Ohio State sniper Jon Diebler is a national championship X-factor

Contrary to popular belief, Ohio State was not a one-man team last season. Evan Turner cleaned up on National Player of the Year awards like Lauryn Hill at the Grammys, but Mr. Do-It-All didn’t really have to do it all for the Buckeyes during their run to the Sweet Sixteen.

One member of that overlooked supporting cast was Jon Diebler, now a senior two-guard on an OSU squad that is 14-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country. Diebler (12.4 ppg) is hitting 51 percent of his treys this season as part of the crew surrounding freshman superstar big man Jared Sullinger. In the Big Ten opener at Indiana over the weekend, Diebler scored 15 points on 5-for-5 shooting beyond the arc. Here, he talks about how the deep threat will make his team a serious threat in the NCAA Tournament:

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“We feel we’re a very good basketball team. Last year Evan had the ball 85 percent of the time, which was fine because he was that good. He was the best player in the country. Now, not having that one do-it-all guy changes the look of our team. You go down the line, and we’re very talented with a lot of guys who can fill pieces of Evan’s role. We have the option of going big with Jared and Dallas (Lauderdale) and DeShaun Thomas, or going small with four guards on the court and spreading the floor.

“With Evan being gone, Coach (Thad) Matta challenged myself, Will (Buford) and David (Lighty) to improve our ball-handling and penetration. But for the most part, my role will stay the same. My job is to extend the defense, space the floor and make shots. Seventy-five percent of my shots are threes; that’s my job on this team.

“After my freshman year, when my shot was horrendous (28.9% from three), I worked on just repetition with my form. I was one of those guys who would just go in the gym to get a bunch of shots up, but Coach Matta told me one time, ‘Instead of taking 500 shots, worry about making 200.’ It’s quality over quantity. If I shoot 20 shots from the same spot, I have to make 17 before I move on.

“One reason I shot so bad my freshman year was I’d miss my first shot and I’d start thinking about it too much. My mind was all messed up. But I’ve grown since then, so now it’s not a big deal if I miss two, three, four in a row. Shooters are told to shoot until you get hot. You’re not gonna make shots if you don’t shoot. If I miss 10 in a row, I think the 11th is going in.

“The three is a game-changer. It’s extremely big for us. Coach Matta gives us a lot of freedom: If you’re open from three, he wants you to shoot it. His mindset is if you took a bad shot, just get back on defense. He’s not going to spend a lot of time like, ‘Oh, that was a terrible shot!’ He has that next-possession mentality. With us having four guards on the court a lot of times, the floor has to be spaced. For me, it’s helpful to play with great players who can penetrate and create a lot of shots. This year, with Dallas and Jared, we have that inside presence, and that’s really gonna open up a lot outside.”