As Ohio State went down to the wire against Wisconsin in front of a national television audience, he started with his usual five and substituted predictably during most of the first half. But as time went on, it became clear that Matta had a pretty good idea who was going to be able to contribute against the Badgers and who as not.
That meant P.J. Hill and B.J. Mullens saw the majority of minutes that used to be split with counterparts Jeremie Simmons and Dallas Lauderdale, respectively. Most tellingly, Mullens started the second half of action instead of Lauderdale. That decision could have been made because Mullens had been saddled with foul trouble in the first half, but the fact that he did not come out until less than 10 minutes remained in the second stanza say something to me.
Lauderdale seems to be playing himself out of the rotation as the season goes on. At one point in the final minute, the lone OSU big man on the court was Kyle Madsen, who was in place of Mullens. Tell me that doesn't say something about where Lauderdale is right now.
I think it is becoming more and more evident that Lauderdale's only production for this team comes on defense. But now, I'm not sure that's enough to earn him as many minutes as he was getting. Mullens' improved play is meriting him more time, and that might mean a starting spot eventually – although I personally wouldn't bet on Matta shuffling his starters so late in the season no matter how much sense it might make.
As for Simmons, I think the coaches and players are starting to lose confidence in him. The last time he had a game like this he was able to rebound and be effective in his next outing, so I will be curious to see how he responds this time around. Like Matta said, he's been a winner at every level to this point. Let's see if that track record holds true.
I think … I have been pleasantly surprised by Hill, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.
Hill has been talking all along about how hard he plays and his teammates will always credit his effort when discussing what he brings to the table, but that was never enough to get him any sort of serious playing time until now.
Watching the Wisconsin game, I honestly felt more confident when Hill was in the game than I did when Simmons was in there. Those are words I never thought I would write in my time on this beat, but they are the truth. Hill responded with two assists against one turnovers – one of two players in the game to have more assists than turnovers for the Buckeyes.
Hill has to be the team's most pleasant surprise this season.
I think … you have to start getting concerned with William Buford's legs as the Buckeyes head into their final six regular-season games. The freshman has played admirably throughout his initial go-round in the Big Ten, but his production had dropped off in the second half as of late.
Against Wisconsin, two of Buford's 11 points came in the final 20 minutes. He had seven of the team's first nine points and then was essentially a non-factor for the duration of the game.
A few weeks ago, Matta talked about working with Buford to make sure he's taking proper care of his body to make sure it lasts him down the stretch. Against the Badgers, he was one of three Buckeyes to play all 40 minutes.
I'm not sure how any freshman can be physically equipped to handle that.