Buckeyes' home struggles beg legitimacy questions

Three questions regarding the latest AP Men’s Basketball Rankings:

What to make of the Mountain West Conference?

The top of the Mountain West Conference has been a revolving door for weeks.  San Diego State, UNLV, and most recently New Mexico have fought for supremacy in the conference. All three teams are sitting on 8-4 conference records and all three have six losses on the season (UNLV has played two more games than the other two, giving them two more wins on the year). Regular season supremacy could fall right into the lap of the Lobos. After dropping games at Colorado State and at Texas Christian this week, the Lobos have the pleasure of facing basement-dwellers Air Force and Boise State at home. Even for an erratic team, New Mexico should be able to handle those two opponents. UNLV, currently the highest ranked Mountain West team, has to deal with Colorado State on the  road this week before facing a formidable Wyoming team at home. If UNLV is really as good as their ranking implies, they should be able to win both games. Finally, San Diego State finds itself in a precarious position. The Aztecs do get to face Boise State, albeit on the road, but also have to travel to TCU, who is 7-5 in the conference. TCU has already defeated both New Mexico and UNLV at home, as well as Colorado State. New Mexico and UNLV should share the regular season title, but the conference tournament should be a very exciting one to watch. All of UNLV, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, and Colorado State could win the tournament, and for TCU and Colorado State, that could be the only way to make it to the big dance. All of these teams will have major tests in the near future.

Are Syracuse and Kentucky a class of their own?

While both Kentucky and Syracuse boast one-loss records while the rest of the Top 25, excluding Murray State, features at least four setbacks, the two schools aren’t in the same class as each other. Kentucky has cruised past every test thrown at them, except for that miracle victory at the buzzer for Indiana at Indiana. Kentucky has knocked off then No. 5 UNC, then No. 11 Kansas on a neutral site, then No. 4 Louisville, then No. 7 Florida, by a whopping 20, and formerly ranked Vanderbilt (twice) and Mississippi State. Kentucky will cement their high ranking if they are able to defeat Florida down in Gainesville this weekend. Meanwhile, Syracuse hasn’t had the same rigor as Kentucky. Syracuse does have its major victories though, defeating then No. 9 Florida (by four rather than 20), then No. 20 Marquette (again by single digits), then No. 11 Georgetown (in overtime), and then No. 18 Louisville on the road (by one). Syracuse has a very important game against No. 18 Louisville at home. A win will go a long way in separating them from the rest of the pack, but a loss will make it even more believable that the next tier, including Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan State, and Missouri, aren’t that far below Syracuse.

How good is Ohio State after Jared Sullinger?

Jared Sullinger is an elite big man in college basketball. But are his teammates good enough to make the Buckeyes a tournament threat? Senior William Buford and sophomore Deshaun Thomas have proven to be scorers as well, each averaging 15.1 points a contest. Aaron Craft’s play has been noteworthy, with 4.6 assists and 2.3 steals per game, the latter being tops in the Big Ten. Since the issue isn’t supporting cast, the issue must lie with the team play.  Most notably, Ohio State is eighth out of 12 in free throw percentage, shooting just 69.7% from the stripe, in the Big 10. That results in Ohio State giving away about seven points per game form the free throw line. What’s more, Ohio State has considerable issues with long-range shooting. The Buckeyes are just ninth in the Big Ten in three-point percentage, shooting just 33.3%. After further digging, Ohio State doesn’t lead their own conference in any category. Can Ohio State really be considered a title contender when they aren’t even leading their own conference in any statistical category?  The Buckeyes' performance in the Big Ten tournament will go a long way in determining the answer to this pivotal question.


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