Michigan guard Trey Burke (3) and forward Jordan Morgan, right, defend Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger, center, in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan won 56-51. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)
Thad Matta’s Buckeyes fell in the rankings for a second-straight week, dropping to eighth in the Associated Press and ninth in the USA Today/ESPN top 25 college basketball polls after then-No. 6 Ohio State lost in frustrating fashion to then-No. 17 Michigan, 56-51, Saturday night.
Ohio State, which was ranked as high as No. 2 in the AP poll for five weeks from late November through December and appeared to be a lock for a No. 1-seed in the NCAA tournament, would likely be a No. 3-seed now if the season ended today.
Luckily, the season doesn’t end today as there are still four regular-season games left, and there’s still the possibility of a Big Ten title. But that will only happen if Matta can right the ship.
Against Michigan, My Pick to Click, Deshaun Thomas, posted his first career double-double with 25 points and 13 rebounds while Jared Sullinger added 14 points and eight boards. Unfortunately, those were the only two that showed up.
The other three starters – William Buford, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Aaron Craft, added 12 points on 5-of-21 shooting from the field. Four reserves that played 21 minutes combined (Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, Evan Ravenel, and Sam Thompson), scored a grand total of zero points. In fact, only one of the four actually took a shot.
With limited playing time, the bench players are afraid to do anything once they’re out on the court. It’s a long season and with total lack of trust shown by Matta with his reserves, it’s coming back to haunt him.
For quite some time now I have been critical of Thomas. He’s a total gun who looks to shoot first. I was even hounding him during the first half against Michigan. I did, though, pipe down in the second half when he scored 17 of his 25 points in the final frame that keep the contest close. Maybe this was his breakthrough game. Thomas was finally crashing the boards. Granted, he’s still a defensive liability, but this is a huge improvement.
Thomas was 3-of-6 from beyond the arc. The rest of the Buckeyes were 0-of-10. A team like Ohio State needs to pound the orange inside, especially when you have a size advantage in the post.
Back in November when the Buckeyes throttled Duke by 22 points, Ohio State looked like a legitimate national title contender. Unless there are some major changes made by both the coaches and the players going forward, just getting to the Sweet 16 will be a tall task.
Up next, Ohio State returns home to host Illinois, Tuesday night. Tip-off at Value City Arena is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on ESPN.
The AP top 25 college poll: 1. Kentucky, 2. Syracuse, 3. Missouri, 4. Kansas, 5. Duke, 6. Michigan State, 7. North Carolina, 8. Ohio State, 9. Georgetown, 10. Marquette, 11. Michigan, 12. Florida, 13. Baylor, 14. Murray State, 15. Florida State, 16. Wisconsin, 17. Louisville, 18. New Mexico, 19. Wichita State, 20. Notre Dame, 21. UNLV, 22. Temple, 23. Indiana, 24. San Diego State, 25. Virginia.
The USA Today/ESPN top 25 coaches’ poll: 1. Kentucky, 2. Syracuse, 3. Missouri, 4. Duke, 5. Kansas, 6. Michigan State, 7. North Carolina, 8. Georgetown, 9. Ohio State, 10. Marquette, 11. Florida, 12. Murray State, 13. Michigan, 14. Baylor, 15. Wisconsin, 16. Florida State, 17. Louisville, 18. Notre Dame, 19. Wichita State, 20. UNLV, 21. New Mexico, 22. Temple, 23. St. Mary’s, 24. Indiana, 25. San Diego State.