Jared Sullinger had a phenomenal freshman season at Ohio State, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game and helping the Buckeyes to a 32-2 record. They eventually lost a heartbreaker to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 (arguably, it was the best game of the NCAA tournament).
It was mildly shocking when Sullinger decided to return to Columbus for his sophomore year. It also made the Buckeyes instant contenders.
A funny thing has happened on the way to Ohio State’s quest to return to the Final Four – Sullinger hasn’t exactly blossomed in his sophomore season.
I wouldn’t say Sullinger has taken a step back, but it doesn’t appear he’s taken a step forward. (He really misses 3-point gunner Jon Diebler, his primary passer last year and such a lethal shooter that teams couldn’t easily double Sullinger.) His stats aren’t significantly different from his freshman year.
When I was with Jay Bilas 12 days ago, I brought up Sullinger’s unimpressive sophomore campaign, and Bilas said, “something’s wrong with him. He just doesn’t … look right.”
Sullinger has had a back issues this season, and perhaps they’re more severe than he’s letting on.
If you just looked at Sullinger’s line against Loyola – 12 points, 11 rebounds, five blocks – you might think he was a factor again. You’d be wrong. Sullinger labored through a 4-for-14 night against undersized Loyola. Are we to think Sullinger will have a significantly better game against Gonzaga 7-footer Robert Sacre? I’m not so sure.
The good news is that the best defensive big man in Sullinger’s region, Fab Melo, is out for the season.
[Addendum by Lisk]
The Line: Ohio State by 7. The Pick: Ohio State and Sullinger and company are too much for the Zags, Ohio State -7.