The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about how much Ohio State needs Kaleb Wesson to deliver? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
I’m a Kansas fan that just watched Iowa State blow through several good teams. How good does the Bucks’ 3-pt shooting and Wesson inside play have to function to pull out a W versus them?
— Clark Van Lieshout (@clarkvan33) March 18, 2019
Ohio State could have done without the reminder of how important Kaleb Wesson is to its success. And based on all the extra workouts Wesson had to do during his three-game suspension, the sophomore obviously would have preferred not to giving the Buckeyes that lesson — particularly at such a crucial time in the season.
But the last regular-season game he played in and his return in the must-win Big Ten Tournament matchup with Indiana reinforced the point: The Buckeyes simply aren’t much of a threat without Wesson. And if Wesson doesn’t deliver one of his best outings of the year and stay out of foul trouble, the program won’t be hanging around long in the NCAA Tournament.
If the floor-spacing, inside-scoring, rebound-snatching presence is rolling the way he did when the Buckeyes were at their best this season, though, an upset or two might be well within reach.
“Kaleb draws a lot of attention,” Ohio State guard Keyshawn Woods said. “He opens up the floor for everybody else. And then also on the defensive end he’s a great presence, too, protecting the rim. And he’s a great talker and communicator.
“So, it’s great to have Kaleb back on the floor with us.”
Nobody benefits more than the 3-point shooters, because Wesson’s ability to command double teams in the post and his skillful passing create open opportunities on the perimeter. The Buckeyes don’t always convert them, of course, or their record this season would look a lot different. Woods has been wildly inconsistent until finding a rhythm lately, C.J. Jackson is equally streaky — and relying heavily on freshmen is typically going to lead to roller-coaster results no matter how talented they might be.
All of those guys are capable of catching a heat wave, and when that combination clicks with Wesson finishing around the basket, that can devastate an opponent. Just ask Iowa, a team which just so happened to beat Iowa State earlier in the season.
Can the Buckeyes do the same thing this weekend in Tulsa? They’re an underdog for a reason, but the line has at least slightly started moving in its direction already. Maybe that’s the Kaleb Wesson Factor, or perhaps it’s the fear of what Ohio State’s backcourt catching fire could do to the scoreboard.
Either way, there’s no way to understate it: The Buckeyes need Wesson at his best to keep the season alive.
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