Saturday night Jared Sullinger led The Ohio State Buckeyes back to the Final Four. That’s right the Bucks with all their flaws are going to the big dance after knocking off Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange men. Many people have already tried to diminish their accomplishment because Fab Melo was ruled academically ineligible for the tournament. To those people I would say, “Stop recruiting dumb people.” It’s not Ohio State’s fault that he has the brain capacity of a small dead bird. When you put a team together academics is something that should be taken into account, and if a player does something that jeopardizes their eligibility…well that’ just how the game goes1. It’s not like Ohio State didn’t have flaws of their own. They just overcame them.
Throughout the season Ohio State’s biggest flaw was their lack of outside shooting. Their best shooter throughout the year was William Buford however over the last week he’s struggled to find his shot. When you couple that with Syracuse’s ability to play the 2-3 zone, it looked like Ohio State’s tournament was destined to end. However, the Buckeyes had guys step up and hit big shots. One of the guys that stepped up is the sophomore, Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Smith Jr. had a big game in the sweet sixteen, shooting 6 for 7 from the field, and grabbing 5 rebounds. He followed that up against Syracuse with 18 points, 3 deep balls, and 7 of 9 from the free throw line. With his performance he not only filled in the offensive gap for the Bucks, but he also bought valuable minutes Ohio State during first half foul trouble. Deshaun Thomas has also been big-time with his best imitation of…well Deshaun Thomas. Dude has been wet for the last three weeks, and it’s now clear that he is the number one option on offense for the Buckeyes.
The Bucks other flaw was their lack of depth coming off the bench. There were times throughout the year when Ohio State would get into foul trouble, and their young bench would let them down. However, it looks like those early season struggles are starting to pay off in the tournament. Instead of having a bench with no experience, the Bucks have an eight man rotation that has been tested. Now they are able to match up with any team in the country2 even if they get in foul trouble. That depth was never more evident than against Syracuse who couldn’t match Ohio State in a war of attrition.
When Jared Sullinger announced that he was coming back to school for his sophomore year, critics questioned what he was thinking. Many thought he was jeopardizing his draft status, and opening himself up to a career altering injury. Now after a year of health and unaltered professional status, everyone can see why he came back…because he thought his team could will it all.
This year was a year full of questions surrounding Sullinger. After he started the season slow, people not only questioned his viability as a NBA player, but they wondered whether he was an effective college player. Well since the Big Ten tournament, Jared has responded to those critics with his best basketball in his collegiate career. Not only has he been effective around the basket as an undersized center, but he has also been able to stretch the defense with his mid-range shot. Also with Aaron Craft, Sullinger has been the anchor of Ohio State’s defense. When you do all of those things for you team, you are the man.
Since the NCAA tournament started Sully has been the most effective Buckeyes. It’s clear that the team goes as Jared Sullinger goes. As an Ohio State fan I’m hoping he ready to go win a Championship.
*There may be bias
1. Eligibility can completely change the fortunes of your team just see every college team that wins a BCS title.
2. I’m not including the Kentucky Wildcats in this statement, because that isn’t a college team. The Wildcats are the31st NBA team.
Editor-in-Chief of Comedic Prose
Follow Kortney Williams on Twitter @kortneyshane