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Improved guard play has been a big reason for Ohio State basketball’s resurgence

The Buckeyes have only lost one game since the beginning of December because of improved play from C.J. Jackson and Kam Williams.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“(They’ve been) really critical. Almost completely tied into our offensive efficiency and offensive production is C.J. taking better care of the ball and then shooting it at the level he’s shooting it at, and then Kam really staying aggressive and being ready to shoot the ball and make shots.”

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann via Adam Jardy, The Columbus Dispatch

Keita Bates-Diop may be making most of the noise for a resurgent Ohio State team this year, but what has sparked the improvement from the Buckeyes lately has been their guard play. The two Buckeye guards who have been at the center of the improvement have been C.J. Jackson and Kam Williams.

Jackson has started for Ohio State most of the year at guard, but did get a bit of a wake-up call when he came off the bench for games against Wisconsin and Michigan in early December. Prior to the benching, Jackson had turned the basketball over 12 times in two games against Butler and Clemson. Since returning to the starting lineup, Jackson hasn’t turned the basketball over more than three times in a game, and on Sunday against Michigan State, Jackson didn’t turn the basketball over at all.

Williams started the season slow, scoring in double figures in just one of the season’s first 10 games. Since then, Williams has found his shot, reaching double figures in every game except the North Carolina game. Starting with the win over William & Mary, Williams has made 15 of his last 25 three-point attempts.

Ohio State still has plenty of work to do if they want to make the NCAA Tournament in Chris Holtmann’s first year in Columbus, but the Buckeyes are on the right track. At least the Buckeyes have fixed some areas that ailed them earlier in the season, and have put the rest of the Big Ten on notice with their start to conference play.

Suddenly the hiring and salary of Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch makes a lot more sense. If defensive coordinator Greg Schiano did decide to jump back into the NFL ranks, the Buckeyes would likely already have a plan in place for their defense with Grinch at the helm.

After generating some interest for Tennessee’s head coaching position, supporters of the Volunteers voiced their displeasure of the possible hire of Schiano, which led to the former Rutgers head coach returning to the Buckeyes. Schiano’s defense showed Tennessee what they were missing out on with impressive performances in wins over Wisconsin and USC to close out the year.

Should New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia accept a head coaching job, Schiano would likely be among the candidates to take over for Patricia on Bill Belichick’s staff. Schiano and Belichick are friends, and the New England Patriots head coach said he would vouch for Schiano after the Tennessee debacle.

Odds for the 2018 national championship were released earlier this week, and on Wednesday the initial 2018 Heisman Trophy odds were announced by Sports Betting Dime. Among the 21 favorites to take home the bronze statue next December are two Buckeyes: Dwayne Haskins and Nick Bosa.”

Patrick Murphy, Bucknuts

Now that J.T. Barrett has exhausted his eligibility at Ohio State, the Buckeyes are going to have to turn to a new quarterback for the 2018 season. Ohio State fans got a glimpse of the future when Dwayne Haskins was forced into action when Barrett was injured against Michigan. Even though Haskins played for less than a half, oddsmakers liked what they saw out of Haskins, giving him 30/1 odds to win the 2018 Heisman Trophy.

Eight other quarterbacks have higher odds than Haskins, but it’s hard not to like the Buckeye quarterback with the weapons he’ll have to work with on offense. Jake Fromm takes home the best odds at 10/1, while Penn State’s Trace McSorley had his odds set at 14/1 and Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson has 16/1 odds despite having yet to take a snap for the Wolverines.

Just behind Haskins in terms of Heisman Trophy odds is Buckeye defensive end Nick Bosa at 35/1. Bosa has the same odds as Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, and they are the only defensive players that odds were given to. Bosa will be looking to become just the second player ever to win the Heisman Trophy, but he should be able to make some more noise this year with the Buckeyes losing defensive ends Sam Hubbard, Tyquan Lewis, and Jalyn Holmes.

“Right now, in the season, we aren’t as ready as we will be by the end of the year. We still have a lot of kinks to work out at different positions... I’m looking forward to this weekend to see where we match up against some of the top teams in the country.”

Ohio State redshirt junior middle blocker Blake Leeson via Soliyah Stevens-Orgaz, The Lantern

After defeating North Greenville to open the season on Saturday, Ohio State will see the competition ramp up this weekend as they host Stanford and BYU. The Buckeyes will take on Stanford on Friday night before taking on the team they have defeated in the last two national title matchups on Saturday.

Ohio State has swept BYU in the championship game the last two seasons, and Saturday’s matchup could be a preview of this year’s championship game. The Buckeyes will be led by Nicolas Szerszen, who was named Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017.

This weekend’s matchups won’t make or break the season for Ohio State, but it’ll help give them a good idea of where they stand early in the season, and what areas they might need to improve upon. Both Friday and Saturday’s contests will take place at 7 p.m. at St. John Arena.