Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 2/29/12

The Ohio State men’s basketball team has certainly been struggling as of late, and perhaps the biggest reason has been the wildly inconsistent and unproductive play of star big man Jared Sullinger. Going into this season, Sullinger was on virtually everyone’s short list of national player of the year candidates. Now the talk is about how much damage Sullinger has done to his draft prospects this season.

It’s been a mind scratching season for Sullinger, the coaches, and fans and observers alike. Some have wondered if there’s an internal chemistry problem that is eating away at this team. But according to Sullinger, he’s just allowed himself to be too distracted as of late. Per Ari Wasserman of Scout.com:

It’s not one thing that’s been bothering Jared Sullinger, who admitted Tuesday that he hasn’t been playing his normal brand of basketball. It is the sum multiple small things that has had the sophomore All-American distracted.
And that could turn into one big problem for the No. 10 Ohio State basketball. Sullinger acknowledged that while offering an explanation for why he’s been playing noticeably different.

“It is just the little stuff,” Sullinger said. “It is just me letting the refs get to me, or letting everything on the outside get to me and it letting it creep in. I was focusing on other stuff besides the basketball team and what this team needs me to do to win basketball games.”

That may not be the only factor that has caused the Buckeyes (23-6, 11-5 Big Ten) to lose three of their last five games while slipping out of the race for the Big Ten Championship, but head coach Thad Matta most certainly knows the impact of not having Sullinger completely focused.

“I don’t know,” Matta replied when asked about his big man’s focus following the team’s 63-60 loss to Wisconsin on Sunday. “He was battling a cold, but he’s played with a lot worse than that. I know this: When Jared’s playing his best basketball, he’s engaged and into it.”

Sullinger and the Buckeyes return to the court tonight against Northwestern. It will be interesting to see whether the focus is back for the Buckeye big man.

[Related: Wisconsin Wears Out Buckeyes, Sends OSU Into Complete Meltdown]

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