For today’s basketball roundtable, I share questions and answers with Eric and Gary of tBBC, and two guests: Eric invited a blog friend Jordan, and I invited liveblog regular CeMoBuckeye. Enjoy!
What were your favorite moments of the 2011-12 season and why?
Gary. My favorite moments of last year both happened on the road. First the victory on Madison. My distaste for Wisconsin runs beyond just football. Anytime you go in and knock off Bo Ryan in Madison always puts a smile on my face. Second was the victory at Michigan State. I respect Tom Izzo and his teams. They are always tough and always tough at home. Beating them in East Lansing, I believe, have them the confidence for their run in the postseason.
Eric. The best moment had to be the win over Wisconsin in the Kohl Center. Nothing gives me a warmer or fuzzier feeling than beating the socks off the damn red and white scum from Madison. Close second would be a tie between the Syracuse win, which was a fantastic piece of basketball against an excellent opponent, and the Buford gut shot win at MSU to help clear up his own last second game worries.
Jordan. First, beating Florida and Duke at home in the same month; second, beating a highly touted Syracuse team in Boston to go to our eleventh* Final Four; third, two fifteen seed upsets in one hour in the NCAA Tournament; forth, beating Wisconsin at Wisconsin for the first time in a decade; fifth, beating Cincinnati in the sweet sixteen to exorcize the Bearcat tournament demons of fifty years ago.
CeMoBuckeye. How the team came together at the end of the season and made an incredible run to the final four.
WVaBuckeye. For me it was attending the B1G tournament and seeing our Buckeyes battling for the championship again. The outcome wasn’t as good as the previous year but was all good. I also have to say that I really enjoyed the Duke game. I haven’t seen an Ohio State team as fired up as they were on this night. Everything went the right way that night.
What was your favorite game of 2011-12 season and why?
Gary. My favorite game was the game in Michigan. I have already stated some of the reasons but there are a couple of more. First, the comeback in that game was one that no one expected. I don’t even think Buckeye fans thought it was possible. Second, seeing the look on the faces of everyone one in the Izzone as they lost was priceless.
Eric. The Syracuse game, as I mentioned before, was such a well run game of basketball. Syracuse was a fantastic team, and the Buckeyes simply forced them into the most fouls of a zone-defense team in the last three NCAA Tournaments. Couple that with the best three point shooting game displayed that season (7-11 in the second half), and the Buckeyes quite simply outplayed the Orange en route to Thad Matta’s second Final Four trip.
Jordan. Without a doubt my favorite game of last season was Ohio State @ Wisconsin. It had been over ten years since a Thad Matta coached squad won at the Kohl Center, and the game was excellent to boot. The duo of Sullinger and Thomas grabbed nine offensive rebounds and put them back for points while Buford drained key three pointers to keep the Badgers at bay. Beating da Dukies at home by twenty was my number two. This could have been an epic season with Ohio State beating all three teams I hate (Wisconsin, Florida, and Duke), but with the loss to Wisconsin at home, I am most thankful we beat them at their house.
WVaBuckeye. Defeating Whiskey on their home court was my favorite as well. Giving them the what for and making sure that the Buckeyes sent a message. The match-up with them every year is a perfect example of just how physical a game B1G basketball truly i.
CeMoBuckeye. The absolute destruction of Duke early in the season. After that game I knew this team had something special in them (even if the road there was a little rocky).
Who was your favorite player of the 2011-12 season and why?
Gary. Aaron Craft by far. I think that no matter what was happening during the season he always seemed to be the spark plug for the team. His ability to harass the other team defensively seem to not only get the defense going but the offense also fed off that
Eric. As much as I had a love hate relationship with William Buford and his leadership (or lack thereof), I know that he was my favorite player. I really appreciate Aaron Craft, and Lenzelle Smith, and Jared Sullinger, but that was William Buford’s team. He still has the smoothest shooting stroke of any player I’ve ever seen in the scarlet and gray. There was nothing so exciting as watching Buford rain in pain from the outside.
Jordan. Lenzelle Smith, Jr. He played big in the tournament, was money at the charity stripe in the elite eight versus Syracuse, and hit three pointers at opportune times. His defense is second only to Aaron Craft. I think with the departure of Sullinger and Buford, we’ll see Ohio State play a small game again with Craft, Smith, Thompson, Thomas, and Williams, and Smith as a scorer will be essential to the success of that team
WVaBuckeye. Two words . . , again. Aaron Craft. He is the perfect example of what a point guard should and can be. There hasn’t been a player like him since Jay Burson and AC is a true defender.
CeMoBuckeye. Aaron Craft. He was the catalyst for the team. He brings a combo rarely seen in basketball today, non stop hustle and lock down defense. And it’s fun to watch (maybe that’s b/c he’s playing for the good guys!).
During the rough stretch of the season, what is the one moment you think turned it all around?
Gary. It may have been considered a rough stretch but I think the talent in the Big Ten last year contributed to that. I don’t think one particular thing turned it around. I just think the team’s ability and work ethic is what got them through it. They never gave up and continued to fight and search for answers until they found it.
Eric. The turning around point was very likely the Northwestern game. A tough game up in Evanston – the kind of game the Buckeyes usually get in Northern Illinois – that the Bucks were able to secure by two, 75-73, was probably the point when the team started to really click late in the season. The Buford shot probably bound it all together tightly, but it was the Northwestern game that made that shot possible.
Jordan. No question it was Buford’s last second bucket to put away Sparty in the Breslin Center and force a split for the B1G championship. Internal strife, questioning each other’s dedication ran rampant for the three weeks they traded wins and losses with the best in the B1G, but gutting out two road wins in a row against Northwestern and Michigan State were huge in getting this team to grow up just in time for tournament basketball. Buford’s swished shot with 0.8 seconds to go brought this team together for an incredible B1G and NCAA tournament run.
WVaBuckeye. Sullinger coming back from the back problems and working through double teams, which made it necessary for the rest of the team to grow heading into the B1G schedule was the moment for me. They could have folded up very easily and didn’t. They dug down deep and pulled together as a team.
CeMoBuckeye. I can’t really put my finger on one pivotal moment. Maybe Buford draining a game winning three to beat Sparty in Lansing? I thought that set us up nicely for a B1G tourney run and then a run to the final four.
Was last season one of Coach Thad Matta’s best as a head coach? Why?
Gary. I don’t necessarily think it was his best but I think it was definitely one of his best. The tough stretch not only tested the team but tested the coaches. They looked for the answers just like the team and his ability to get his team as coaches through that time show exactly how valuable he is as a coach.
Eric. In terms of starting expectations, followed by disappointment after the struggles, and then managing to achieve those expectations again makes it a season that Matta probably thinks of as his most satisfying. I can’t imagine the struggles that they had to go through in practice on a regular basis, and what it took out of Matta and the team. To make the Final Four must have been an incredible release for those guys, and I’m sure Matta will remember it fondly.
Erics Guest Jordan. I would be inclined to say “No.” Matta probably coached his best in 2011 when Ohio State won twenty-four games in a row, where he completed the Sunshine State Sweep by running Florida off their own court in the second game of the season and beating a solid defensive Florida State team, won at Illinois and Minnesota, beat Purdon’t by twenty-three, and finished the regular season winning the B1G outright. By saving our worst shooting day for last, we barely lost to a mediocre Kentucky team and ended what should have been a National Championship run.
WVaBuckeye. There are varying opinions when it comes to how much of the coaching helps a team. There were times last season when it appeared they were in turmoil as evidenced by Coach Matta kicking the veterans out of practice. They also seemed to be a pretty good team come tournament time and played as well as anyone in the country. He had one of the best coaching years ever simply because he had to tear them down and build them back up just to be in it.
WVaBuckeye’s guest CeMoBuckeye. I think any year your team makes it to the final four should go down as one of your best years, especially after losing so much senior leadership from the season before.
Looking ahead, what will be the marquee match-up of the upcoming season?
Gary. I’m going with Kansas here. Last year Ohio State lost twice to Kansas on hard fought matchups. This year will be another tough battle but this year is at home. The returning Bucks are looking for revenge and I’m sure they already taste it.
Eric. Definitely Kansas. We need to get some payback after two very winnable games last year. I expect the Buckeyes to be up for that battle in a big way.
Eric’s Guest Jordan. The non-conference is solid, with Marquette, Duke, Kansas, and Washington, but the best match will be February 10th when Indiana comes to town for the first of two games with Ohio State. This will go a long way to determining the B1G crown, as Indiana will be sensational; a win for Ohio State in Columbus might keep the title race close, while a Hoosier win will most certainly solidify their first B1G title in a decade.
WVaBuckeye. Without a doubt there is a tie here. Duke and Kansas have to be the two non-conference games everyone is looking to. The need to repay the Jayhawks and to prove that last year at home wasn’t a fluke against Coach K’s team will be huge!
WVaBuckeye’s guest CeMoBuckeye. Outside of the normal conference match-ups I’d say any one of the games against Marquette, Duke or Kansas are going to be fun to watch.
Next up. An attempt to have an hour long chat about basketball. Who would you like to have participate and why?
Gary. I would love to have Aaron Craft participate. I know that won’t happen but with him being the leader on the court I would love to hear his thoughts on this year’s team.
Eric. I would choose Chris Jent. I’d like to hear his thoughts on this year’s team, and some stories from his own experiences in the Scarlet and Gray.
WVaBuckeye. I am gonna go with head coach Thad Matta. I would like nothing more than to have him sit in with us for one go around and answer questions.
As it is, we will have Adam Neft along in a couple weeks to do an online chat. Keep your eyes peeled to tBBC and we’ll let you know the date and time!! Go Bucks!