Last night the Buckeyes polished off their share of the BigTen regular season title. John Diebler led Ohio State(24-7) with 21 points. The all-time scorer in OHSAA history went 7 of 14 from 3 point range to lead the Bucks to a comfortable victory over the Illini. Illinois fell to 10-7 in the league, and 18-12 overall. They'll need a strong showing in the BigTen tournament to make the Big Dance. A couple of wins, putting them at 20, would likely edge them in with their history and winning record in BigTen play. 1 and done would leave them on the outside looking in at teams with similiar resume's - like Florida, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech.
The one thing that was not in question last night... This years 'player of the year'. When a bad game is 16 points, 12 boards, and 5 assists you know you're the favorite. Ohio State is 24-4 when Evan Turner starts. Turner is averaging 19.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1 block per game. He recorded the 2nd and 3rd triple doubles in Ohio State history, and is a threat for a triple double every time he takes the court. Double doubles are an afterthought. Turner had 14 of those.
3 months ago when Evan Turner fell over 8 feet to the court and landed on the back of his neck nobody knew if Turner would play again this season - Let alone, return to form and lead this team to a conference title and a 1-3seed in the NCAA Tournament. After getting his feet wet upon return against Indiana, Turner finished the season with 16 straight double digit performances(20.75ppg). And when games were on the line - it was Turner who made sure that the Buckeyes didn't relinquish any lead all season that they held with 5 minutes to go(21).
Ohio State entered the season without a point guard. When Thad Matta turned to the turnover prone forward it raised eyebrows and questions in Columbus. Nobody is asking any questions now. Turner showed that he had a ball handling ability seasoned by days on the playgrounds of Chicago. Turner has huge hands and that rare NBA physical presence bringing the ball up the court. His size makes him the best rebounding point guard in all the country, and a nightmare to defend when he's hitting his jump shot. Instead of eyebrows raising - jaws have been dropping.
Ohio State finds itself in its' best pre-tourney position since Greg Oden and Mike Conley led them to the National Championship game as freshmen. If the Bucks can fight through their lack of depth, and consistency issues, they could find themselves making another run. They could be both the most explosive team, and the most fragile team in the entire tournament.
Each starter has their role:
Lighty - The lockdown defender and athlete.
Deibler - The shooter.
Buford - The silky smooth playmaker.
Lauderdale - The Shot Blocker/Rebounder.
Turner - The Leader.
Only two other players see the court. Kyle Madsen is a sneaky-good shooter who relieves Lauderdale, and PJ Hill is the emergency ball handler. For the most part, this is a five-man team, but it may just be the best starting five in the country.