Yes, I understand that he has only played in a handful of games this season and that when he has, the game has largely been already decided. But when you really look at it, he might hold the key to a deep tournament run.
Of the first two reserves to see nightly action, only one – Deshaun Thomas – is actually a reserve. I basically consider Aaron Craft a starter at this point because he plays the minutes of a starter and essentially is a member of the starting lineup. Thomas is clearly the sixth man even if the numbers do not add up.
On any given night, those two players plus the five starters are guaranteed at least some action. The rest of the bench is up for debate. That is why it is vital that Sibert continue to progress as a player.
There will come a time when the Buckeyes are going to need him. It might not be on a nightly basis, but it will be in an important situation. When foul trouble rears its head or someone turns an ankle, suddenly he is right in the mix. And when he is inserted into a Big Ten road game with the final outcome in doubt, head coach Thad Matta is going to need to be able to count on the freshman.
After the Western Carolina game, Sibert and Matta both said the main thing the freshman needs to do to state his case for playing time is elevate his game on the defensive end. It came against inferior competition, but Sibert did come up with two steals against the Catamounts and had his hands on another pass or two.
It is a step in the right direction for the Cincinnati native, and a positive one for an OSU team with growing Final Four expectations.
I think … that although we knew the offseason wrist surgery Lenzelle Smith underwent would set him back, I guess I did not realize that it would set him back this far.
The freshman was expected to be one candidate to help at the point guard position but instead he is clearly behind his teammates at this point. With the Buckeyes en route to a 17-point halftime lead against a team that was clearly overmatched, Smith did not sniff any playing time until less than 10 minutes remained in the contest.
It is hard to get a good read on where Smith is without being able to watch practice. His limited action this season has come in garbage time, but I have liked some of the flashes of ball-handling I have seen out of him. He's a little shifty and clearly has talent buried inside his 6-3, 210-pound frame.
It just might not be until next season that we really get to see it.
I think … that trying to draw too many other conclusions from this win would be folly at best.
The best thing to come out of the game for the Buckeyes is the fact that they came out hot and immediately dispatched any thoughts of the upset. They did not commit a first-half turnover and they shot 51.9 percent from the field, all good signs for the offense.
Frankly, I was stunned to see that Western Carolina had out-rebounded OSU by a 39-26 margin. I figured that the Buckeyes had not won that battle, but I did not think it was that decisive. To me, the stat is a little deceiving.
Yes, OSU was clearly beaten to the glass on some possessions. After the game, freshman Jared Sullinger said the team simply was not committed enough to attacking the glass. However, I think the fact that the Catamounts were forced into a number of ugly shots that worked against OSU's favor when it came to rebounding them because they came off at crazy angles.
In other words, the performance should be something Matta can use as a motivator for the next game rather than a cause for concern.