NCAA tourney can't afford to lose Turner

BY foxsports • March 21, 2010

The Big Dance needs Evan Turner and Ohio State.

With Kansas out of the equation after the loss to Northern Iowa, there’s no potential blue-blood matchup between the Jayhawks and Kentucky looming on the horizon in the national championship game.

That was the one everyone wanted to see.

Two of the most storied programs in history and a pair of coaches in Kansas’ Bill Self and Kentucky’s John Calipari who have garnered plenty of recent history.

It had all the storylines, including the veteran in Sherron Collins going up against the young pup, John Wall.

Not to mention, it would have gone through the roof in terms of television ratings.

But that’s a just a fantasy now.

There just weren’t a ton of electrifying players in the country this season. There were some talented guys, but not a lot of them that can carry a team to six wins in the NCAA tournament.

The Player of the Year race will ultimately be decided between two guys:

1. Wall, the Kentucky freshman point guard who has made a living out of taking and making big shots.

2. Turner, the multi-dimensional, recently converted point guard who missed a month after a nasty fall in which he broke a couple of bones in his back.

That’s why the Big Dance needs Turner to continue to advance.

“I’m not sure if it’s good for the tournament,” Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. “But I know it’s good for me.”

“Absolutely,” Buckeyes guard Jon Diebler said. “I think Evan is great for the tournament. People want to watch him.”

Turner is exciting. He does it all. He can score, pass, rebound and has the ball in his hands nearly the entire game.

He’s a potential triple-double every time he takes the court.

“He’s a great player,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt said after watching Turner go for 24 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in second-seeded Ohio State's 75-66 win over the No. 10-seeded Yellow Jackets on Sunday.

“There’s no question he can take that team a long way.”

He’ll likely be the No. 2 player taken in the June NBA draft behind Wall.

The problem is Turner doesn’t have much of a supporting cast.

Diebler can shoot the ball — as he showed in the second half in a victory against Georgia Tech on Sunday, when he made four trifectas and scored 17 points. William Buford is capable of going for 20-plus in any given game, and David Lighty is one of the most underrated players in America.

Dallas Lauderdale basically takes up space in the middle, and there is virtually no bench to speak of with the Buckeyes. In fact, the only two reserves who played didn’t score in 13 minutes against the Yellow Jackets.

It’s basically the Evan Turner Show, which will air next week in St. Louis against No. 6 seed Tennessee.

The Vols are deeper and more athletic, but they don’t have anyone like Turner.

No one does.

Hewitt’s feeling is that one of the true Cinderellas — say, a Northern Iowa or maybe even a Butler — would be more attractive to the country in a championship game.

That may be the case, but those teams would have no shot against a loaded Kentucky club in the national title game.

Case in point: George Mason, which ran out of gas and was pounded in the national semifinals by Florida after reeling off four straight wins to get to the Final Four.

Ohio State would have a chance once it gets there — because of Turner.

“We’re in it to win it,” Turner said after the near triple-double against Georgia Tech. “Our goal is to win it all and be the last team standing.”

The road was supposed to go through Kansas in the Midwest region, but now that the mighty Jayhawks have bowed out in the second round, it’s up for grabs.

The Buckeyes will need to get past the Volunteers and then would face either No. 9 seed Northern Iowa or fifth-seeded Michigan State with a Final Four berth on the line.

Hardly imposing.

But then again, Kansas did lose to Northern Iowa.

“It’s possible that any team can beat any team,” Turner said.

However, only one team has a guy like Turner.

Right now, the Big Dance needs him.

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