We’ve reached out to Bob Baptist, the Ohio State basketball beat writer for The Columbus Dispatch, to answer five questions for the Ohio State edition of Know Thy Opponent. You can read the Dispatch’s OSU basketball blog, Hoops & Scoops, here and follow Bob on Twitter here. The transcript of our Q & A, conducted via e-mail, is below:
Tough start in the Big Ten for the Buckeyes. A 65-43 blowout at Wisconsin and then a 73-64 loss in Ann Arbor to Michigan. What’s the quick synopsis of why Ohio State has struggled in their first two conference games?
Very quick synopsis: They don’t have Evan Turner making plays for every other player on the team, and every other player on the team save for William Buford needs Turner to do that for him.
The loss of Turner (18.5 ppg, 11.4 rpg, 5.9 apg) has obviously been a major blow. When does Ohio State expect to get him back into the lineup?
The team’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Grant Jones, told me Sunday at Michigan that Turner was scheduled for an X-ray Monday and that, if all looked good, his activity would be increased this week. If his back tolerates the increase in activity, he could return to the lineup within the next two weeks.
Assuming Turner comes back and is the same player he was early in the season, what’s the ceiling for this team? Sweet 16? Elite Eight?
It could take awhile for Turner to get back in the flow he was in, but Ohio State’s schedule lightens up after a game at West Virginia on Jan. 23, so I think it could have a very good February leading into the tournament. And I think the tournament selection committee will take Turner’s absence into consideration for how Ohio State played early in the Big Ten.
That said, I think this team at best is a Sweet 16 team. It’s too reliant on making outside shots, isn’t a good rebounding team besides Turner, is vulnerable inside defensively if Lauderdale isn’t in the game and gets no offense off the bench unless Jeremie Simmons is hitting his threes.
Looking at the boxscores for the past few games, the Buckeyes are only playing seven players. How big of a problem is depth going forward?
It’ll be eight when Turner returns. P.J. Hill will go back to the bench and be their defensive spark when they need it, and Simmons can bring scoring off it, even if he hasn’t the past two games (his nickname is A.O., for Automatic Offense).
Where they really are vulnerable, as I said before, is inside when Kyle Madsen gives Dallas Lauderdale a blow. He can be scored over and isn’t a threat to score. So far, they’ve gotten nothing but garbage minutes from Zisis Sarikopoulos and Nikola Kecman. Matta keeps saying they’re going to be factors before the end of the season, but so far it’s just empty rhetoric.
This matchup with Indiana is certainly a game fans had penciled in as a win prior to the season and with road games at Minnesota and Purdue coming up, this is a game the Buckeyes need to win. What do you see as the keys to this game for Ohio State?
They need to make shots, something they did prior to the conference season starting but haven’t in the past two games. I don’t think they’ll have a problem defending Indiana, except maybe giving up some threes. But, especially at home, they need to get back to shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. Especially with two more road trips coming up.