Sunday, February 25, 2007

Take it in Buckeye fans.

Wow, there just aren't any words to describe what went down today. Earlier this week, I referred to today's game as the biggest basketball game for the school since the '99 Final Four, and I have absolutely no problem in standing by that comment. On Senior day, the two veterans playing their final home games Ivan Harris and Ron Lewis made incredible statements. Harris led all Buckeyes with 13 points, 9 of which came via the three point shot. Granted, on the defensive side of the ball he was his typical invisible-except-when-fouling self, he made his presence felt on the offensive side of the ball more than enough. It seemed like every time Wisconsin hit a big shot to kill any momentum we may have been gaining, Harris answered right back with a three-ball. I have been an Ivan Harris doubter for much of the past few seasons, mainly for his inabilities to play defense and rebound effectively, but for one day, I was his biggest fan. There's no doubt that he's as hard a worker as anyone on the court (mainly on the offensive side), and he really proved that today. Lewis, on the other hand, had some troubles throughout the day on shot selection. He would often jack up shots when it really wasn't needed, as he only went 1-6 on the day. However, he made the biggest play of the game when he blocked Kammron Taylor's 15-foot attempt at the buzzer to win the game. As the buzzer sounded, Lewis fell to the ground and was mobbed by his teammates in celebration.

As usual, the two biggest names of the day weren't Harris or Lewis, but rather Mike Conley Jr. and another Buckeye possibly playing his last home game, Greg Oden. Conley hit the shot to put the Buckeyes ahead with 3.9 seconds left, and I'm still trying to figure out how he got that thing off. He finished the game with 11 points, 6 boards, 4 assists, and 2 steals. Oden, on the other hand, may want to put this game out of his memory as far as personal performances are concerned. For all the hype leading up, Oden played pretty poor, netting only 11 points and 5 rebounds. He had plenty of opportunities to score, but he just could not hold on to the ball whatsoever. I'm not sure if it was the injured hand, or just a lack of concentration, but either way, 5 turnovers is not what you want out of your best player.

When asked about next season after the game, Oden simply said "That's a decision that's going to be made later on in the year." I think everyone knows what that means, and have been expecting this to be a one and done deal since he committed.

With this win, the Buckeyes have become just the second school in Big Ten history to win conference titles in football, men's basketball, and women's basketball all in the same season. The only other team to do it? Last year's Buckeyes. I've only been around for 17+ years now, but I know my Buckeye history, and I have to say that this day and age may be the best time ever to be an Ohio State fan. The only other time period that comes to mind is the early '60s in the days of Woody Hayes and Fred Taylor. Now I don't want to take away from anything those two guys did, but Jim and Thad are giving them a run for their money.

Other game notes:
  • Brian Butch suffered one of the more horrifying injuries in recent memory in the first half when he dislocated his elbow. When I saw it, I had to turn away immediately. It ranks up there with the Willis McGahee injury in the Fiesta bowl as far as being gruesome is concerned.
  • Thad, the 5 second rule does not apply when you are picking gum off of a ground that a bunch of sweaty basketball players have been running on all day. I think I speak for everyone when I say "I hope you brush your teeth 10 times tonight, and use an entire bottle of mouthwash."

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Transistion rules as Bucks pull away from Lions

Yesterday, Wisconsin put a damper on the highly anticipated, titanic 1-2 match-up with Ohio State when the Spartans upset them in the Breslin Center. Today, the Buckeyes nearly saw the same thing unfold before their very eyes as they managed to once again escape the Nittany Lions 68-60 in Columbus.

Penn State led by as many as eight points on multiple occasions throughout the night, as the Ohio State team looked eerily similar to the one that nearly had the meltdown of the millenium a week ago. As they have so often this season, the Buckeyes seemed relatively uninterested in the game at the defensive end. This was especially true in the final 10 minutes of the first half when Penn State hit five three pointers and went from 4 down to 8 up in what seemed like just a few possessions. However, after Penn State briefly continued their little run in the beginning of the second half, the Buckeyes managed to turn things around, as they clearly kicked things into another gear. The source of this newfound transistion was Jamar Butler, who had an outstanding second half scoring 15 points, with 3 very timely three pointers, as well as an impressive fast break layup. He had 18 points overall.

Greg Oden, as usual, had the biggest impact on the game; with a spectacular 17 pt/14 rebound performance. He did leave briefly with what appeared to be a wrist injury, but was seen just minutes later giving Matta a thumbs up and was back in the game soon enough.

This win, of course, is the precursor to the game this Sunday against #1 (or #2) Wisconsin in Columbus, which will only continue to grow in hype as the week wears on. In fact, this game is already becoming the biggest regular season game that I can remember, and may be the most highly-anticipated basketball game since the '99 Final Four. Sure, '05 Illinois had all of the excitement of a great basketball game, but the build-up for it was nothing compared to what this game is going to be.

Anyways, I think it's safe to say that if Ohio State plays like it has this season against PSU on Sunday, we don't stand a chance. I bought the whole "a close win against PSU is good because it gives the players a reality check" excuse last week, but the general rule for that saying is that the next time you two cross paths, you make sure it was a fluke. And, as a general rule for all sports in general, when you're the #1 team in the country playing at home, you damn sure better pulverize the last-ranked team in your conference. Although a win is a win, this definitely isn't the high note that the Bucks were hoping to go in on.

But hey, as long as we aren't coming in off a loss, right?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Beckman hired as Oklahoma State defensive coordinator

Ohio State defensive backs coach Tim Beckman has taken the job as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, sources say. Although the first sentence of the story is extremely shady (2006 national champion Ohio State Buckeyes?), the rest of it appears to be credible, as Rivals ($) has also put up a similar article. There is no word yet on who will replace Beckman as defensive backs coach, but whoever does it will have some tough shoes to fill.

Beckman may have been the best assistant on the team without the title "coordinator." He deserves a whole lot of credit for helping to bring in the nation's top recruiting class this season as far as the secondary is concerned (assuming the likes of Torrence and Clifford don't switch sides), and has also been instrumental in the development of Ohio State's two most recent starting cornerbacks Malcolm Jenkins and Antonio Smith. Smith was a walk-on at Ohio State, who most people doubted would be successful when he finally got the chance to start. However, when the season rolled around, Smith garnered first team All-Conference accolades (as did Jenkins). Jenkins, on the other hand, was brought into the program as an unheralded safety prospect out of High School. However, he started a few games as a true freshman at cornerback. Not only is the fact that he started as a true freshman impressive, but the fact that he had to switch positions and climbed the depth chart faster than higher-ranked players of the same year in Andre Amos and Jamario O'Neal just screams great coaching. Sure, both players worked incredibly hard to achieve their goals, but what was the common denominator to both of their successes? Tim Beckman.

Best of luck at the other OSU, Tim. I'm sure you'll be a hell of a coordinator.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

How realistic is a #1 seed?

Earlier today, the Buckeyes slipped by the Purdue "Spoilermakers" 63-56 at the Schott behind 14 points each by superstar freshmen Mike Conley Jr and Greg Oden. Purdue lead the game as late as the 6:00 mark of the second half until the Buckeyes broke away with a 17-5 run to close out the game. It was pretty obvious that Ohio State didn't bring their "A" game today, and calling it a "B" game would even be a stretch. The offense was pretty horrendous on all accounts, with the team going a collective 3-17 on three point field goals, and missed 30 shots total. Mike Conley, usually an assist machine, only had four on the day. Oden spent much of the game on the bench due to foul trouble, but still managed to pull down 9 boards.

Despite the lackadaisical performance, however, the probability of achieving a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament increased thanks to #2 UCLA's road loss to West Virginia. For those of you that were wondering, the other top seed contenders (Wisconsin and UNC) won today, and Florida, who has all but locked up a top-seed at this point, plays tonight at Kentucky.

So the question remains, will Ohio State achieve a top tournament seed? We obviously will not know until Selection Sunday comes around, but the Buckeyes do appear to be on the fast-track. In fact, the difference between a 1 and a 2 seed may come down to a February 25th match-up with Wisconsin. As everybody remembers, Ohio State came up one three pointer short the last time they faced the Badgers on January 9. However, that game was at the Kohl Center, perhaps the toughest place to play in the entire country, and the team had not learned how to play with Greg Oden quite like they have now. Barring an upset, both teams should run the table before the game, as the only legitimately tough opponent on either team's schedule is when Wisconsin travels to East Lansing to take on Michigan State on the 20th. This would, of course, mean that neither team should be ranked lower than 3 in the rankings, assuming UNC doesn't do anything miraculous to jump Wisconsin.

The winner of this hypothetical game would most assuredly get a number one seed, while the other one would be number 2. Even if there is a third match-up between the two teams in the Big Ten tournament, it would have to come in the championship game, meaning that the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee would have most likely already decided on a top seed.

Granted, there were quite a few of "woulds" and "shoulds" in those last two paragraphs, but the odds of this particular scenario playing out are much greater than those of one of these two teams being upset by a lesser team.