Wednesday, March 31

Vols Abruptly End Ohio St Season

There is one negative about being a national powerhouse year in and year out with lofty expectations: if you don't win a National Championship, your season ends in disappointment. We've seen this for decades with Ohio St's football program, and now with Thad Matta on the sidelines we're starting to see it on the court too. Don't get me wrong, I would obviously much rather be successful and enjoy a top team each year then be continuously mediocre, but it's just tough to have each season end so bitterly. That was what happened last weekend when Tennessee outlasted the Buckeyes in a see-saw Sweet 16 battle, 76-73.

Game Recap

The first half was back and forth, and thanks to a couple of Jeremie Simmons threes off the bench, OSU led 42-39. Each team traded baskets to begin the second half, and Evan Turner's three gave Ohio St a six-point lead, their largest of the game. Again the two teams matched each other's possessions, and the game stayed OSU up by 2-5 points for about ten minutes, until a Tennessee run put them up 64-63 with under six minutes to go. Now it was the Vols' turn to led by a slim margin for awhile, until ET drained a three-pointer with 0:44 to play to put the Buckeyes up by one. You just knew that shot was going in, and I was so confident they had it won at that point.

Then things fell apart. Tennessee hit a jumper to regain the led, then Turner had a nice drive but missed a layup. Kyle Madsen had the offensive rebound in his hands, and I still have no idea what happened but it somehow squirted out and went out of bounds, UT ball. OSU had to foul and Tennessee hit both free throws, so it was a three-point game with 13 ticks to go. You knew Turner was going to take it, but so did the Vols, as they hounded him all the way up court. He got a decent shot off with a few seconds left but missed. He somehow got his own rebound and was able to get another shot off, but J.P. Prince made the best tournament block I've ever seen, maybe save for Hakim Warrick's block in '01 when Hak gave Syracuse the title over Kansas. I was screaming for a foul at the time, but on replay you could see it was an incredible defensive play. Tennessee prevails by three, and another season ends in another crushing defeat.

Game Notes

One-Man Team
Yes, Evan Turner is the best player in college basketball. But as we saw in this game, he cannot beat a tremendous defensive team with a great game plan by himself (although he was damn close). The biggest disappointment from his supporting cast was the 1-for-8 shooting from Jon Diebler, 1-7 from beyond the arc. The biggest game in the career of the greatest shooter in Ohio St history and he throws up the ultimate choke job. He just couldn't hit anything. David Lighty could also only manage 9 points, with William Buford the only other scorer in double-digits. The frustrating thing about this is that these players have been so good all year and have complemented Turner so well.

Wait 'Till Next Year...Again

Being a Cleveland fan, I am so painfully used to this phrase. However, the difference in saying it here is that there's actually a bright future to look to, whereas with the Browns you can see another dismal season (unless you're Nick, who probably already has his 2010 Super Bowl Champs t-shirts printed). It seems to be a no-brainer that The Villain is headed to the pros, although he did say after the game he does not want it to end like this.

Even assuming that he goes, Ohio St still has a great nucleus of Lighty, Diebler, Bufford, and Lauderdale. They will also welcome one of the top recruits in the nation, Jarred Sullinger. His brother J.J. played for the Bucks a few years ago. So you would have the same team as this year, with Sullinger replacing Turner. Obviously, swapping the player of the year for an unproven freshman is a big downgrade, but hopefully the others will improve and step up and assume leadership roles. If ET decides he really doesn't want it to end this way, however, Ohio St is suddenly the heavy favorites to win it all next year.


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