competition, this offense is good. The supporting cast of Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and Smith are athletic enough to score against lesser defenses. But when they play strong defenses, like Duke, Kansas and Michigan State, athleticism is not enough. Those defenses make offenses earn their buckets. Ohio State does not have enough fire power to do that.
A player that has been an offensive orchestrator, Aaron Craft, has not been able to step up his performance. With Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Thomas last season, Craft was able to spread the ball around to his numerous weapons. Now, with just Thomas, Craft does not have an arsenal of scorers to work with. As a result, Craft has watched his FG% drop from 50% last season to 39%, as he is shooting nearly one third more shots than last season. Meanwhile, Craft’s assists and turnover statistics have more or less leveled out.
It is clear that the Buckeyes are overly dependent on Thomas. A potent offense has become one supported by one excellent scorer. They have good players surrounding him, with plenty of athleticism, but nobody other than Thomas can create their own offense against strong opponents. As a result, Ohio State is having a lot of trouble against the big boys. It is going to be very difficult to get through their Big Ten schedule, with eight of their remaining 13 games coming against teams that will be ranked this week.