Jun 28, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT
UNION, N.J. — The knock on Ohio State for much of the 2012-2013 season was that they relied far too much on Deshaun Thomas on the offensive end of the floor. They didn’t have a second option, and on the nights when Thomas wasn’t hitting his shots, the Buckeyes weren’t winning games.
That changed down the stretch of the season, however.
Ohio State won their last five regular season games before taking home the Big Ten tournament title and coming within a game of making the Final Four, a feat that no one thought possible last January. The reason for that surge? The play of point guard Aaron Craft, who became a much more aggressive player on the offensive end of the floor over the last month-and-a-half of the season. He had 21 points and six assists in a regular season win over Michigan State. He went for 15 points, four assists and four steals in a win over Indiana. He had 20 points, nine assists and four steals against Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals. He went for 18 points and six assists — including the game-saving charge and game-winning three — in a win over Iowa State to reach the Sweet 16.
And if the Buckeyes are going to make a run at a Big Ten regular season title in 2013-2014, they are going to need that kind of play out of Craft the entire season.
“I’ve gotta continue to lead the team, the biggest thing [to improve on] would be being aggressive on offense,” Craft told NBCSports.com at the Nike Skills Academy on the campus of Kean University. “Without having a guy like DT where you can throw him the ball and let him do his thing. We’re going to have to find a way to create shots and get open ones, so if I can attack better, I think it will help us out.”
And therein lies the biggest question mark when it comes to the Buckeyes next season. As good as Craft is, his entire career at Ohio State has been built around his leadership and his defense. He’s not a dynamic playmaker, he’s a facilitator. He picks his spots well and he’s aggressive when he needs to be, but he hasn’t been the kind of point guard that can beat his man one-on-one and create a shot for himself or his team on any possession. He’s not Trey Burke.
But there were times where he was as effective as Burke was last season, especially late in the regular season, and it’s those moments that Craft will be looking to build off of.
“Guys like Kyrie [Irving] are always in attack mode,” Craft said. “It’s not always for him to score, it’s for everybody. It’s for his entire team, whether he’s getting a good shot or he’s helping somebody else get a good shot. Just trying to be aggressive and be in attack mode, not trying to go to fast but to make quick decisions. We can make adjustments from there.”
The good news is that there will be some talent surrounding Craft next season. Shannon Scott showed flashes of serious potential as a sophomore. Lenzelle Smith has some big scoring games. LaQuinton Ross played his way into some 2014 mock drafts with his play in the postseason.
None of those guys have shown any kind of consistency, however.
Which is ironic, really.
While Scott, Ross and Smith will be looking to improve their consistency next year, Craft, who has built a career out of consistently playing at a high level, will be looking to break out of his mold.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Mar 9, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
Three more teams will punch tickets to the Big Dance on Sunday, including Wichita State if the Shockers can get past Indiana State and improve to 34-0
Mar 9, 2014, 3:10 AM EDT
No. 4 Duke and No. 10 San Diego State picked up big home wins, and Eastern Kentucky became the second team into the NCAA tournament field on a busy Saturday.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:56 AM EDT
New Mexico led by 16 with 12:05 remaining. And then their inability to adjust to San Diego State’s 1-3-1 zone cost them the Mountain West title.
Mar 9, 2014, 12:50 AM EDT
No. 10 San Diego State overcomes a 16-point second half deficit as they knock off No. 21 New Mexico and bring home a Mountain West title. But should that change how we view the Aztecs?
Mar 9, 2014, 12:09 AM EDT
North Carolina shot nearly 60%, but getting whipped on the boards cost them dearly at Cameron.
Mar 8, 2014, 11:56 PM EDT
Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood both went off for No. 4 Duke as the Blue Devils smacked around North Carolina. Does that mean we can call them a Final Four team again?
Mar 8, 2014, 11:16 PM EDT
Get caught up on all of Saturday’s bubble action
Mar 8, 2014, 9:38 PM EDT
Creighton’s senior forward scored his 3,000th career point on Saturday night. Only seven other players have reached that total.
Mar 8, 2014, 9:24 PM EDT
Get to know the second entry into the 2014 NCAA Tournament field, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:49 PM EDT
No. 3 Arizona hasn’t been the best perimeter shooting team, but they’ve been able to make up for that on most days. That wasn’t the case against Oregon, and the struggles of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Gabe York didn’t help either.
Mar 8, 2014, 7:09 PM EDT
Texas A&M celebrated Senior Day on Saturday and it included honoring former high school signee Tobi Oyedeji, who was tragically killed in a car accident in 2010 and never played for the school.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:45 PM EDT
Oregon wins its seventh straight, and the Ducks likely punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament with the win over No. 3 Arizona.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
No. 19 UConn has struggled to crack 70 points during a recent six-game stretch and it could lead to an early exit for the Huskies in the postseason.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:01 PM EDT
The top seed in next week’s American Athletic Conference was determined by an old school method Saturday afternoon.
Mar 8, 2014, 6:00 PM EDT
The Shockers are now one step closer to entering Selection Sunday undefeated.
Mar 8, 2014, 5:06 PM EDT
As Louisville sophomore forward Montrezl Harrell puts up huge numbers against great competition in the last few weeks are the Cardinals a threat to make a run at back-to-back national titles?
Mar 8, 2014, 4:14 PM EDT
No. 16 Iowa State comes from 16 points back to beat Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State, but even with the loss, the Cowboys looked even more dangerous. Read why.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:34 PM EDT
No. 8 Kansas fell on the road to West Virginia on Saturday, but the Jayhawks will take the loss knowing that the superstar version of Andrew Wiggins might have finally come to life.
Mar 8, 2014, 3:21 PM EDT
Just how concerned should we be by Kentucky’s struggles over the last two weeks?
Mar 8, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT
Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart has developed a reputation for flopping this season. Don’t, for a second, think that opposing student sections haven’t noticed.
- Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood score 54 in No. 4 Duke’s win over No. 14 UNC 0
- Bubble Banter: Oregon, Tennessee headline Saturday’s early winners 0
- Creighton’s Doug McDermott scores his 3,000th point (VIDEO) 0
- Oregon’s big win over No. 3 Arizona caps impressive regular season turnaround 1
- No. 8 Kansas loses, but The Andrew Wiggins Show is what’s important 1
- No. 1 Florida’s undefeated SEC season not just a by-product of their league 5
- Harvard wraps up third consecutive NCAA tournament berth (VIDEO) 0
- No. 7 Syracuse falls to Georgia Tech in a shocking home loss (9)
- College Basketball Talk’s latest Top 25 (6)
- Assigned Reading: Dean Smith’s health continues to deteriorate (6)
- For the first time in months, No. 22 Michigan State and Keith Appling look healthy (6)
- Bracketology: Eight teams in play for No. 1 seeds (6)