fine gentlemen guys at Buckeye Battle Cry approached us on a streetcorner last week and, after a misunderstanding involving pepper spray, we agreed to an old-fashioned Q&A exchange with tomorrow's Purdue-OSU tilt looming. Note, however, that few questions or answers have to do with tomorrow's game. That's a big whiff on everyone's part. However, the dialogue is still entertaining (to us, anyway) so we shall share it here. Check out The Buckeye Battle Cry for our answers to their questions.
Boiled Sports: Be honest...did you guys really expect to be #1 in the nation this year? Losing the best player in the conference and you...improve?
Buckeye Battle Cry: We knew that this team was going to have some great players and was at least going to be able to compete in the Big Ten. Yes, we lost the national player of the year, but the majority of the starters remained and we were adding another batch of spectacular freshmen. The biggest question mark was exactly how well those new players were going to gel in the system. The second biggest was who we were going to get to play point guard, with no experience and nobody with the appropriate ball handling skills. I won't lie that I had nightmares of Dallas Lauderdale bringing the ball up the court...
Both of those questions were answered in ways I never expected. I never once believed at any time in the last 8 months that this team would go undefeated to this point. In fact, we posted a podcast in mid-December discussing how we felt this team would do when it first entered the Big Ten season. I believe the consensus was that we would lose at least one game by time we faced Michigan in Crisler arena, if not losing that game itself.
Do I believe this team will go undefeated the rest of the way? No. I believe we'll drop a game somewhere in this murderer's row of a Big Ten schedule. If Purdue doesn't do the job, the game in the Kohl Center just might.
BS: Perhaps this is related, but when Thad goes on recruiting trips, does he bring duffel bags full of cash or does he keep that sort of money in offshore accounts?
BBC: We've done some substantial research on that very topic. While we've never observed extra duffel bags, nor found any direct illicit supply of funds, we have noticed that he likes to give plants as a gift during his in-home visits. We can't be certain, having only seen them from a distance, but we think they look something like this...
BS: Do you guys have concerns about matching up with Purdue's big two, or do you see the Bucks' talent as superior?
BBC: I'm a little worried about how Sullinger will handle both JaJuan Johnson's experience in the paint, as well as how he will handle the double team that Painter will inevitably use to completely eliminate him from the game. I'm also not certain how exactly we're going to defend E'Twaun Moore in any effective way. I'm honestly considering supergluing David Lighty to him in a pinch. Either that or the "B-Dubs solution."
Sullinger has demonstrated a talent for passing out of double teams and finding the unguarded man on the perimeter which should take care of any double teams Purdue tries to employ. That has turned out to be fatal to a number of teams, particularly considering that Aaron Craft has turned on his shooting ability in the last couple games. Add him in with Diebler, Lighty and Buford's already proven scoring and OSU is quite the offensive threat.
Defensively, I'm not certain exactly how we're going to work against Purdue's offense. One strategy would be to recognize that Johnson and Moore will get their points and allow them to do so while eliminating everyone else from the game plan.
Clearly that didn't work so well for Penn State, though...
BS: Can the Buckeyes go undefeated? And would you even want them to?
BBC: Can they? Absolutely. I have nothing but respect for the rest of the Big Ten conference and how good the teams are. I also realize that we haven't yet faced the truly quality opponents in the conference yet (Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan State..). With those qualifiers, though, I can honestly say that I don't remember a team in 20 years of watching College Basketball that was quite this good in all phases of the game. When they play their best, they're going to be tough to stop.
Will they? Not an icicles chance in heck. Did I mention we haven't yet played Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin or Michigan State? There's no way we get through all 7 games completely unscathed (OSU plays MSU in Columbus, but misses out on a trip to the Breslin). Also, you may have noticed that I pointed out "when they play their best" above. The Bucks have a tendency to not play a consistent 40 minutes of defense in every game. The Iowa game, despite the sloppy result, was probably the best defensive output I've seen all year.
Do I want them to? I'm not sure I do. Thus far, with the exception of Iowa a couple of days ago, every single Big Ten opponent has given the Buckeyes their absolute best shot. While I enjoy the great games, I have to admit that the impending cardiac arrest is getting kinda old. It would be nice to have games where it's clear that the opponent didn't have all of its cards on the table. If we do continue to go undefeated over the next 12 games, I'm going really have to start abusing Bayer aspirin like it's candy.
Maybe I should invest in a pair of shock paddles...
BS: Who's winning the Big Ten regular season? The conference tournament?
BBC: Dammit Jim, I'm a sports writer not an oracle!
Let's put it this way. With Penn State playing like they are - almost sending OSU to overtime in Columbus, almost taking out you guys in West Lafayette (nice shot from Johnson, by the way) and taking out Michigan State and Wisconsin in University Park - I have absolutely no idea who is going to clean up and claim all the marbles.
I will say this - the regular season will come down to Ohio State, Purdue or Illinois. Wisconsin is good as usual, but they don't have the flexibility on offense that the other three provide. They'll only remain high in the standings due to their prodigious ability to win home games. Michigan State is showing the weakness of Tom Izzo as a coach this year. Izzo's tough grind it out style in the paint is great when you have a couple of experienced big men with which to do it. MSU this year has the players to execute a much more effective perimeter game, but Izzo simply won't allow it. That will cost him.
As for the tournament, it wouldn't at all surprise me if Penn State got the right matchups and cruised to a victory for the automatic qualifier. Battle and company can play some ball.
BS: Who in the Big Ten is positioned to go furthest in the NCAA tourney? (Your answer can, of course, be OSU.)
BBC: That depends an awful lot on matchups typically. I usually default to the argument of the major traits that all championship basketball teams have possessed: Strong veteran leadership, solid guard play and a great front court player or go-to scorer. Coupled with the ability to play shutdown defense and coaching experience, I see both of our teams being equally effective.
Ohio State - 4 of 5 traits - Elite 8. Guard play could hurt the Bucks this year. While Craft is a great point guard already, the Bucks don't have real depth at the position. That could be their undoing. (I'm assuming the Buckeyes demonstrate shutdown defense for 40 minutes consistently by tournament time).
Purdue - 4 of 5 traits - Elite 8. Purdue has the three biggest traits to get the job done. With Robbie Hummel, they would have had all 5, but I think the Boiler's defense isn't quite to the point of being shutdown without him.
Our thanks to the folks at The BBC for their participation and sense of humor. Negative points awarded for mentioning a B-Dubs commercial.