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Buckeyes similar to Gators' title teams
The debate is over — and so too may be the argument that there isn’t a dominant college basketball team.
In a year in which just about everyone believes parity has reigned supreme and there’s no clear-cut No. 1 team in the nation, the Ohio State Buckeyes may have something to say about that.
Ohio State improved to 21-0 overall and 8-0 in Big Ten play after a complete annihilation of the Purdue Boilermakers on Tuesday night.
“There’s a reason why they are number one,” Purdue senior big man JaJuan Johnson after the 87-64 thrashing.
The final margin may have been 23, but that didn’t even begin to tell the story of how one-sided this wound up being almost from the time the ball was tossed up.
Purdue coach Matt Painter had no answers.
The Boilermakers couldn’t score against the much-improved Ohio State defense — and that paled in comparison to trying to stop the Buckeyes' high-octane offense.
It’s the ultimate game of Pick Your Poison.
If you double-team freshman big man Jared Sullinger, Ohio State has no shortage of perimeter shooters. In fact, there are usually four other guys on the floor who all make more than 40 percent of their 3-pointers.
The Buckeyes were a sizzling 11-of-19 from beyond the arc against a Purdue defense that is considered one of the most daunting in the entire country.
If you don’t provide help to the poor soul that has to try and contain the 6-foot-9, 280-pound Sullinger, the National Player of the Year candidate, well, just know he's capable of going for 40 points any night.
“It’s hard to stop them,” Purdue senior guard E’Twaun Moore said. “The best solution is just to man up and try and fight them.”
How many teams can match up with this Ohio State squad man-for-man?
I’m not sure there’s anyone – and that’s why I tabbed the Buckeyes in the preseason to cut down the nets in Houston on April 4.
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They have all the pieces.
In fact, this group reminds me somewhat of Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators championship team that won back-to-back national championships in 2006 and 2007.
Each had an unselfish stud inside: Ohio State boasting Sullinger and Florida with Al Horford. Corey Brewer was Florida’s versatile glue guy while Ohio State has David Lighty.
You want dead-eye shooters? How about the Buckeyes' Jon Diebler and Florida’s Lee Humphrey.
Pure floor leaders? Try Florida's Taurean Green and Ohio State's frosh Aaron Craft.
The one difference is the Gators had energetic big man Joakim Noah while Ohio State rounds out its top five with talented scoring wing William Buford.
“I’d say it’s a good comparison,” said Lighty, who was a freshman on Ohio State’s team in 2007 that lost to the Gators in the national title game. “But the difference is they got it done and won two championships. It’s about what we do.”
The other similarity is chemistry.
“It’s awesome,” said former Buckeyes star and NBA guard Michael Redd, who has attended most of the games and dozens of practices this season while rehabbing in Columbus. “There’s something special about this team. They don’t have any weaknesses and they play so well together.”
Sullinger, despite coming into Ohio State with all the hype as one of the elite freshman in the country, didn’t arrive with the swagger of an egomaniac. Production aside, he’s found a way to blend in on a team that’s led by four veterans: the senior trio of Lighty, Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale and Buford, a junior.
“We don’t care if he gets all the attention,” Diebler said. “It’s well-deserved. You can’t get mad when he’s putting up all the numbers. The bottom line is he makes us better and we’re perfectly fine with all the publicity he gets.”
Ohio State coach Thad Matta raves about this team, but also cautioned that this was the team’s most complete effort of the season – and it’s still not even February.
“We still have so many challenges ahead,” Matta said. “If you don’t play well in this league, you’ll lose. And even if you do play well, it doesn’t guarantee anything.”
However, there have already been times – against Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan – that the Buckeyes have been unable to deliver knockout blows and still come away with the victory.
“This is the first time we’ve played a complete game this season,” Lighty admitted. “We were dominant today, but we need to do it consistently. We’re not there yet.”
Maybe not, but this group showed it doesn’t have many chinks in its armor.
“They’re the best team we’ve played,” Painter said.
And they won’t play anyone better.
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