The Buckeyes have advanced to their fourth straight Sweet 16 and look to continue hitting their stride in the city of angels tomorrow night against Arizona. Spring football practice has reconvened. The Big Ten has 4 of the 16 teams still vying for the Final Four. It’s Wednesday, let’s rumble!
The range of emotions regarding feelings toward Buckeye point guard Aaron Craft hit the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during Sunday’s 3rd round matchup with Iowa State. The nations best defender was on his game, went through a folly of errors, missed the front ends of two one-and-one free throw attempts, then made the games two biggest defensive plays, drove in for a layup and finally proceeded to drop a bomb to seal the deal.
To the victor go the spoils, and in this case, the winner of this mythical match up gets to face the Jerry Lucas led squad of 1960. When you look at the success of teams in Ohio State history we have covered every one of them in depth in this tournament. We have yet to have a game where the parallels were scary. For the Jim Jackson led 1992 team they played in one of the best all around era’s in college basketball history. For Mike Conley and Greg Oden, there was just one team that was clearly better in the Florida Gators.
The 1992 Buckeyes was very diverse and talented group that competed with every team in the nation. They had a transfer from Indiana in Lawrence Funderburke who contributed early and often and became an eventual starter that season. Jamaal Brown is still considered one of the best PG’s to play in Columbus and of course there’s Jim Jackson. I still believe if they hadn’t had the misfortune of facing TTUN for a third time that season they would have won it all.
The 2007 Buckeyes were instantly successful with incoming frosh Greg Oden, Michael Conley and Daequan Cook. The other two in that class were special as well and stuck around a little longer in Othello Hunter and David Lighty. Widely believed to be the best class to come in since Lucas, Havlicek and Nowell they took the fans on a great ride making it to the NCAA Championship.
What are to follow will be several comparisons of each team’s makeup. We will be including our opinions of each comparison with who has the advantage and at the end will be guest appearances. We hope you enjoy our tournament as we look forward to the outcome!
With New Orleans and the Buckeyes Final Four appearance rapidly approaching, I thought it would be a great time to re-visit Ohio State’s last Final Four appearance in 2007. The 2007 team was young but their 35-4 record, topped off with a National Title game appearance, showed that you don’t always have to have experience to compete for a national title.
Let’s start by evaluating the roster. Five new recruits joined the Bucks that year led by 7’0, 5-Star, power tower named Greg Oden. He was joined by his Lawrence North high school teammate Mike Conley Jr. Conley was also a 5-Star recruit. The top of the line recruits did not end there. The third addition to this 5-star triple threat was Dayton Dunbar’s Daequan Cook. This gave Thad Matta a great trio but he still added two 4-star recruits in David Lighty from Celeveland Villla-Angela St. Joseph High School and, Junior College Transfer, Othello Hunter from Winston Salem, North Carolina. These five would join juniors, Jamar Butler and Matt Terwilliger and seniors, Ivan Harris and Ron Lewis.
The combination of freshmen, juniors, and seniors would give this team the perfect mix of raw talent, athleticism, and leadership leading to a season opening ranking of #4 in the polls. The Buckeyes began the season by reeling off six straight wins to head into the Big Ten-ACC Challenge 6-0. By this time, Ohio State had shot its way to the #1 ranking and now had a date in Chapel Hill against the #6 ranked North Carolina Tar Heels.The marquis matchup was played in the historic Dean Smith Center in front of a crowd of 21,750. North Carolina featured its own standout in Ty Lawson. The game was close throughout but Lawson and the Tar Heels proved to be a little too much for the Bucks, winning 98-89.
After a wins against Valparaiso, Cleveland State, Cincinnati, and Iowa State, the Bucks took its talents to Gainesville, Florida. The trip to face the Gators was another early season test that Coach Matta knew would prepare his team for the upcoming Big Ten season. This also would be a pivotal game because it would lead to a rematch of these two teams in the 2007 title game. Billy Donovan’s Gators handled the young Buckeyes 86-60, giving them their second loss of the season and also proving that the senior leadership and young talent had a ways to go to mesh and become a championship level team.
After the Northwestern game concluded, there was one inescapable thought in my mind – this was a very good win for us. I saw it echoed among several other sportswriters on twitter, but ultimately saw a lot more negativity from the fans.
Why did we play so poorly against a team as bad as Northwestern?
Well, first off, Northwestern is not a bad team. As I pointed out in my preview of the game, this team often makes visiting opponents look, and play, stupid. It did not come as a surprise to me that they made us fight for every minute of the game clock. That’s what these guys do at home.
Northwestern, as you may have heard at some point, is also in the Big Ten. The Big Ten this year is one of the single toughest conferences out there. It shouldn’t surprise you, then, that we’re going to have a tough time on the road against a conference opponent. To be honest, we’ve been struggling on the road against opponents all season long – there’s no reason Northwestern was going to be any different, even if we did kill them in Columbus. Home court advantage is a significant factor in college basketball, after all.
Given some of the thoughts drifting around Buckeye Nation, here’s a list of some of the big things I took away from the Northwestern win. They’re not all positive, but they all generally show a positive trend in this team.