“But this season was always supposed to be a struggle. It should honestly come as no surprise that it’s now become one, especially since Holtmann was already offering some warnings back in December when his team was still riding a winning streak that rude awakenings were coming in Big Ten play and potentially in tests like the one at No. 5 Michigan on Tuesday night.”
Even though the Ohio State Buckeyes opened their season on fire, the inevitable was going to happen: a cold streak. Or, better yet, a return to the mean. Yes, the Bucks got big wins against Creighton and Cincinnati in the early part of the season, but the loss against Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten challenged showed the deficiencies this team possessed.
And it wasn’t long after that loss that things started to fall apart.
While it took time for the losses to pile up, head coach Chris Holtmann saw the figurative writing on the wall: this team—at some point—was going to ride the struggle bus in and out of games.
A combination of young players, streaky shooting, turnovers, and foul trouble around a talented Kaleb Wesson were the ingredients to an OSU team that managed to drop games at Rutgers and Iowa; and at home to Michigan State, Maryland and Purdue.
All these signs were present in the first 13 games, but because the Buckeyes won just about all of them, the concerns fell by the wayside—right up until the losses started appearing.
Tuesday night’s test at Michigan will be, arguably, the toughest game of the season. If the Buckeyes hold their own, then one could figure that, well, they are figuring out how to stay competitive in the big games. If they get run out of Crisler Center, then you know this team has a long way to go. But that’s to be expected with a team like this. Nobody thought they were going to be a Final Four participant. But, they definitely showed signs of being an NCAA Tournament squad.
With one final game in the month of January, the Buckeyes are on the verge of the bubble. Either way, a win or a loss, it’ll be Frantic February for Holtmann’s squad as they try to climb up the Big Ten standings.
“Overall, Ohio State’s defense has harassed Beilein’s prolific offenses the last three seasons. In four games, Michigan tallied .135 points per possession less than its average, and frequently struggled to establish itself inside...This year’s offense runs into Ohio State’s No. 21 overall efficiency defense. The last three outings against Wisconsin, Minnesota and Indiana yielded just .93 points per possession.”
Land-Grant Holy Land isn’t the only team site pumping out content around OSU-UM basketball. Maize and Brew’s Sam Dodge wrote up a stat preview of the two teams. If you’re a Buckeye fan, there are some numbers that bode well for the boys in Scarlet and Gray.
First is that Ohio State tends to put pressure on the Michigan offense—just like in football. Last season, Michigan shot 48.1 percent from the floor and an abysmal 35 percent from downtown at home against the Bucks. However, with the help of 15 bench points from Jordan Poole, the Wolverines powered past Ohio State, 74-62.
This time around, there’s no Moritz Wagner. On the flip side, Michigan is a top five program. They nerfed defending national champions Villanova into orbit earlier this season, defeated North Carolina, and swept Indiana.
Efficiency will be the name of the game on Tuesday night. If Luther Muhammad and Andrew Wesson can put pressure, Kaleb Wesson can stay out of foul trouble, and the whole team doesn’t make boneheaded turnovers, then this will be a game. They may not win, but if any combination of those things listed above happen, then you might as well warm up the bus at halftime.
The Big Ten is a stacked conference, and Chris Holtmann is a good coach. All the Buckeyes need against Michigan is a solid 40 minutes of team basketball.
Everywhere he’s been, Yurcich has led an offense that has broken records. Now he’ll coach a level of quarterback talent he hasn’t previously experienced. When spring practice begins, former five-star recruit Justin Fields, a transfer from Georgia, will be the most talented quarterback Yurcich has ever coached.
In 20 years, Mike Yurcich has climbed up the coaching ranks. After graduating from Euclid High School in 1994, he’s had brief stops at Saint Francis, Indiana, Edinboro, and Shippensburg before making the move to Stillwater, Oklahoma, as offensive coordinator for Oklahoma State.
Now, the Euclid, Ohio, native is back in the home state—coaching at one of the most powerful college football programs in America.
Record setting and high-scoring offenses have followed Yurcich, especially in the years at Okie State. However, as Stephen Means points out in his article, Yurcich hasn’t had the type of quarterback that he’s about to inherit at Ohio State. Justin Fields is in, and whether or not he plays in 2019, he’ll be under the tutelage of Yurchich. If only a fraction of the high-octane Yurcich offense rears its head next season and in 2020, then a College Football Playoff run will be the floor—and the ceiling will be a national championship win.
Under Urban Meyer, the Buckeye offense caused havoc in the Big Ten. As co-offensive coordinator, Ryan Day’s aerial assault behind the arm of Dwayne Haskins got the Buckeyes a conference crown and Rose Bowl trophy. With Day in complete control and Yurchich as OC, the Buckeyes will be explosive on offense yet again.
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