What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Adam at Land Grant Holy Land, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Ohio State.
1) Is it fair to say that it all starts with defense with the Buckeyes? OSU ranks first in KenPom's defensive efficiency stats and decisively so -- the gap between #1 and #2 (Saint Louis) is bigger than the gap between #2 and #7 (San Diego State). What's the secret to Ohio State's defensive success, other than Aaron Craft's overall dreaminess?
It's more than fair to say that it all starts with defense for the Buckeyes, particularly with Aaron Craft. The aforementioned metrics coincide with the eye test to boot, and particularly if you saw the way Ohio State fought their way back into the Michigan State game, defense was the straw that stirred the drink. Craft's made a living on his tenacity during his time in Columbus, and that has worn off on the other players on the court around him.
Ohio State prides itself on its perimeter defense and its ability to rotate and move around the arc (MSU game aside). Craft is the lynchpin to the defensive success for the Buckeyes, though. And on top of that, Amir Williams has really come into his own as a protector of the rim, providing a presence in the lane that Ohio State needs to minimize the field goal percentage for at the rim shots.
2) Speaking of... he truly is a senior this year, right? Fans of other teams in the Big Ten won't have to worry about his stifling defensive skills after this season, right? How much will Ohio State miss him next year? And how much (if at all) has his defensive prowess been impacted by the new defensive rules enacted by the NCAA?
To say that Aaron Craft will be missed next season is an understatement. He has made an unbelievable impact on this team, and the program as a whole. Becoming Ohio State's all-time assists and steals leader is a great accomplishment to say the least, but his ability to influence games with his leadership has made all the difference, especially in the comebacks against Notre Dame and Michigan State this year. Players like Shannon Scott and true freshman Marc Loving make for a bright future, but neither one, nor anyone for that matter, provide the intangibles that Craft does.
As far as the new defensive rules, there hasn't really been that much of a difference. Yes, there's been a somewhat increase in touch fouls called on Craft, which has led to him showing his hands and backing off on defense at times. However, this hasn't caused any real problems with his defending, seeing as he hasn't fouled out all season, and is averaging just 2.3 fouls per game.
3) Ohio State's offense has unsurprisingly slipped a bit following the loss of an All-Big Ten scorer like Deshaun Thomas; who are the main threats to worry about now? It looks like Ohio State has five players averaging between 9 and 13 points per game this year -- is it just a very balanced attack offensively?
We all knew that the loss of Deshaun Thomas would be rough on Ohio State's scoring, and that's shown all year. The Buckeyes do have a balanced attack, yes, but they also don't have a pure-scorer like Thomas. What made Deshaun Thomas so good was his ability to create and make shots from just about anywhere on the floor. LaQuinton Ross is the closest thing this team has to a Thomas, but it just isn't the same. I'd hate to use the word inconsistent with a 15-1 basketball team, but in reality, that's what you have in Columbus, particularly on the offensive end. No one player has stepped up and taken the leading scorer role. Any one of five players could be the game's leader offensively, it just depends on the night.
4) Amodeo Della Valle: wonderfully-named bench player or hidden weapon waiting to unleash a symphony of shooting on the unsuspecting Iowa defense on Sunday?
It sounds like a cop-out answer, but in reality, it's both. His popularity on campus (and social media, for that matter) gets bigger and bigger as the season goes on. Della Valle has played in all 16 games this season, averaging just 5.2 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. However, his ability to shoot could provide problems if he's not accounted for. He was perfect from the field last week against Nebraska, scoring 15 points. On the flip side, he only played three minutes against Michigan State, missing his only attempt. If Iowa's defense pays too much attention to Ross, Smith Jr. and Scott, then it's not impossible ADV could have an impact on Sunday's game.
5) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
Iowa's had a tremendous season, but I have to go Ohio State in this one. The Buckeyes are coming off a tight loss against Michigan State, and have had five days to right their wrongs. With the game being played in the friendly confines of Value City Arena, Thad Matta and the Buckeyes know they can't afford a second-straight conference loss, and I think their perimeter defense/rotations will regress to the mean. I think it'll most likely be a close contest, but in the end, the Buckeyes will prevail.
Thanks for being a good sport, Adam, although I still hope your team loses by 50 today. You can check out Adam and the rest of the LGHL crew at Land Grant Holy Land. You can also follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamWoodard and LGHL at @Landgrant33. The Iowa-Ohio State game is in Columbus, OH on Sunday, January 12, and is scheduled to start at 12:30 pm CT, with television coverage from CBS.