Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)
A little over a week ago, I wrote about how Aaron Craft was one of the hardest working college basketball players in the entire country, and because of that, he is both loved and hated by his peers. After his amazing never-quit attitude shined through during the Iowa State game on Sunday, I can understand if Craft frustrates you with his shot selection, but I still don’t understand how you can hate him! Enough about the love and hate of #4 because after his performance on Sunday, it was Craft’s one shot that shook the college basketball world and showed that the Buckeye’s are not to be messed with.
After winning 9 games in a row, the country knew that Ohio State was riding a hot streak that could really help them do some damage in the tournament. Only problem was that they were matched up with the high-powered offense of Iowa State in the round of 32, and would Deshaun Thomas be enough to move on to the Sweet 16. Of course Deshaun showed up dropping his expected 22 points, and LaQuinton Ross did some significant damage off of the bench with 17, but the true lighting rod for the Bucks was Mr. Aaron Craft who took the Cyclones by surprise with 18 points.
All season long Craft has lead his team with precise point guard play and stellar defense, but even the Junior Guard knows that if you want to move on in the tournament, it’s the points the matter the most. Now understand this, I know that Aaron scores in his own way by driving the lane or pulling up a jumper from the free throw line, but what I saw out of Craft on Sunday was a potential scorer when facing adversity. He scored most of his 18 points by doing what he does best, but for Craft, it was his final 7 points of the game that showed me that he could become something even more special.
As Iowa State was beginning to make their comeback late in the game, Craft missed the front end of 2 crucial 1 & 1 attempts that gave the ball right back to the Cyclones. For most players, that would bother them and really bring down their performance, but not Craft. When Iowa State lead 73-71, Craft set the play up for him to take the Cyclones one-on-one. His teammates set him up perfectly as he drove to the left, then turned back around to the bucket to get a smooth 3-point play the old fashioned way. The way he was able to shift gears and give Ohio State back the lead after missing two big free throws shows that Aaron Craft is a true example of a fighter.
Craft was then able to make one of his two free throws to tie the game up at 75. When Ohio State was set to have the last possession of the game, I was thinking that the ball was going to Thomas and he was going to find a crazy way to either end the game or go to overtime. That was not the case. The ball was inbound to Craft and for 13 seconds I was yelling at the television, “DRIVE CRAFT, DRIVE!!!” By my surprise, and I am assume the rest of America as well, Craft triggered a three from the right wing. As soon as he released the shot, my initial reaction was shock, rage and confusion, until it went in. Of all people to take the Cyclones on by himself for the final shot of the game, it was AARON CRAFT! I am still shocked of how that turned out, but that shot did more for the Buckeyes than get them the win. That game winner by Craft showed the world that Deshaun Thomas is not the only Buckeye that can take the game over offensively. Craft may have his own special way of doing it, but at the end of the day, he gets the job done and adds another threat to his repertoire.
Before the tournament started, the Buckeyes were a fun story. A team that was riding an 8 game winning streak and can play some of the best defense in all of the NCAA, but Thomas was their only scorer. After this last round, the emergence of Aaron Craft’s offense and confidence has made the Buckeyes a legitimate title contender, and if he continues to piss off Charles Barkley, well that’s just gravy.