January 16, 2010

Behind Enemy Lines: Ohio State

The first time Wisconsin played Ohio State the Badgers were firing on all cylinders leading to a somewhat unexpected 22-point blowout win. Tonight, when the two teams meet in Columbus, the game will probably be a bit tighter.

Looking to learn more about Ohio State, BadgerBlitz.com went straight to the source, BuckeyeGrove.com staff writer Ari Wasserman, who provided some insights from behind enemy lines.

Read Wasserman's thought about the Buckeyes here…

1.) It seems that is hasn't taken Evan Turner too long to get back to the level of play he was at prior to the injury. With him back in the lineup, have you noticed a different level of confidence from his teammates?

Wasserman: There is a certain difference in confidence level now that Turner is back in the lineup, whether or not the team would like to admit it or not. After all, Thad Matta has referred to Evan Turner as one of the best basketball player sin the country and his diversity in terms of statistics is a huge boost to the team. But it goes beyond what is in the box score.

Sure, Turner has averaged 20 points per game since returning, in addition to a bevy of assists and rebounds, but when watching this team with and without him on the floor, it is completely different. With Turner on the floor, Ohio State plays better team defense, the Buckeyes ability to score from other sources is increased, and the rebounding-which I believe to be Turner's specialty-is night and day.

It did take Turner a few days to lose the apprehension once returning to the floor, but after that 32-point takeover performance to knock off Purdue in West Lafayette, it is safe to say he is picking up from where he left off. This team will look entirely different than it did without Turner in Madison, because after all, without Turner on the floor Ohio State is nothing more than an average basketball team.

2.) Ohio State took a few lumps early in conference play and currently sits with three losses. But, with that big momentum building win at Purdue in the books, is the team looking at this game against UW as one where it can get back into title contention?

Wasserman: Even when the team was sitting at 1-3 in conference play and looking into the looming schedule that had a game at Purdue listed, this team was still talking about conference title contention.

Now, as we all know, there is a big difference between 2-3 in the conference and 1-4, and the Buckeyes are hoping to build on the momentum gained in West Lafayette. This team is fully aware of what Wisconsin did to them in Madison, but to them, losing to the Badgers on their home floor tonight would be equivalent of giving back the Purdue win.

With Turner back on the floor, Ohio State feels as if they can play with anyone, and knocking off the Badgers would only be the next step to getting back into conference contention and bolstering the resume come Selection Sunday.

3.) Over the past couple of seasons, Jason Bohannon has done a really good job of chasing Jon Diebler and limiting him to just a few points. In your opinion, what could the Buckeyes do to help get Diebler going or get him more open? Or is it just a matter of him struggling because the Badger defense as a whole is pretty solid?

Wasserman: Well, anyone who watches Ohio State basketball on a consistent basis will tell you that Jon Diebler is a sharp shooter, but the problem is that he has issues creating his own shot. So, when Turner was out, teams would defend Diebler with both of their top defenders, who in the past, would be all over Turner.

At the beginning of the year, Diebler really put it on some teams with his hot shooting and the Buckeyes understand that his shot is really important to this team. Now, of course, with Turner back Diebler has been able to get more shots but he is kind of struggling from long range right now.

We have seen this before in Diebler's past where he is on fire for a few games and then goes cold for a while then back to hot. All it really takes is for him to make a few early on, get his confidence going, and then he can be a real dangerous weapon. Since Turner's return to the lineup, Diebler has been getting good looks. Now it's just a matter of him knocking them down.

4.) In watching Ohio State over the season and talking with the Badger coaches, it seems as though the Buckeyes aren't playing as much of that zone as they have in the past. Do you feel OSU fairs better while in man rather than the zone?

Wasserman: Ask Matta and he will tell you that he prefers that Ohio State play man-to-man, but last season it just didn't seem as if it was in the cards for the team, particularly because Ohio State's best defender in David Lighty missed the season with a broken foot.

Entering this year, Ohio State predominantly practiced the man-to-man, but has often switched to zone in big games. Though I find Ohio State's zone to be effective, particularly in the beginning of games, teams have a tendency to figure it out and then excel in getting open looks from long range. More than once have long-distance shooters burned Ohio State this season.

Personally, I like the man-to-man better. With Turner back, Ohio State has the athletes and the physicality to get in teams' faces and really force them to work. Though I know we will continue to see both defenses shuffled in and out, I do think Ohio State plays better basketball in man defense. It was man defense that led Ohio State to the win on Tuesday in the second half at Purdue and the zone that yielded eight 3-pointers by Robbie Hummel in the first half.

5.) Finally, its not too often there is a blowout in the series because these teams play a pretty similar style of basketball and don't beat themselves. Now, with Turner back for OSU and Jon Leuer out for UW, how do you see this game playing out?

Wasserman: This game is really hard to predict, especially when you see how the tables have turned in terms of location and injuries to clutch players. Ohio State is coming off a big win at Purdue and the team should be fired up to play on their home floor after opening up the Big Ten season with 4-of-5 on the road.

That being said, Turner is back and Wisconsin's Jon Leuer is out, so it makes things tricky. Though Wisconsin did win by 22 in the first meeting, the circumstances in this game have completely changed. Ohio State has played some good basketball recently and I see them just getting by a very-deep Wisconsin team this evening in Value City Arena.

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