Although the opponent on the court would obviously not be mistaken for a world-beater, what Buford did for Ohio State against Texas-San Antonio – especially in the early going – was impressive. The junior scored his team's first seven points, had 15 of OSU's first 25 points and showed lots of fire at both ends of the court.
Personally, I was most impressed with his resolve to atone for a mistake. With his team ahead 23-15, Buford turned the ball over on the offensive end. As UTSA tried to complete an inbounds pass, Buford pressured the Roadrunner player all the way down the court as he tried to retrieve the ball. The result was a turnover, and Buford hit a jumper at the other end to push the lead to double digits.
That reminded me of Michael Conley during his lone season in Columbus. After a turnover, the guard would often go to the other end and nab the ball himself. Now, much like Conley, Buford could be in position to play himself into a high draft pick if he continues to play well on college basketball's biggest stage.
Aside from all the questions about whether he will be able to make an immediate impact or not, the question of team chemistry comes into play as well. Buford is close with Jon Diebler, David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale. Those are his guys. There is something to be said about going out when they do.
That kind of bond has pushed football players to the NFL early. Guys such as Brian Hartline and Donald Washington left the program in part because they were closer to the graduating seniors than they were the underclassmen. The thought of being "the guy" on a primarily young team did not appeal to them.
I really like Will as a player, and away from the court he has always been extremely friendly and polite. He has grown more comfortable with the media as his career has continued and emerged as an underrated quote in an open locker room.
That being said, it would be a stretch for me to picture Buford as the vocal, emotional leader for this team as the lone senior next season.
Enjoy him while he's here, folks, because I have a pretty good hunch it will not be for much longer.
I think … that it was good to see David Lighty get things going offensively.
Eight points on 3 of 5 shooting is normally not much to write home about, but Buford's emergence as of late has helped push Lighty to the background of OSU's offensive focus. To his credit, the fifth-year senior has not forced things and instead has been more than happy to concentrate his efforts on the defensive end.
But when Lighty reminds teams that he can be an offensive threat, it just makes OSU so much more difficult to defend. One of the OSU writers was seated next to a George Mason quote, and after Lighty hit a three-pointer the coach asked, "Lighty can shoot, too?"
He's no Diebler, but yes, he can shoot too, and when he hits a few it provides such a boost to the Buckeyes.
I think … that head coach Thad Matta has to be lauded for getting his reserves some extensive action in the second half.
One of the chief criticisms of the job the coach has done this season has been his reluctance to use his bench. I do feel there have been times like the game against UTSA where young players could have earned some key minutes without hurting anything, and it was nice to see those substitutions made this time.
I have not been worried about Matta overexerting his players. Rather, you'd hate to see an injury happen to a key starter in the final moments of a game already well in hand.
Matta even burned a timeout with 1:27 remaining to get walk-on Eddie Days into the contest. Great moves all around.
I think … that while there were a number of things to quibble about that, if extrapolated, could spell problems against a better team, there is not much to complain about with this win.
Yes, the Buckeyes got beaten off the dribble a few times. Yes, they had a lapse or two defensively and yes, they let the Roadrunners hang around for a few moments. However, one of these teams played two days ago and the other played five days earlier, and it showed.
The NCAA Tournament jitters are out of the way and the Buckeyes now turn their focus to their next opponent. One down, five more to go.