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Commentary: Opposing coaches paint picture of uncertain Ohio State men’s basketball

In college basketball, and, perhaps, college sports in general, it’s the coaches from the smaller and less-known schools that are the most candid, and maybe the most truthful, too.

It can be interesting and fun to hear a re-telling of the team you pay attention to through the mouth of opposing coaches.

For Ohio State men’s basketball, the two coaches to most recently oppose the Buckeyes on the hardwood are the only two that have gotten it correct in their recounting of OSU hoops. The next two coaches after them could complete the picture of Buckeyes basketball in 2012.

OSU’s season began with an 82-60 win against the Albany Great Danes. Albany coach Will Brown provided a season’s worth of lavish praise and hyperbole in the game by lauding OSU’s depth as well as starting junior guard Aaron Craft.

“My guys go to McDonald’s to eat, they (OSU) have McDonald’s All-Americans coming off the bench,” Brown said of OSU’s depth before moving discussing Craft.

“He’s (Craft) going to be in the NBA for 10 years, I’m sure,” Brown said.

As the season has gone along, OSU has continued to receive acclaim for its convincing wins.

The University of Kansas City-Missouri came to the Schottenstein Center on Nov. 23 and was sent packing with a 91-45 loss. Afterward, UMKC coach Matt Brown simply said that OSU is “a terrific team.”

It would be fair to say that OSU was at least a somewhat unknown commodity prior to its first true non-conference test of the year at Duke on Nov. 28. The 73-68 loss at a rowdy Cameron Indoor Stadium was a kind of reassurance that the Buckeyes could hold their own against top competition.

Upon returning home, OSU greeted more mediocre teams. The first was Northern Kentucky, another inferior out-of-conference foe that the Buckeyes throttled and in turn had more praise heaped upon them.

Following his team’s 70-43 loss, Northern Kentucky coach Dave Bezold said it was a “great experience” for his players to just be on the same floor with the Buckeyes.

“It is an absolutely tremendous opportunity for us to play with one of the most historical teams in the country,” Bezold said. “It is a special moment for our kids to be on this floor and play against such a great program.”

Relative to other coaches that came to The Schott and were dealt a swift defeat, Savannah State coach Horace Broadnax was calculated in his post game remarks after the Buckeyes beat his Tigers, 85-45 on Wednesday.

Broadnax had plenty to say about the game, but what stuck out was that he stopped at saying OSU was decent. That was it, nothing more.

In OSU’s next game, all visiting UNC-Asheville did in its 90-72 loss on Saturday was end the Buckeyes’ streak of 14 consecutive non-conference home wins by at least 20 points. By comparison, Duke lost by 22 points last season at The Schott.

Asheville coach Eddie Biedenbach also had measured praise for OSU, stating that he thinks fellow Big Ten team Indiana still plays harder than the Buckeyes.

“I think Ohio State is one of the top 6 teams in the country, it’s a little early talent wise,” Biedenbach said. “Indiana… I don’t think they’re more talented than Ohio State – I think they play harder.”

After seven games, and a flatbed truck’s worth of homage paid to OSU coach Thad Matta’s program by opposing coaches, Broadnax and Biedenbach finally arrived at the accurate depiction of Buckeyes basketball – the jury’s still out about this team.

If there is such a thing as a decent, or “blah” No. 7-ranked squad, OSU has to be that, as Broadnax said. And like Biedenbach said, OSU is a top team in the country and in the Big Ten, but, unlike last season’s Final Four team, there appears to be a gulf between America’s very best squads and the Buckeyes.

The 2012 Buckeyes haven’t been tested with the frequency of the 2011 team, which played Florida in the second game of the season before hosting Duke in game No. 7. It certainly hasn’t been as successful either: The 2011 Buckeyes won both of those games whereas the 2012 Buckeyes came close at Duke and the team is now receiving only lukewarm praise from coaches of the mid-majors it beats soundly. 

Next up is Winthrop, which upset Ohio University this past weekend, and Saturday is OSU’s marquee non-conference home match against Kansas. A win against Kansas changes the trajectory for the Buckeyes, or at least the outside perception of that trajectory. 

Two losses in the big non-conference games doesn’t necessarily condemn OSU to a failed season, and certainly doesn’t rule the team out from a deep NCAA Tournament run. However, there was something about the way OSU fought for a win in a tight game against Florida last season, and then the way it cruised past Duke, that seemed to announce its intentions and demand recognition. 

Two losses against Duke and Kansas this year? That only seems to demand recognition as a team that isn’t quite ready. So, listen to what Kansas coach Bill Self has to say after Saturday’s game – depending on the outcome and how the game goes down, you’ll likely hear comments that complete the picture of the 2012 Buckeyes. 

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