Through most of the non-conference season, Ohio State was an elite team defensively. And just like last year (and the year before that), it was a combination of two point defense and an aversion to fouling opponents that drove the defense. But in each of the last 3 games, Ohio State's defense has been torched, giving up 1.15 points per possession. Now, there are a couple of obvious things that could be at work here. For one, the Buckeyes lost David Lighty just prior to these games. Second, the likes of West Virginia, Iowa, and Minnesota are a bit more formidable than Samford, Delaware State, and Bowling Green.
But I think there's more to the story here. For one, OSU's defense was already showing cracks before Lighty went down (mighty Jacksonville averaged more than a point a possession). And OSU had no defensive issues against Notre Dame, Miami, and Butler. So what's the problem? Well, let's take a look at how the Buckeyes are giving up points over these three games (season numbers in parenthesis):
2P%: 53% (43.1)
3P%: 38% (32.8)
Block%: 11% (19.3)
Steal%: 10.5% (11.8)
Opp. Off Reb%: 36.3% (33.3%)
From the looks of it, everything took a dip, which isn't surprising given the swing in the defense. But the biggest swing appears to be in the 2 point percentage, and the accompanying block percentage. And for that, the problem is clear - Dallas Lauderdale is no longer going nuts. His Block Percentage has dipped below 15.0, and it wasn't that long ago that it was about 25.0. For that swing to occur, his Block percentage was well below either of those numbers for this three game stretch. Consider that he had 28 blocks through OSU's first 6 games, and that over the last 6 he's had just 7 blocks. This decline provides an incredible "boost" to opponents' 2 point percentage.
The problem with OSU's defense is that Dallas Lauderdale is not Superman. We all knew that he wasn't, but what we didn't know until now is whether the Buckeyes needed him to be in order to field an elite defense. Ohio State's D will still be a formidable one, but not one that will allow the offense to disappear (like it did against West Virginia and Minnesota) and still get wins.
Regression to the mean is an evil mistress.
Tune in tonight to see if Dallas can don the cape against what is likely the Big Ten's best front line.