The Buckeyes are going to have to pick up the slack offensively from a number of different avenues, and Buford is the player I feel is most capable of shouldering a greater scoring burden.
Against Butler, the sophomore showed the most confidence he has had in his game at any point this season. He was active on offense, drawing contact and going to the line. My favorite moment of his came in the first half with the Buckeyes trailing by 10 and the game in danger of slipping out of range.
On the right baseline, Buford leaped, drew the contact and made the basket. As soon as the basket went in, he yelled and showed plenty of emotion to help fire up his teammates.
Looking across the roster, I am not sure I see too many players from whom who I can reasonably expect a significant jump in production.
I thought that expecting any more out of Jon Diebler prior to the injury was unrealistic, as his 18 points a game were as much as one can expect out of a shooter. I don't see David Lighty as a guy who can put up 20 points a game, and it's hard to expect a lot of offense out of Dallas Lauderdale – although I will say the junior center is making progress.
Seniors Jeremie Simmons and P.J. Hill will have to chip in more points as well, but I'm not sure they can. Simmons gets my vote for the most improved player since last season hands down, and I really like the way he is playing right now. However, I am wary of asking a player who never had more than two consecutive double-digit scoring efforts last season to increase his production this season even more.
As for Hill, I'm not sure you can ever know what he will bring on a given night. I do feel comfortable in saying that he will not put up 18 points like he did against Eastern Michigan, but OSU simply can not afford for him to go scoreless like he did against the Bulldogs.
Kyle Madsen is the final player seeing consistent playing time, and for all his effort we are not going to see a major scoring increase from the senior. This leaves Buford as the player whose scoring average is going to have the best chance of climbing while Turner heals.
Of course, it will not have to climb exceptionally high if head coach Thad Matta can find a way to get an extra bucket out of every single one of the aforementioned players on a game-by-game basis.
I think … it is obvious what teams are going to do defensively now against the Buckeyes, and I would not want to be Jon Diebler during this time period. He is going to have to fight, scrap and claw for every point he gets until Turner returns because he is the type of player who can not easily create his own shot.
This is going to be a frustrating time period for him. His lone three-pointer came with less than two minutes remaining against Butler, and the scouting report is out there now on how to contain Diebler. The more teams are able to focus on him, the less likely it is that he will be able to get many – if any – open looks.
I felt that he had made progress driving the basket a season ago, but that has not been evident this season. I'm not sure Diebler will ever be much of a threat to attack the paint, so he is going to have to work even harder to find ways to get open looks against what figures to be the team's best defender.
Of course, there is one positive tradeoff for the Buckeyes in this situation. The attention being paid to Diebler should free things up a little bit for a player like Buford.
The problem is that when Turner was drawing that kind of attention, he was still averaging nearly 20 points a game and Diebler was kicking in 18. How many points will the duo of Diebler/Buford be able to contribute each night?