After losing their third straight Big Ten Conference game, it’s time push the panic button for the Ohio State Buckeyes. They started off the season 15-0, but have quickly slipped to 15-3 and will certainly fall in the weekly polls.
All through their non-conference schedule, the biggest criticism they faced was the lack of difficulty. They only faced one ranked opponent, Marquette, and the rest were cupcakes. With the exception of their thriller against Notre Dame, the Buckeyes failed to be tested, and thus we never truly were able to gauge how good of a team they are.
As always, time will tell, and it certainly did. After opening up their conference schedule with a convincing win over Purdue, they then came up short against Michigan State in overtime and lost their next two against Iowa and most recently, Minnesota. As soon as they hit the meat of their schedule, the dreaded conference run, they have come apart. They are a completely different team, and it should alarm head coach Thad Matta.
The biggest problem is that the Buckeyes are going against teams that have been able to match their defensive intensity. Through the non-conference stretch, the Buckeyes beat teams with solid defense, not an outstanding offense. Once they came across teams that are just as good as they are defensively, they had to rely on their offense, something that they severely lack.
While LaQuinton Ross has kept his solid play with 22 points against the Golden Gophers, the rest of Ohio State’s shot-makers have disappeared. Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Shanon Scott need crawl back out from under the rocks that they currently inhabit. Smith has scored in double-figures twice in conference play and Scott has scored less than 10 points in all three of their losses. At one point, Smith was Ohio State’s main scorer. Now, he struggles to drop his average.
If Ohio State wants to turn this ship around, Smith and Scott are going to have step it back up offensively. As the Buckeyes currently stand, it’s time to hit the panic button. At one point, they seemed to be the class of the NCAA. Now, they appear to be a team that is on the fringe of the making the tournament.