Ohio State‘s Aaron Craft is beloved. He’s also despised. Opinions on the Buckeyes’ Senior point guard range so widely and are often expressed rather vehemently — that is why Craft is the most polarizing player in all of college basketball.
“The guy’s just a winner.” “Best on-ball defender in the country.” “He’s unbelievably overrated.” “His jump shot is terrible.” You get the point.
Craft certainly has his supporters. Most folks involved with the college game laud his hard-nosed play. They love the way the guy competes each and every time he takes the court. Craft’s tough, gritty and essentially plays like a madman. He’s an outstanding defender — arguably the best in the country, and his hustle is simply unparalleled. The guy’s a coach’s dream, and I’m willing to bet that no one can find a coach in America who doesn’t want him on their roster.
His offensive game and struggles are well documented. By no means is he the best ball handler in the world, and he isn’t an efficient shooter either. His turnovers are up this season, and his assist-to-turnover ratio — a huge determining statistic of a point guard’s performance — is the worst it’s been during his time in Columbus.
Opposing teams’ fans generally can’t stand him. He’s loudly booed in every venue he plays in outside Columbus and is constantly the subject of many angered screams and shouts. If you’re not an Ohio State fan, the word that come to mind when you watch Craft play is “annoying”. He runs around like a mad man and continually forces turnovers, making offensive players look foolish.
Craft garners a ton of media attention. Whether it’s fair or not, it’s the truth. It seems to me that in our culture nowadays, the more exposure athletes receive, the more negativity and knit-picking they get from fans.
History says that the guy’s been clutch. Don’t believe me? Ask Fred Hoiberg and Iowa State. Or Tom Izzo and Michigan State. Craft’s 3-pointer to beat the Cyclones in the third round of the NCAA tourney last year was one of the season’s most memorable images, and with the exception of one game earlier this January, Craft has always killed the Spartans.
There’s no question about it — Craft is absolutely idolized at Ohio State. In his three-plus years on campus, Thad Matta‘s program has been one of the nation’s elite. That said, his offensive struggles have been hidden as he’s been surrounded by terrific teammates such as Jared Sullinger, DeShaun Thomas, William Buford and Jon Diebler to name a few. All of these guys have moved on, and now it’s solely Craft’s team.
This year, the Buckeyes are really struggling offensively. Many people around the country have been quick to criticize Craft. That criticism is terribly unfair.
People who follow college basketball understand that it’s Craft’s intangibles that make him exceptional. He’s never going to a carry a team offensively. When I think of Aaron Craft, I think “Heart, Hustle and Muscle”, a slogan coined and often used by Chicago Bulls TV announcer Stacey King. The phrase sums up what Craft is all about. He’s never going to be the most talented player on the court, but he’s also never going to be outworked by anybody.
And that’s just the kind of player people love to hate.
Matthew Sturgeon is a College Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. He covers the Big 10 conference. You can follow him on Twitter @OfficialSturg27