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) What was the biggest issue for Ohio State during their January skid? From the outside, it looked like it was their offensive woes -- is that accurate? What's been ailing the Buckeye offense?
ADAM: A lot went into Ohio State's struggles in January. An efficient five man unit never really emerged or meshed throughout the month, and throwing that on top of an inconsistent defense and a barely-visible offense gives you a recipe for disaster. Every contender come March has a reliable, number one scoring option. This is something Ohio State lacks, seeing as LaQuinton Ross is the closest they have at 14.1 ppg. One of five guys could lead the team in scoring, it just depends on the night. For Ohio State to really right the ship, they'll need more consistency on offense.
2) Despite their January woes, Ohio State picked up a nice win in Madison over Wisconsin on Saturday. What went right for OSU in that game? Did it feel like an aberration or the beginning of a turnaround for Ohio State's fortunes?
ADAM: A couple things went in favor of the Buckeyes. Ohio State shot 56 percent from 3-point land, while Wisconsin shot just 18 percent. They defended the perimeter extremely well, contesting shots and not giving any easy looks from beyond the arc. The Badgers only shot 40 percent from the field, while Ohio State shot 46 percent on mostly high-percentage shots. They missed a lot of easy looks, but the fact that they were getting looks does gives some hope for a turnaround in February.
3) Aaron Craft has been mired in an offensive funk that's mirrored Ohio State's own offensive funk over the last month (which probably isn't coincidental). Has there been anything in particular wrong with Craft on the offensive end or has he just been stuck in one hell of a slump?
ADAM: I wouldn't necessarily call it a slump, per se. He's averaging 9.1 points per game, which is just south of the 10 points he averaged last season, but it's true he hasn't been himself from a distribution standpoint and has been colder than usual on the defensive end. He seemed to finally find some confidence against Wisconsin, which is definitely a positive sign. Come tournament time, he'll need to make more plays on the offensive end if Ohio State is to make another run.
4) How do you expect Ohio State to approach this game? What do you think Ohio State will do differently against Iowa in this game, as compared to their first game a few weeks ago?
ADAM: Ohio State turned the ball over 17 times in their last meeting, so I wouldn't be shocked to see a slower, more balanced approach to the offense. Amedeo Della Valle (who we talked about in the last meeting) scored 11 points against Wisconsin on Saturday, and could be a major role player in Ohio State's overall offensive attack. On the defensive end, expect to see a cluster of Buckeyes watching and surrounding Roy Devyn Marble every time he touches the ball, after he scorched Ohio State for 22 points last month.
5) Has Ohio State's January swoon altered your expectations for Ohio State at all? Or are you trusting that the offense will come around just enough and that their stout defense can propel them to a run in March?
ADAM: I'd be lying if I said that the January skid didn't concern Ohio State fans a little bit. That lack of offense and scarce defense come tournament time could make for a quick exit. However, seeing as this is somewhat of a veteran team, with returning players who have made a run late in the season, I'm confident that Thad Matta will come correct and loosen the knots before March.
6) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
ADAM: This is a huge game for both teams. Ohio State desperately needs another win on the road to propel them back into the top 25, while Iowa equally needs another win at home to maintain their standing in the race for the conference. After seeing strong improvement on Saturday, I'm inclined to go OSU on a whim, but we'll say Iowa edges out a closer one than last time.
Thanks for being a good sport, Adam, although I still hope your team loses by 50 tonight. 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 Iowa City on Tuesday, February 4, and is scheduled to start at 6:00 pm CT, with television coverage from ESPN.