Greetings Hoops Fans, this is Dave Horning with a review of the Ohio State Buckeyes loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the second round on the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 17th, 2018 – Final Score: Ohio State 84  Gonzaga 90.  There is no joy in Mudville, the Mighty Casey has struck out.  The loss ends the Buckeyes season and propels Gonzaga into the Sweet Sixteen.

It has taken me awhile to post this podcast, because I was not taking notes when I was watching the game – I had friends over watching it with me and I was totally absorbed by the game – very disheartened at first when the Buckeyes fell behind 15 to 0, but thrilled when the Buckeyes came back and actually took the lead in the second half.  I watched the game again last night so I could collect my thoughts before this podcast.

This was a game we could have won, but I can’t say that we should have won.  Gonzaga is a solid team with solid players.  Many people, including myself, expected Gonzaga to make a run deep into the NCAAs.  However, in the following Tuesday practice, Gonzaga’s 6’ 10” Starting Power Forward/Center Killian Tillie injured his right hip and was unable to play.  At the time I am recording this podcast, it is already known that Gonzaga lost its next game in the Sweet Sixteen to Florida State by the score of 75 to 60, and it was obvious that Gonzaga had no chance against the tall and physical Seminoles without Tillie.  When 6-10 Tillie and 6-8 Rui Hachimura were on the court, Gonzaga was imposing against the Buckeyes.  Gonzaga’s Starting Center, 6-9 Senior Johnathan Williams played only 19 minutes against the Buckeyes and was not as effective on offense as Rui Hachimura was.  Hachimura came off the bench and played 25 minutes and scored 25 points against the Buckeyes, compared to just 9 points for Williams.

The game started out with the Buckeyes winning the opening tip, but the first 9 possessions resulted in zero points.  Here is a summary of the first 9 possessions:

1 – Tate’s high bank shot off the glass rolls around and around and out – ouch
2 – Jackson’s relatively easy layup is inexplicably missed – double ouch
3 – Turnover – darn it!
4 – Offensive foul on Kaleb Wesson – double darn it!
5 – Keita Bates-Diop finally gets the ball, but has to create his own shot and travels
6 – Kaleb Wesson misses a bunny – ouch
7 – Tate’s excellent drive is denied and his shot is blocked off the backboard – darn it!
8 – CJ misses a 3-point attempt

Timeout Ohio State.  Score: Ohio State 0  Gonzaga 13

9 – Take 1 – Keita drives in the lane and is fouled – again, having to make his own offense.  Buckeyes retain the ball.
9 – Take 2 – Micah Potter missed shot

It was frustrating that Keita Bates-Diop was not getting the touches on the ball that he deserved.

10 – Tate hits a 3-point shot as the shot clock is about to expire – drought ends – the Buckeyes go the first 5 minutes without basket.
Score: Ohio State 3  Gonzaga 15.

However, to this team’s great credit, they never gave up.  Everyone will remember the comeback.  Keita Bates-Diop started to get untracked and scored 14 points over the rest of the half.  With 3:17 to go in the half, the Buckeyes made the prettiest basket of the year and reminded us all why we loved this team so much – Andre Wesson made a great back-door pass to the driving Kam Williams who resisted the temptation to force the shot and instead drove under the basket and passed to Jae’Sean Tate for the easy bunny.  It was a great play and epitomizes why I loved this team.

Gonzaga led 44-33 at half-time and Charles Barkley gave the Buckeyes no chance to get to 75 points.  With Barkley’s bracket predictions in the tank, it was a hopeful sign.  Whatever Barkley is predicting, bet the opposite.   Coach Holtmann was quoted at halftime as saying the Buckeyes had the jitters in the first half – and the shooting statistics showed it – Gonzaga shot 58% to the Buckeyes 39%.  Coach Holtmann must have said something at halftime that calmed the Buckeyes down and appealed to their toughness … the never give up attitude of this team.

The second half started with Gonzaga returning to their starting lineup, which meant that Rui Hachimura, who has scored 13 points in the first half, was sitting the bench … and he sat for the first 5 minutes of the second half.  The Buckeyes made a strong run to start the second half, with CJ Jackson and Kam Williams both making 3-point shots on the Buckeyes first two possessions.  Three minutes into the second half, Ohio State had cut the lead to 46-49, and Gonzaga Coach Mark Few kept Hachimura on the bench. Unbelievable.  Kaleb Wesson was playing well and the Buckeyes were not being pushed around.

But this was a game where the breaks weren’t going Ohio State’s way.  About a minute later, Kaleb Wesson made a nice steal, and the two Buckeyes going for the loose ball knocked it into Gonzaga’s hands, and Kaleb Wesson fouled during the Gonzaga transition offense to pick up his third foul.  He would pick up his fourth foul less than a minute later, and the Buckeyes would have to play most of the second half without Kaleb Wesson.  In fact, Kaleb Wesson only played 12 minutes the entire game because of foul trouble.  This is the number 2 priority for Kaleb Wesson in the off-season – learning to defend without fouling – the number 1 priority remains the continued strong and positive effort to improve conditioning.

It just seemed that Ohio State couldn’t get a break all game – the early layups that rolled around and out, the Kaleb Wesson fouls, calling a time out and then turning the ball over on the inbounds in the second half, and the biggest unlucky break of all – with 3:45 left in the game, and the Buckeyes down by just 3, the Buckeyes were playing strong defense and forced Rui Hachimaura to take a heavily contested 3-point shot – he had only made 4 the entire season – but he made this one  … it seemed that the Buckeyes just could not get a break …. until it was too late – with 27 seconds left, the Buckeyes were given credit for forcing a turnover when it appeared that Andrew Dakich had last touched the ball.  The only break we got all game. The Buckeyes did not give up, and battled back again and again … including a great hustle play by Mussa Jallow with a minute left to play when he stole the ball on an inbounds play with the Buckeyes down by just 8.

Nevertheless, I must give Gonzaga credit for this victory – they played like a champion – when Keita Bates-Diop made that great 3-point shot with 6 minutes left to put Ohio State up by 67 to 62, they responded – Gonzaga’s Zach Norvell, Jr. made a 3-point shot less than 10 seconds later to cut the lead back to just 2.  It was great back-and-forth action, and Keita took another 3-point attempt a few seconds later and missed, and then Gonzaga went on to an 11-0 run that included that impossible 3 by Rui Hachimura.  I loved that Keita was looking for the ball and wanted to shoot.   We all wish that it had gone in.

Down the stretch, Gonzaga made their free throws, and the Buckeyes could not catchup.  Keita Bates-Diop made a nice 3-point shot to end the game – showing great form as he jumped up and towards the basket ala Kam Williams from 40 feet out – it reminded me of the basket he made against Penn State at home in the final seconds to tie the game.  Keita finished with 28 points, shooting 4 of 9 on his 3-point shots for 44%.  I wish the Buckeyes and Keita had worked to get him more 3-point shots.  Kam Williams was also solid scoring 19 points and making 3 of 6 3-point shots.  CJ Jackson and Jae’Sean Tate were also solid scoring in double figures, but Kaleb Wesson was held to just 3 points and the bench contributed just 5 points.

Final Score: Ohio State 84  Gonzaga 90.

The Buckeyes end the season with a record of 25 wins against 9 losses and will be ranked in the Top Twenty-Five in every poll.  They finish the Big Ten Conference with a record of 15 wins and 3 losses – tied for 2nd with Purdue.  They won their first round NCAA game over South Dakota State.  Keita Bates-Diop wins the Big Ten Player of the Year, and Coach Chris Holtmann wins the Big Ten Coach of the Year.  Stay tuned for more awards.

It was a great season that exceeded expectations.  Buckeyes fans are already eager to consider the next year.

But the big question remains: will Keita Bates-Diop leave for eht pros or return for his last year of eligibility?

Let’s discuss this matter in depth.

Most people are saying that he will leave, and if I were to place a bet, that might be the smart bet.  Nevertheless, here is my plea to Keita:

Keita, Come Back!

Your future in the NBA will be at the Number 2 position – Shooting Guard.  Even though you are 6’ 7” tall, you are too small to play Center or Forward in the NBA.

So, I recommend that you negotiate with Coach Holtmann a deal that would allow you to play the #2 position – Shooting Guard – next season for Ohio State.

With CJ Jackson returning at the Number 1 – the Point Guard position – and Kam Williams graduating, this position is open.

If you come back next year, and Coach Holtmann agrees to let you play shooting guard, then you will improve your stock so that you will be able to be a lottery pick draft and make an NBA roster in October 2019 – you will improve your shooting percentage and learn to shoot from 3 feet beyond the college 3-point arc – like Shep Garner of Penn State did.

In the 2015-16 season, you shot 111 3-point attempts and made 36 for 32%.  This past season, you shot 184 3-point attempts and made 66 for 36%.  If you come back next year and improve another 4%, you will make over 40% of your 3-point shots and your draft stock will shoot up to the lottery-pick level.  And, your form is improving.  You are getting better. Kam Williams made 45% of his 3-point shots this year, and that is achievable goal for you next year.

Your future in the NBA is at Shooting Guard, and you will need to make a high percentage of 3- point shots.   You need to improve your form and learn to go straight up when shooting the 3-point attempt.  The fade-away jumper is fine when time is expiring on the shot clock and there is no other option.

If you come back, Ohio State will have CJ Jackson to play Point Guard, Kaleb Wesson at Center, move Micah Potter to #4, the Power Forward position  (because he has an outside shot and he is not a Center), and , finally, Andre Wesson at #3 – Shooting Forward – that is a great lineup that will win – and winning will take care of everything – you can just concentrate on improving your form and your percentage.  You will not have to carry the team next year.  The new recruits can compete and make the lineup even better.

Keita – here is your choice – get drafted this year – go to camp, have a few months to improve and make 40% of your 3-point shots from behind the NBA 3-point line – OR – come back for your senior year, and have an entire year to practice getting your 3-point shot up to the 40% level.  Either way, you will eventually face the most severe test of your life  – going to NBA camp and showing that you can make 40% of your 3-point shots from behind the NBA 3-point arc, which is 23 feet 9 inches instead of the college 3-point arc of 20 feet 9 inches.

I recommend that you postpone taking this test for a year so that you can improve your shot percentage, which improves your odds of making an NBA roster coming out of camp from 20% this year to 80% next year.

In his junior year, Kam Williams made 38% of his 3-point shots.  A year later, he had improved to 45%.  There is a lot you could learn from Kam Williams.

Come back, Keita and raise your stock to the lottery pick level and improve your chances of making an NBA roster coming out of training camp.  That is the ultimate goal – to be playing in the NBA in October 2019 – 80% probability if you come back next year – 20% if you leave this year.