Wednesday, March 30

Different Year, Same Story

For the second consecutive year, the Ohio St Buckeyes headed into the NCAA tournament with me, among many others, fully expecting them to make a trip to the Final Four. And for the second consecutive year, the Bucks suffered a heart-breaking loss in the Sweet 16. Just when the nightmares of J.P. Prince's block of Evan Turner's last-second three were beginning to fade, Brandon Knight's game-winning jumper (right) is there to replace it for months to come.

I watched Ohio St's 62-60 loss to Kentucky a second time the other day, to see if I could pinpoint a particular area that cost OSU the game. I couldn't really find one. Sure, they didn't shoot a high percentage from the field, but 35% isn't terrible. William Buford's 2 of 16 shooting stands out, but I'm not going to blame the entire loss on Will's happy trigger finger. When you look at the typical keys to a Buckeye victory, it seems they did enough to win. Their best player had a monster game (Sullinger finished with a 21-16 line), Diebler wasn't lights out, but was effective from beyond the arc (4/7), their defense had the Wildcats under constant pressure (forcing 11 turnovers), and they didn't totally shoot themselves in the foot at the foul line (a good but not great 73%). Really when it comes down to it, Kentucky just outplayed them and was the better team on that night.

You all saw the game, and I hate writing about these types of games, so I'm not going to break this down any further. Instead I'll take a quick look at what's next for the Ohio St ball team. Not since I've been following the Buckeyes has there been a more talented or fan-friendly senior class than this one, consisting of David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and Dallas Lauderdale. These guys played so hard, were so fun to watch and cheer for, and simply loved being Ohio St Buckeyes. In this one-and-done era of college basketball, it is not likely that we will see another group like this graduate together for a very long time, if ever again. None of them look to have great NBA careers ahead of them, but I for one will certainly never forget their time in the scarlet and gray.

Now on to the biggest question of the off-season: Jared Sullinger. Sully said after the game that "I'm definitely coming back next year. I need to work on a lot of things. I have to come back. I'm coming back to win." Now, let's not get our hopes up, as this certainly could just be the bitterness of a tough loss talking, just as we saw ET do last year. If the big man goes pro, he is a sure-fire top 10 pick, and possibly even the first overall selection. The thing working in the Buckeyes' favor is that Sullinger is very close with his father, who was his high school coach, and who wants his son to stay another year.

If Sully turns pro, OSU will have their work cut out for them next year, as Buff will have to be the go-to guy (God help us) and the young Aaron Craft will be looked upon to be the leader of the squad. With a Jared return, however, we are looking at a much different team that could contend for a title yet again. Sully will be the Naismith Award front-runner, and Buford and Craft, while having to play expanded roles, can stay in the spots they were in this year as the second/third option scorer and the feisty, do-it-all point guard, respectively. DeShaun Thomas will need to improve his three-point shot and become more of a scoring threat, and the new recruiting class coming in (another great one from Thad Matta) will be expected to play significant roles early on.

So another season is in the books. In what is starting to becoming a very annoying, recurring theme in both football and basketball, this Ohio St team was super-talented, had expectations of nothing short of a National Title, and came up empty handed, in heart-breaking fashion. 156 days till kickoff.


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