They went to Jared.
Time and time again, they did. And they will continue to, those Ohio State teammates of Jared Sullinger.
Thirty points, 19 rebounds. He also went 9 for 12 from the foul line. As absurd as the numbers may be on a consistent level — these are becoming Michael Beasly-esque — get used to them. Those were Sullinger's stats against South Carolina from Saturday, as Ohio State improved to 10-0, and with Illinois' bad neutral-court loss to Illinois-Chicago, tilted the conversations of best team and player in the Big Ten to what you see pictured above.
There doesn't seem to be any stopping Sullinger right now. Sure, the Big Ten (which isn't as strong as was expected) season will be a grind; and the 6-9, 280-pound brut may get chopped at incessantly. But, sans injuries, why can't this man in the middle be better for Ohio State than the previous one, Greg Oden, who helped the Buckeyes reach the national title game in 2007?
Reaching a championship game didn't fall on Oden's shoulders just like it won't with Sullinger, but becoming the type of team that can't win five with a legit 5 in the bracket is bred now and built around their ability and destructiveness.
Oden was an offensive liability at times, but was also such a defensive force that it more than balanced out. (And Oden did get tons of easy looks around the rim, naturally.) Sullinger is more well-rounded, even if he doesn't have the blocked-shot rate that Oden did.
But rebounding? BEFORE Saturday's game, Sullinger was grabbing 14.3 percent of his team's chances at an offensive rebound, while snaring the rock off the rim at a 24.7 rate overall. Oden finished at 14.7 and 23.9. (There is a minor sidebar argument to be made that Oden altered many a shot/offense merely with his presence in the paint.)The Bucks' big man is near the top of the Player Effinciency Ratings— and will move up even further after that chart gets updated in the upcoming hours).
Sullinger and Kemba Walker — two players who don't have all that much in common — have far removed themselves from other boys in player-of-the-year discussion and races. As mentioned above, Michael Beasley, who is smaller than Sullinger, had this type of nasty year a couple of seasons back. The precedent has been set in the contemporary era of one-and-done college basketball.
The biggest reason to be optimistic: Ohio State coach Thad Matta is only playing seven guys in meaningful minutes. Knowing that, Sullinger's 28.3 minutes per game is all the more impressive when you see the numbers he's compiling. The big man does not foul with frequency (that means a lot to this team's success, in my opinion), and as Ohio State has to use him more in the next three months, his production is sure to go up as he's asked to play upwards of 30 minutes per game.
It's been great to see what Sullinger can do (40-point games FTW!), but it remains a favorable possibility his numbers become more impressive, even if the level of competition is bound to be more difficult as conference season begins.
- Jared Sullinger
- Greg Oden