The Ohio State men’s basketball team has quietly put together a fine season. After limping out of the gate in Big Ten conference play, thanks in large part to an injury to Evan Turner, the Buckeyes have reeled off 9 conference wins in a row. Their last win was a 19-point trouncing of Illinois on the road on Sunday, in a game filled with highlight dunks, killer three-point shots, and tough, scrappy defense.
This year’s Buckeye team is a good example of why college basketball can be fun to watch. The team’s starting five is solid from beginning to end, basically consistently of four lanky guards, all of whom can shoot and run, and an undersized, hustling, shot-blocking center. One of the guards, Evan Turner, is an excellent player who routinely racks up rebounds and assists and can be counted on for a clutch basket when the chips are down. Two of the other guards, Jon Diebler and William Buford, have silky smooth outside shots, and when they are hitting no defense can afford to leave them open. The fourth guard, David Lighty, is a steady, athletic, experienced player who can get out on the break and then finish, plays tough defense, and has really worked to improve his outside shot. The center, Dallas Lauderdale, is a gritty, dive-for-loose-balls type who typically can be counted on for a rim-shaking dunk or two on offense and a fistful of blocked shots on D. Each of these starters plays a lot of minutes, and it shows — not because they get tired, but because they play so seamlessly together. Buckeyes’ coach Thad Matta and his staff have done a wonderful job in melding the starters into a formidable unit.
Tomorrow the Buckeyes have a huge game, at home against Purdue. The game is crucial because Ohio State and Michigan State are tied for the conference lead, with identical 20-6 overall and 10-3 conference records, and Purdue lurks a half game behind, at 9-3 in conference and 21-3 overall. The Buckeyes gave Purdue one of those losses, in a shocking come-from-behind victory in West Lafayette. A victory tomorrow night in Value City Arena would be a tremendous achievement, and would go a long way toward determining the Big Ten regular season champion.