Ohio State Basketball: LaQuinton Ross Is the Key to Buckeyes' B1G Title Hopes

Doug BrodessCorrespondent IDecember 7, 2013

USA Today

Ohio State has the best defense in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy (subscription required).

Aaron Craft may be the best point guard in the nation, according to Jay Bilas (ESPN Insider subscription required). But the key to the Buckeyes' B1G title hopes is still combo forward LaQuinton Ross.

That may seem like a strange claim about a player who is currently the No. 5 scorer on the OSU roster.

Ross has demonstrated this season that he can be streaky, as he was in the Buckeyes' first five games, going 10-of-44 (22.7 percent) from the floor, averaging 6.2 PPG.

More importantly, in Ohio State's last two games, he has also proven that he can shoot the eyes out of the basket. The 6'8" junior was feeling it against North Florida and Maryland, scoring 17 and 20 points in those respective games, while hitting 8-of-13 shots from beyond the arc.

Thad Matta's 2013-14 mob has rolled through their first seven games with a perfect 7-0 record largely because of suffocating defense and balanced offense.

The thought about Ross being the key to OSU's conference title hopes in no way, shape or form suggests that the Buckeyes should transform into a one-man show.

It would be foolish to reduce the roles of Lenzelle Smith Jr., Amir Williams or Shannon Scott. Each of these players is having excellent starts to this young season. But, they are, in ESPN's Eamonn Brennan's estimation, "not of the go-to offensive breed."

Ross displayed his combustibility in last year's NCAA tournament. In Ohio State's round of 32, Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games, he averaged 17.7 points while shooting 50 percent from both the field and beyond the arc, as well as knocking down 16-of-17 (94.1 percent) of his free throws.

His game-winning shot against Arizona in the 2013 West Region semifinals launched him into OSU's celebrated hoops history.

It is those displays of his tantalizing talent that give OSU fans great reason to be hopeful or even optimistic about what Ross will do as the Buckeyes finish their remaining six non-conference games and then open league play on New Year's Eve on the road against Purdue.  

Without a doubt, Ohio State has a well-rounded squad with several skilled individuals on the court at any time. However, they play differently when LaQuinton Ross is "on." They are at their best when he is firing on all cylinders.

And they will win the Big Ten and make a deep run in this year's NCAA tournament if Ross can turn those special games into his standard outing.