The 2020-21 Ohio State Buckeyes are an anomaly for a Chris Holtmann coached team. Holtmann typically has a defensive squad, but this year Ohio State is led by a menacing offense. At one point, Ohio State looked like one of the top four or five teams in the country. With the NCAA Tournament approaching, some potential issues have popped up for the Bucks. How will this impact Ohio State’s chances in the NCAA Tournament?
The Buckeyes’ identity is a high-scoring offense that leaves opponents reeling. With the 4th most efficient offense in the land, Ohio State averages 77.3 points per contest and shoots 46.1%. This is great considering the Buckeyes are fourth in toughest defenses played this season. Also, Ohio State takes care of the rock by giving up only 10.6 turnovers per game. In turn, the Buckeyes average 1.240 assists per turnover.
By drawing fouls, Ohio State gets plenty of free throw opportunities in nearly every game. They rank 10th with 16.5 free throw makes per game, averaging 16 points just from free throws is a big contribution. Furthermore, the Buckeyes shoot an impressive 76.9% from the line making them one of the top free throw shooting teams in the country.
The sophomore forward E.J. Liddell is Ohio State’s leading scorer averaging 16 points per contest. In addition, Liddell shoots a reliable 48.6% and 34.8% from three. Picked to 1st Team All-Big Ten, Liddell has been fantastic this season and gives the Buckeyes a bruising force in their frontcourt.
Duane Washington is the second leading scorer with 15.5 points per game. Washington can score at any level and is a dangerous shot maker. The junior guard shoots 40.3% and 36.9% from three, but he can catch fire in a hurry. February 21st against the Michigan Wolverines, Washington shot 66.7% and scorched the Wolverine defense with 30 points. He is capable of hitting contest jumpers, fading shots and step back threes. All of which, gives Ohio State a capable shot maker in the crunch time of games, Washington can make a shot from anywhere. In Saturday’s close win against Michigan, Washington poured in 24 points.
He's from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and he saves some of his best for the rival Wolverines.
— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) March 13, 2021
Early in the season, Ohio State won 10 of 11 with their only loss coming against Purdue. However, the Buckeyes finally cooled down dropping four straight allowing over 70 points per contest. In addition, they were experiencing extended offensive droughts in several games.
The Buckeyes look to be back on the right page in the Big Ten Tournament. They got a couple of fast starts against Minnesota and Purdue. Ohio State started on a 13-0 run against Minnesota, and scored 49 in the first half against Purdue. However, in both games they struggled to close the wins. Against Minnesota, the Buckeyes were up 72-60 with 1:38 remaining and barely survived as the lead was to one with 15 seconds left. After leading a good Purdue team 49-31 at half, Ohio State only mustered 23 points in the 2nd half and had to seal the win in overtime.
In Saturday’s win against Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal, the Buckeyes possibly had their best defensive game of the year. Typically, they allow points to shoot 42.5% while scoring 70.4 points per contest. Michigan only shot 35.1%, but after leading 63-50 with 4:19 remaining, the game came down to a last second shot. For the third game straight, Ohio State survived to see another game in the Big Ten Tournament and will now play in the title game on Sunday. Regardless, Ohio State is playing a lot better right now and put together three good wins in as many days.
Ohio State is a lock for a No.2 seed after Saturday’s win against Michigan. Even though it is unlikely, if the Buckeyes win the Big Ten title game Sunday they could possibly slip in to a one seed spot again. There are some kinks that need to be worked out, like consistent offensive production and closing games. Issues must be addressed after going eight minutes without a field goal in the 2nd half versus Purdue, and barely beating Michigan due to foolish turnovers.
With a talented offense and playing their best defense yet, the Buckeyes are surely a threat in the NCAA Tournament. With a high seeding, Ohio State has Final 4 potential, but winning a national title would be a major surprise.
All stats courtesy of ESPN, Kenpom, NCAA and Team Rankings.