By Josh Kramer
Now I am fully aware that the vast majority of you are flabbergasted by the headline of this post. How could the number two ranked team in all of the land have a moral victory? Especially when they did not play against the number one ranked team in the country, or even a top ten ranked team for that matter. Well let me elaborate for you.
Today, Ohio State headed to a very hostile environment to take on the number 13 ranked Kansas Jayhawks at Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The Buckeyes first road game of the year. A true road test right off the bat. In addition, Kansas is no slouch of a team in the own right. Outside of a very humbling experience at Madison Square Garden against Kentucky, this team has looked very good. I realize that the same Duke team who Ohio State beat by 22, came in and handled the Jayhawks a couple of weeks ago, but the Jayhawks are still a very solid opponent.
Ohio State had played just one game that had stayed within single digits all year until today (W over Florida). The Buckeyes have been a team that relies on a stifling offensive attack that is one of the most efficient in all of the land. In other words, Ohio State is a team that hits over 50% of their shots a game. This amazing stat is due in large part to their best player, Jared Sullinger.
Sullinger is not only the best post player in America, but he is arguably the best player in all the land. The stud sophomore is averaging an eye-popping 19.1 points a game to go with 10.3 rebounds. Well today, the Buckeyes took on a very tough foe, in a hostile road atmosphere, without their key cog. For most teams this would spell disaster. Just ask the outstanding Cincinnati Bearcats team of 1999/2000 what it was like playing without their superstar, Kenyon Martin. For Ohio State today, playing without their star spelled an extremely competitive game, where the Buckeyes had their chances to win. Despite shooting just 38.7% from the floor, and playing against an opponent who shot a crazy good 58.3% from the floor (52.9% from 3-point range), Ohio State really had a chance to win this one.
NCAA Basketball is not the NBA. Typically when a team loses their star player, they lose, and they lose bad. In the NBA, teams find a way to survive without their stars for temporary periods. The college basketball season is just a little over 30 games. Any time without a star player can really hurt. And today’s loss does hurt. But it also shows the resiliency of this year’s version of the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Put Sullinger out there today, and Ohio State wins this game on the road by double digits. I know many will look at this loss and say how overrated that team out of Columbus is again. But after watching this team today, I hate to say it, but they are not overrated. Not in the least bit. I know the age-old saying that teams learn more from a loss than a win. That saying is a sham. No loss is a good loss. But today was a moral victory for Thad Matta’s crew.
Do not expect the Buckeyes to really be challenged until a New Year’s Eve date at Assembly Hall with Indiana even if Sullinger continues to be sidelined.
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.