"The RPI also does a great disservice to teams like Ohio State, who have been dominant in the majority of their wins, and competitive in nearly all of their losses."
-Sal Cacciatore, NumberFire.com
Come Selection Sunday, the Buckeyes could find themselves among the most under-seeded teams in the NCAA tournament. While the team's record is hardly eye-popping -- 23-9, 1-6 against the RPI top 50, sixth in the Big Ten -- there are a lot of factors that point to the potential for Ohio State to make a deeper tournament run than people might expect.
The first of these is that the RPI is problematic. That particular metric doesn't factor in margin of victory, which makes the Buckeyes look less impressive than they have been. Of Ohio State's 23 wins, 19 have come by double digits. It's healthy not to let bad teams stick around. They have also managed to keep things close in just about every loss -- Sunday's drubbing at the hands of Wisconsin notwithstanding, the Buckeyes haven't lost a game by double digits this year.
Ohio State is also sneakily one of the most efficient teams in the country. Per NumberFire's metrics, the Buckeyes rank 15th in offensive efficiency and 19th in defensive efficiency. A lot of that is thanks to D'Angelo Russell, who ranks fifth in the Big Ten in effective field goal percentage (.554) despite a high usage rate (29.9%, fourth in the conference), and who helps drive the defense's high clip of steals. These numbers belie a team that is probably better in reality than the 7 or 8 seed that they're going to get on paper.
"It's kind of scary with a team coming off a big season like we did to have a letdown. You don't want guys to think we've arrived or that we're entitled to win games."
-Taylor Decker, via Sports Illustrated
This year will be an entirely different animal for the Ohio State football team. After spending much of 2014 on the outside looking in before shattering expectations and overcoming adversity en route to a national championship, the focus on the team has shifted dramatically heading into the 2015 season. The Buckeyes won't be sneaking up on anyone this year. Instead, all eyes will be on Columbus as Urban Meyer attempts to lead his team to a second consecutive title.
Their biggest hurdle in making that dream a reality isn't the uncertainty that hangs over the quarterback position. According to the players, it's complacency. "The big challenges are going to be keeping everything on track...and just making sure we don't get too comfortable," said senior LB Joshua Perry. That sentiment is shared by starting o-lineman Taylor Decker, quoted above.
Still, as an outsider it's hard to get too concerned about Urban Meyer's ability to get his team motivated to excel as the season looms. It certainly doesn't hurt that the Buckeyes open 2015 against Virginia Tech, the lone team that was able to notch a win against the Buckeyes last year. It's easy to see that game providing some serious revenge/catharsis material for Meyer and co., and whatever the Vegas line is for that matchup, it's probably not high enough.
"I think I looked at the rim a lot tonight, and saw it was open, so I just attacked a lot from there."
Last night, Ohio State advanced out of the second round of the Big Ten tournament thanks in part to a career night from Shannon Scott. The senior guard helped the Buckeyes finish off Minnesota by recording 21 points, five rebounds, and six assists. Scott played 37 minutes, and was one of the leaders of Ohio State's offensive efforts in the second half, when they switched gears to a more dribble penetration-oriented attack.
Despite holding a 13 point lead with under 10 minutes to play, things got nervy in the final minutes as the Buckeyes let the Golden Gophers get back within 2 points. Ohio State almost fell apart thanks to a field goal drought of almost seven minutes late in the game, but rallied behind some outstanding free throw shooting to close out the Gophers.
Thad Matta, whose new five o'clock shadow was grown after Wisconsin boatraced the Buckeyes last weekend, also turned Marc Loving loose last night to aid the Ohio State offense, the first time we've really seen that since Loving returned from his suspension on Feb. 14. Loving finished with 12 points.
"Somebody asked me if I was stressed about it. Not at all, because Plan A is good, Plan B is good, and Plan C is really good."
-Urban Meyer, via ESPN.com
BUT WHICH QUARTERBACK IS PLAN C?!?
Seriously though, it seems like the man who would have the most to stress about regarding Ohio State's signal-caller dilemma is doing just fine. We'll see if that calm prevails as we get closer to the moment of truth, but for now, Urban Meyer is unflappable. That's probably a healthy attitude to take, especially given that there's really nothing he can say for sure until all three QBs are healthy enough to go full-speed in practice.
For now, only Cardale Jones is capable of both running and throwing at the same time, while JT Barrett's ankle injury and Braxton Miller's shoulder injury are keeping both of them from full practice duties. While Jones did lead the Buckeyes to a national championship, he is by far the most raw of the three QBs and has some ground to make up on the other two. The gains that Jones makes as the de facto No. 1 guy this spring can only be good for all of the quarterbacks, as it will elevate the level of competition to an even further degree and force all three to play outstanding football until (and after) a starter is chosen.
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