Tuesday, March 8

It's March!

There's not much to dislike about this month. In fact, I'd say it's one of my favorite months of the year, and certainly the best one that doesn't contain grown men tossing around a pigskin. The weather is beginning to turn here in the proverbial Snow Belt (actually, looking out my window right now I can see some odd green stuff on the ground, not sure what it is), St Patty's Day offers one of the finest drinking days of the year, Spring Training is in full force with baseball season edging closer and closer, and of course we have March Madness, beginning this week with the conference tournaments. (Great kickoff this afternoon in the Big East tourney when Rutgers outlasted Seton Hall in an OT thriller. Only the Madness of March could get me so into a Seton Hall/Rutgers game.)

With the excitement in college hoops building, I wanted to take a few moments to recap Ohio St's fantastic regular season, and look ahead to their chances come Big Ten and NCAA tourney time. The Buckeyes closed out the regular season with a stellar 29-2 record, 16-2 in conference play. The two losses, to #9 Purdue and # 13 Wisconsin, both came on the road; note that neither the Boilermakers nor Badgers lost in their home gyms all season. The Bucks beat Purdue by 23 in Value City, and just beat Wisconsin by 28 this past weekend, on a record-setting three-point performance (14 of 15!). In the final four games of the year, since the loss to Purdue, OSU has won by an average margin of 22+. Yikes.

They currently stand as the top-ranked team in the nation, and are pretty much guaranteed a #1 seed in the Big Dance, regardless of the Big Ten outcome. However, if they win the conference tourney, they will get the top overall seed, which would pair them in the same bracket as the last ranked #2, so that would be a plus.

If you have watched the Buckeyes at all this season, especially in that last game against Bud Kilmer's squad, (have I mentioned how much Wisconsin's Bo Ryan looks like Jon Voight's Varsity Blues character?) you have to like their chances in the field of sixty-fou...fiv...eight? Jared Sullinger is fantastic in the post and requires constant double teams, which opens up shots for one of the best shooting teams in the nation. They are terrific perimeter defenders, but as I have mentioned before on this blog the interior defense concerns me when Dallas Lauderdale isn't on the floor.

What does not concern me about this team that seems to be bothering a lot of talking heads is their depth. Yes, they only have a seven-man-rotation, with two of those guys often seeing single-digit minutes. So why does playing the same five the majority of the game not have me worried? Because it hasn't hurt them in the season's first 31 games, or at any point last year when this same core of players did the same thing, that's why. These guys can play 32+ minutes and seemingly not get tired. Jon Diebler averages 35 minutes a game, and was 8/8 from three-point land in the second half of the last two games. Does that sound like a guy who's on his last legs? Also, no one on this team gets in consistent foul trouble (knock on wood). If Ohio St is ousted in the tournament, it will not be due to a lack of depth.

Going back to how awesome OSU is, several of their players were honored today when the Big Ten awards were announced. Jared Sullinger was named to the All-Conference first-team and earned Freshman of the Year honors. David Lighty and Will Buford were 2nd-teamers, with Lighty joining Aaron Craft on the All-Defense team. Jon Diebler was third-team, but certainly would have been named shooter of the year had such an award existed. (51% from beyond the arc. Fifty-fucking-one!) Sully (player of the year) and Lighty (defensive player of the year) each finished second in their respective categories to Purdue F JaJuan Johnson.

So congrats to those players, and the Buckeyes as a whole, on a tremendous season. Now let's carry it on into March. Enjoy the Madness, everyone!


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