Sean Harrington Insider: How to beat Ohio State
Each week through the basketball season, former Illini and current BTN analyst Sean Harrington will break down the Big Ten — and provide a scouting report on a critical upcoming game. NOTE: Sean will call Sunday's Wisconsin-Penn State game (11 a.m., BTN); also, follow him on Twitter at @smharrington24:
Indiana (25-5, 13-4)
■ The Hoosiers are Big Ten champs, but will they win it outright?
Michigan (25-5, 12-5)
■ The Wolverines are Big Ten champs with a win against Indiana on Sunday.
Michigan State (23-7, 12-5)
■ The Spartans need to beat Northwestern at home and then cheer for the rival Wolverines.
Ohio State (22-7, 12-5)
■ If the Buckeyes beat the Illini, they have to cheer for their rivals to beat Indiana to get a share of the title.
Wisconsin (20-10, 11-6)
■ The Badgers might finish one game out of first and finish fifth in the conference.
Illinois (21-10, 8-9)
■ The Illini look to spoil the Buckeyes’ celebration while trying to improve their tournament seed.
Minnesota (20-10, 8-9)
■ The Gophers continued to struggle on the road, with a loss to Nebraska.
Iowa (19-11, 8-9)
■ The Hawkeyes still have life. Beat Nebraska, get to Final Four of the Big Ten tourney and they might be dancing.
Purdue (14-16, 7-10)
■ The Boilermakers pulled the upset in Madison and almost shocked the Wolverines in the same week.
Nebraska (14-16, 5-12)
■ Tim Miles has done a great job with this group of Cornhuskers this season.
Northwestern (13-17, 4-13)
■ Injuries have made it a long season for the Wildcats.
Penn State (10-19, 2-15)
■ The Nittany Lions are playing their best ball of the season, winning two of their last three.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Aaron Craft, Ohio State
Went for 15 points, four assists and four rebounds in the Buckeyes’ monster win at Indiana. Craft made big plays and hit huge shots down the stretch.
Before every game the coaches present players with scouting reports on the opposing team. The reports expose the tendencies of the opposition and highlight effective strategies to win. This is not the real scouting report; it is my own analysis of Illinois’ strategies for defeating Ohio State (11:30 a.m. Sunday, ESPN).
Personnel (top eight players)
#1 Deshaun Thomas
Not shooting the ball well lately. Lefty. Shoots a lot of threes. Will set ball screens and pop for three. They will back screen him into the post. Likes to score over his right shoulder in the post. Will force some shots. Can get frustrated. Don’t let him get his confidence. Contest all shots. Block him out at all times. Make him score over his left shoulder in the post. Pressure him on the perimeter.
#32 Lenzelle Smith Jr.
Lefty. Good three-point shooter. Really stepped up his scoring. Almost half his shots are threes. Can get hot from three. Good athlete and runs the floor hard. Hits the boards well for a guard. Crowd him on the perimeter. Make him put the ball on the floor to create a shot. Force him right on the drive. Find him in transition. Box him out.
#10 LaQuinton Ross
Long athlete. Will get to the offensive glass. Puts up quick shots from anywhere. Can drive to the rim. Decent midrange game. Contest his shot. Pressure him on the perimeter, he will turn it over. Find him in transition. Force him left on the drive.
#4 Aaron Craft
Has taken over in late-game situations. Smart, steady point guard. Really pressures on defense. Good shooter with time. Looks to pass first, shoot second. Has been getting to the rim well lately. Slow him down in transition. Make him finish; don’t leave your man to double him. Keep him in front of you. Protect the ball around him. Don’t pressure him.
#12 Sam Thompson
Great athlete. Runs the floor really well. Hits the boards hard. Average shooter with time. Box out at all times. Find him early in transition. Don’t fly out at him, make him make a few first. Make him drive left. Be aware of lob plays for him, especially from baseline out of bounds.
#3 Shannon Scott
Capable of having a big game. Really pushes the ball well in transition. Wants to drive first and shoot second. Much better driving right than left. Second on team in steals. Slow him down in transition. Make him drive left. Close out on the shot but know he wants to drive. Protect the ball around him.
#30 Evan Ravenel
Big, strong body. Posts up hard.Wants to score over his left shoulder in the post. Will ball screen and dive. Box him out. Make him score in the post using his left hand. Push him off the block. He needs an angle to score.
#23 Amir Williams
Very strong and athletic. Great shot blocker. Scores around the rim. Prefers to use his right hand at the basket. Box him out at all times. Make him score over you. Make him use his left hand around the rim.
KEYS TO THE GAME
✓ Take away transition baskets
✓ Be mentally ready for a 40-minute game
Keys to stopping Ohio State
Be ready to match the Buckeyes’ energy at the start of the game. Make Ohio State play a halfcourt game. Use a bumper to slow down Craft and Scott in the backcourt. Find the wings early in transition; they run hard to the corners. Ohio State will set a lot of ball screens. When the ball screen is set high on the floor, the guard should go under the screen so the big doesn’t have to help. If the ball screen is set in the scoring areas, it is good to switch 1-4. Guard Thomas with a smaller player. He struggles when a quicker defender is on him. When he posts up the smaller guard, send a trap with a post player to force the ball back out. Ohio State loves to set multiple screens for Thomas on each possession. Guards are more used to getting through these actions. On baseline out of bounds the Buckeyes will run a double/double screen with Thomas being the second cutter for the shot. You must be ready to match how physical Ohio State will play. Make the Buckeyes work hard on the offensive end. They usually only play eight guys, and they can wear down at the end of games, causing their shots to come up short. A 2-3 zone can be used occasionally to disrupt rhythm, but you must box out in the zone.
Keys to scoring on Ohio State
It will be very important to get a good look at the rim every trip down the floor. Ohio State is primarily a man-to-man team. The Buckeyes like to pressure the guards. Smith and Thompson are very good at getting into the passing lanes so make good passes around them. They can be beat backdoor. Craft and Scott really pressure the ball handler. You must protect the ball around them. Use a “crack back,” which is a big man setting a ball screen in the backcourt on the guard to release pressure. Thomas can be lazy on defense at times. Use him in a lot of ball screens. Ohio State likes to force side ball screens to the baseline. There are two ways to beat this. First is to have the guard reject the screen and beat the big on the baseline to the basket. The other way is to pop or slip the big, setting the ball screen to the top. Here he will have an open shot or an angle to drive to the lane to make a play. Ohio State can be beat in transition. Because they attack the boards, the Buckeyes don’t get back on defense every time.