COLUMBUS -- The experts all have been wrestling with the subject. Is there a great team in college basketball or just a batch of very, very good ones? Is there a clear-cut No. 1 seed for the upcoming NCAA Tournament or should the committee simply put 'em in a hat, flip a coin, or draw straws?
Ohio State did its part to answer those questions Sunday.
How good were the Buckeyes in a 93-65 rout of Wisconsin, one of two teams to beat OSU earlier in the season?
Well, Jon Diebler, after making a school-record 10 triples last week at Penn State, was 7-of-8 from beyond the arc Sunday and then apologized to his teammates.
"My bad for missing," he said after a 27-point, six-rebound outing.
Diebler, you see, broke up a perfect game. The Buckeyes were 14 of 15 from long range. That's 42 points on 15 shots.
"I don't think people do that very often," said Badgers coach Bo Ryan.
Never before, in fact. The .933 shooting percentage from 3-point land is a single-game Division I record.
Speaking of percentages, OSU shot 68 percent from the field in the first half. And, then, the Buckeyes got better.
Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor, who was in the discussion by some for Big Ten player of the year honors, especially after scoring 39 points the other day at Indiana, got a snoot full of Aaron Craft's defense on this occasion and wasn't a factor. He scored eight points on 2-of-9 shooting.
So here's the recap. The outside trio of Diebler, David Lighty, and Toledo product William Buford -- who can get his own shot as well as anybody and may be playing at a higher level than at anytime this season -- missed a total of seven shots and scored 58 points. The inside ace, Jared Sullinger, the best freshman in this conference or any other, turned in what seems to be his usual 22 points and eight boards. Craft, the freshman from Liberty-Benton, was in Taylor's grille at one end and dished out a game-high six assists at the other.
There wasn't one area in which Wisconsin wasn't dominated, one aspect in which Ohio State did not show, well, greatness.
"Wrong," Ryan insisted. "We crushed them in fast-break points."
Yes, it was 2-0. We stand corrected.
"I might point out they had only five offensive rebounds too," Ryan said with a wry smile.
When a team makes 32 of 47 shots there aren't many caroms to be had.
"That game definitely gives us confidence and, more importantly, it gives us momentum," said OSU senior center Dallas Lauderdale.
That momentum will carry the No. 1-seeded Buckeyes into the Big Ten tournament later this week in Indianapolis. Considering his team has nothing to gain and everything to lose there, OSU coach Thad Matta admitted he would rather be headed straight for another tournament, the Big Dance, as it is known.
"Coming off this, I'd go right now," Matta said. "It was incredible how well we moved the ball and shot the basketball. And our defensive energy was incredible."
While Wisconsin's Ryan said Diebler's hot hand makes him the kind of player who "can get you places in March," it is their play at the defensive end that may best separate the Buckeyes from the pack of very, very good teams.
"The offense kind of speaks for itself," Lighty said. "What we're doing at the defensive end; that is what's going to take us, hopefully, to the national championship."
The atmosphere Sunday with 18,809 packed in at Value City Arena was electric from the senior day ceremony before tipoff to the presentation of the Big Ten championship trophy after the final horn.
"I think we're solidifying ourselves as a two-sport school right now," Lighty said.
Is the football factory a basketball school too?
That may be too much to process.
But the basketball team may well be the very best in the land.
Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6398.
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