It is officially 2022, and that means one thing: College basketball conference play. Even though January and February are two pretty much bummer months, they do bring the joy of USC-California at 11 ET. Strap in folks.
Last week on You’re Nuts, we debated who our frauds were in the conference. Connor picked Wisconsin (And I think they might have seen it because they are playing great basketball ever since) and Justin picked Minnesota. The audience agreed with neither of us, as the option “someone else” won with 40 percent of the vote. Minnesota got 32 percent and Wisconsin got 28 percent of the vote.
Also check out two weeks ago where we created our sports wish/Christmas lists. That was fun.
So here are the updated standings:
After 33 weeks:
(There have been two ties)
So, without further ado, lets talk about this week. We decided to go very specific and talk about last nights game (I’m sorry). Ohio State fell to 9-3 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten after suffering their worst loss of the season to Indiana, 67-51. What went wrong? Well you decide.
Today’s Question/Prompt: What went wrong against Indiana?
Connor: Refusing to double-team Trayce Jackson-Davis
There are a handful of things you could pin this loss on, with being forced to sit out for three weeks near the top of the list. However, the Buckeyes looked fresher last night and had several days of practice leading up to this game. I don’t think the long layoff is THE reason they lost last night.
Ohio State also had some subpar performances from major contributors like E.J. Liddell (11 points on 3-of-9 shooting) and Zed Key (two points in 15 minutes). But the Buckeyes struggled as a unit, really, shooting a combined 30.8% as a team last night and 29.7% from three-point land. It would be easy to single out one guy like Liddell after a lopsided loss, but it wouldn’t be accurate.
...aaaaand AGAIN! @TrayceJackson is going OFF for @IndianaMBB pic.twitter.com/EkbA481R1C— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) January 7, 2022
No. Instead, I’m going to point out the defensive malpractice we saw on the other end of the floor. Everyone knew that Trayce Jackson-Davis is Indiana’s best player, and one of the premier big men in the country. He will take you to the rack with his left or right hand, and at 6-foot-9 and nearly 250 pounds he’s very difficult to stop when he wants to establish position down low. He also averages nearly double as many points as every other player on his team.
But for some reason, Ohio State continuously threw just a single defender on him, and things went horribly. TJD scored 27 points to go along with 12 rebounds, and had a team high +/- of +21 for his 34 minutes. Quite simply, he was unstoppable.
Key was the first guy to take a swing at TJD, fouling him five seconds into the game and subsequently picking up a second foul around the 10-minute mark before being put on the bench. Key had the most success against Indiana’s star big, but that’s not saying much considering TJD was able to draw those early fouls on him and send him to the bench for much of the first half. But hey, in those limited minutes, he was serviceable.
Joey Brunk played eight minutes in this game, scoring six points and grabbing two rebounds in those limited minutes. But Jackson-Davis went right at Brunk for pretty much those entire eight minutes, scoring with ease over top of him every single time. I’ve never seen someone targeted so blatantly in my life — it was tough to watch.
Later on Kyle Young and Liddell tried to guard him, but help never came until the very final seconds each time. I’m not a coach, and based off of some of the things I’ve written over the years I never will be. But why not try to force the ball out of his hands a little bit more? Why let him attack one-on-one when it is very clear OSU didn’t have anyone capable of stopping him single-handedly?
Jackson-Davis is a stud, everyone knows it. But in the very least, Ohio State could have forced IU’s hand and made someone else beat them. If Jordan Geronimo or Parker Stewart start knocking down open jumpers, so be it — as long as it’s not TJD right below the basket.
Justin: EJ Liddell’s recent offensive struggles
First of all, I have to get something off my chest. This is the Big Ten, and the Buckeyes are in the heat of conference play now. Folks, I have news for you: They are going to drop a couple games. You don’t have to call for Chris Holtmann’s job after every loss, EJ Liddell isn’t magically not good and the Buckeyes are still a legitimate team. Sometimes, you just don’t have it on a given night. It happens.
So that being said, Liddell has been struggling. Now there are reasons for this (not excuses — reasons, those are two different things). It is known by now that he was one of the players that contracted COVID-19 and even if his symptoms were mild, it can still take a lot out of you. Not to mention, this means he wasn’t practicing for 2-3 weeks which, no matter how good you are, will build up rust.
Since the Buckeyes have returned from their three-week pause, Liddell is averaging 10.5 points per game and is shooting just 5-for-26 from the field. His last two games have been his two lowest scoring games of the season thus far. He has still made himself useful with averaging 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, but the Buckeyes rely on Liddell’s scoring heavy, and so far in 2022 he hasn’t had his best stuff on the offensive end.
It is clear that he doesn’t quite have his legs fully underneath him yet, and that will come with a couple more games, but in these conference games they will need Liddell to average around 20 points per game, especially with Justice Sueing and Seth Towns still out.
With Liddell struggling, this comes back to our earlier discussions about the Buckeyes having a second scorer. In the Nebraska game, Malaki Branham stepped up and became the person that could shoulder the load when Liddell was struggling. Against Indiana, they didn’t have anyone step up and take care of the scoring and it showed, as the Buckeyes scored their lowest point total of the season with just 51.
It is hard to see exactly what this team is as of right now with Sueing and Towns both being vital pieces to the team. Until they return, this is simply a puzzle missing pieces. But until they return, pretty much every game that EJ Liddell struggles on offense like this, barring someone scoring 30, the Buckeyes will likely lose.
What was the main reason this game slipped away?
This poll is closed
Failure to double-team Trayce Jackson-Davis (Connor)
EJ Liddell’s recent offensive struggles (Justin)
Neither of these things, it was something else.