Most Ohio State fans will say that William Buford has not had the season everyone expected him to have. As a sophomore, Buford could have left for the NBA, and probably would have been a relatively high draft pick.
Last year, his 2-16 shooting was a major contributor in the Buckeyes' inability to advance beyond the Sweet 16. With the Final Four upon us, Buford’s contribution will become more and more important as teams try to take away Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas.
Syracuse played well, but did not account for Lenzelle Smith Jr.’s 18 points. The Buckeyes may have not marched onto the Final Four without his stellar performance, making clutch baskets to thwart any momentum mounted by the Orange. Buckeye nation cannot expect Smith to duplicate this against Kansas, though it would be really nice.
But Buford has been in a funk, which seems to have lasted all season. Outside of a grandiose performance against Michigan State in the last regular season contest, Buford’s season has been a disappointment. His struggles have not stopped during the tourney. During the Syracuse game, Buford went 3-12, continually showing the pattern of struggle he displayed for much of the season. Yet Matta refused to change, keeping Buford on the floor for all 40 minutes.
With sub-par performances against Syracuse and basically every game since the end of the season, it is pretty obvious that Buford’s struggles are mental. Though he did not press as much against Syracuse as he has in previous games, one can tell that Buford feels pressure to answer his critics. Maybe he still has not completely gotten over his 2-16 performance against UK last year. If OSU plays UK again, Matta will have to use better judgment than leaving his senior on the floor for 40 minutes. Kyle Rowland tweeted that Buford is 25 of 78 since the Michigan State game where he scored 25 points. This will not cut it in the Final Four.
Here is my suggestion. Start Amir Williams or Evan Ravenel. Both have shown to contribute to the Buckeyes. Williams, in particular, has shown a propensity to block shots and rebound. With Jared Sullinger consistently getting into first-half foul trouble, Amir’s presence could take some pressure off of Sullinger and allow him to play longer in the first half.
Sullinger’s foul trouble also has contributed to him not being as aggressive defensively in the second half. Starting Amir Williams in place of William Buford would provide OSU with a shot-altering defensive presence in the middle, possibly keeping Sullinger out of first half foul trouble. It may also take away pressure from William Buford to perform at the level he expects of himself.
In the mid-to-late-1980’s, Cincinnati had a player named Brian Helm who felt more comfortable coming off the bench than starting. Maybe Matta needs to do something similar with Buford.
Whether Buford starts or sits, the Buckeyes will need him to be the William Buford everyone expects. Buckeye nation knows he possesses extraordinary talent, now we need to see it. If we can, there is a good chance Buckeye nation can enjoy a championship before the football team finishes their 2012 season bowl ban.