Wednesday, March 3

Buckeyes Finish Strong, Look Ahead to the Madness

It's been a while since I've last talked about Ohio St basketball, so I thought I'd update their recent success, recap the regular season, and preview their chances in the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA tourneys.

Where I last left off with Ohio St hoops, Evan Turner had just returned four weeks sooner than expected from a back injury where he broke three vertebrae to lead the Bucks past a Purdue team currently ranked 6th in the nation. At the time, we knew that that comeback was super-exciting and a huge win for OSU, but little did we know that it would become the turning point in the season. Since that game, Ohio St has closed out the season 13-2 (13-1 in Big Ten play). Their two losses came at the hands of the aforementioned Purdue in a rematch and at West Virginia, two teams that now rank 6th and 8th, respectively. During that stretch, OSU toppled #12 Michigan St (in East Lansing) and #17 Wisconsin, issued two beat-downs against Illinois, and claimed revenge victories over Minnesota and michigan.

For some unknown reason, Ohio St ended their season Tuesday night against Illinois, whereas everyone else still plays this weekend. Good news for us though, as that 16-point victory against the Illini wrapped up at least a share of the Big Ten title, Thad Matta's third in his six-year tenure. Winning on tie breakers against Michigan St and Purdue, the Buckeyes will also claim the #1 seed in the conference tournament. So OSU wraps up the season with an impressive 24-7 (14-4 in Big Ten) record.

If everyone else in the Big Ten were done now as well, Ohio St would be looking at the michigan-Iowa winner in their first Big Ten tourney game. Might was well just give us two byes. Getting past the semifinals would be much tougher, as OSU would face the Wisconsin-Illinois winner. Then again, the Bucks crushed Illinois by a combined 35 points this year, so hopefully we'll play them. If Ohio St reaches the finals, they would almost certainly play whoever survives the Purdue-MSU battle.

Right now Matta's boys are looking at most likely a #2 seed in the Big Dance, but an early exit in the conference tourney could drop them to a #3, while an impressive Big Ten tourney title could possibly propel them to a #1, if other cards fall their way. Say they beat the Badgers in the semis then either MSU or Purdue in the finals, adding two more quality wins and a conference tournament title. It might be tough to leave them out of the top four teams. Either way, when Turner went down in early December and the Buckeyes were 1-3 in Big Ten play, I don't think anyone was thinking a top-three seed, maybe not even top seven or eight.

Speaking of ET, he is the collegiate Player of the Year (Which I'll refer to as POY for the rest of this article, due to being lazy. Why do we include the "of" but not the "the?"). It's not even a question in my mind. Determining POY's and MVP's in any sport is pretty difficult, mostly because people cast their vote for different reasons. There are many attributes that people consider, but most base their vote solely on one of these attributes. When two different people cast a ballot for two different reasons, things can get complicated. Here are some of the different things that people consider, but for each one I still come up with the same answer: Evan Turner. Especially when you tie all of these categories together, I don't see how you can vote differently. Here's how I break it down...

Category #1: Overall Talent
Here's a way to look at this category: If you were playing a pickup game and had first pick out of anyone in collegiate basketball, who do you take? (Remember, this is for one game THIS season, you are not starting a franchise.) That's right, you're picking Evan Turner. Some people may take Kentucky's John Wall here, others may opt for Notre Dame's Luke Harangody, Villanova's Scottie Reynolds, or Kansas' Sherron Collins. All decent choices, but I don't see any of these guys possessing the all-around game that Turner has.

The first full-length OSU game that my brother watched this year was the 20-point pounding they gave Illinois in mid-February. He accurately described Turner as the LeBron James of college ball. Clearly he didn't mean that ET possesses the talent that LeBron has, but in a sense where watching LBJ is like watching a grown man play with college kids, just as watching Turner is like watching a college guy play with high schoolers. He is bigger and stronger than any other guard, quicker than any other forward, can pull down rebounds like he's 7 feet tall, and run the fast break like he's Chris Paul. It's incredible. Most talented? Check.

Category #2: Team Success
I'm not as much of a fan of basing MVP votes on team success in football and baseball, because one great player simply can't carry a team. In basketball on the other hand, one guy can completely take over a game and carry the team on his back (See: Carmelo Anthony and 2002 Syracuse). This still can't be your only reason to pick someone, but it plays a factor. Let's take a look at Ohio St this year: 25-7, 14-3 and regular season champs in Big Ten, currently ranked #7, looking at a 1 or 2 NCAA seed. Team success? Check.

Category #3: Statistics
I'm certainly not a stat freak like some people, but you can't expect me to back a 12-8 guy. Here's a look at the numbers from Turner compared to five other POY candidates (Wall, Harangody, Collins, Reynolds, and Syracuse's Wesley Johnson).
PPG: Harangody - 24.1, Turner - 19.5, Reynolds - 18.9, Wall - 16.8, Johnson - 15.6, Collins - 15.3
RPG: Harangody - 10.0, Turner - 9.4, Johnson - 8.6, Wall - 4.2, Reynolds - 2.6, Collins - 2.0
APG: Wall - 6.2, Turner - 5.8, Collins - 4.3, Reynolds - 3.4, Johnson - 2.5, Harangody - 1.8
Turner also tops all those guys with 1.8 steals per game AND 0.9 blocks per game. Stats? Check.

Category #4: Valuable to Team
This is obviously coming right from the pro's term of Most Valuable Player. Bill Simmons described this perfectly by saying, if you take this guy off of their team, and replaced him with a mediocre player, what would be the effect on the team? Well, fortunately for Evan Turner's case, we don't even have to play the what if game here, we already saw this happen. When Turner was injured in early December and out for a month, he was replaced by the Jermaine Simmons/P.J. Hill combo, and Ohio St went 4-4. Yup, .500 ball. With Turner, the Buckeyes are a staggering 18 games above the .500 mark. OSU is full of great role players, but we saw the results when ET isn't running the show. Valuable? Check.

This is one I just added to my list, taking it directly from Simmons
Category 5: "If you're explaining your MVP pick to someone who has a favorite player in the race - a player you didn't pick - will he at least say something like, 'Yeah, I don't like it, but I can see how you arrived at that choice.'"
This is basically a rule to eliminate homer picks. I'm an Ohio St fan. So am I saying Turner should be POY because of that, or because I really think he deserves it? Well, let's use Simmons' idea. Would anyone, Kentucky fans, Kansas fans, even the shorter bus-riding people from michigan, ANYONE have a problem with my supporting ET? The answer to that is clearly "no." Just as I would have no complaints about an Irish fan backing Harangody or a Wildcat fan in favor of Wall. I would, however, tell you that you're an idiot if you're a Duke fan pushing Jon Scheyer, an Illinois fan for Demetri McCamey, or a North Carolina fan in favor of Marcus Ginyard (ha, it's funny when UNC blows). Simmons philosophy? Check.

NCAA Player of the Year? Soon to be, Check.


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