It all starts with junior guard Evan Turner, obviously. Head coach Thad Matta said Turner put forth the best individual performance in Big Ten tournament history, and that point would be hard to argue. In three games, Turner averaged 26.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.7 assists while leading his team to the title.
His play has been nothing short of unbelievable. Despite having committed a season-high 10 turnovers in one of those games, Turner's command of the basketball has been fun to watch. It's hard to pick one big play aside from the 37-foot jumper that beat Michigan that defined the weekend for him, but there wasn't much else Turner could have done to will his team to victory.
He got plenty of help, and we saw that when OSU seized control in the second half against Minnesota. In the decisive 23-5 run, junior forward David Lighty had nine, Turner had eight and junior guard Jon Diebler had six. Conspicuously absent from those totals is sophomore guard William Buford, who joined Turner and Lighty on the all-tournament team.
That's right: while going on a 23-5 run, one of the most valuable members of the team did not score a single point. That is an offense that should scare opponents in the NCAA Tournament.
During that run, Lighty had one of the most impressive personal runs I've ever seen. Slashing the basket with wild abandon, he connected on three consecutive driving layups, each of which drew more applause from the mostly pro-OSU crowd. Matta said that stretch rivaled anything Turner did during the weekend.
The Buckeyes should break 100 points against their first-round opponent unless UC Santa Barbara holds the ball.
And as for rest … I don't think this team needs rest.
It's been a rough season for Hill. Normally I'd have been against seeing the Buckeyes attacking the basket in the final minute of play when the final outcome is already well decided, but Hill deserved those points against Minnesota.
I talked to him after the game, and he's not happy about his fate this season but he's playing the good soldier as the Buckeyes make their run. After all he's been through, Hill deserves any points he can come across – regardless of the score.
I think … that I was impressed with the defense of both Buford and Diebler during the weekend.
Watch the tape for the final seconds against Michigan and Illinois. Who was guarding Manny Harris and Demetri McCamey down the stretch? It was Diebler and not Lighty, who is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the league.
Granted, Harris hit his shot, but the Buckeyes were switching on all screens and the shot came against junior center Dallas Lauderdale, who still did a good job of contesting it. Diebler must have something in his game that has shown the coaches that he can be a guy who can be leaned upon down the stretch.
Likewise, Buford is no longer the defensive liability he was for large portions of last season. Last year, he said his goal was to be named the Big Ten's defensive player of the year. I asked him about his improved defensive abilities, and OSU fans will like this response.
"I'm still not getting any respect as a defender, but hopefully next year when I come back I'll get defensive player of the year," he said. "I'll keep working hard and guard the best players on the floor."
It's early for quotes like that, but I figured I'd pass it along anyway.
I think … that although Lauderdale looked spotty at best during the tournament, you have to happy with how Kyle Madsen played. The senior spelled Lauderdale for large stretches of each of the three games and proved to be a fully serviceable member of the team.
He's not the prototypical sixth man – or the prototypical Big Ten center – but Madsen showed great tenacity attacking the boards this weekend and was an overall bright spot. It's not a deep bench, but there is some talent there.