06 February 2012
Basketball Buckeyes (finally) prove it on the road
After Saturday’s gut-check 58-52 road win over Wisconsin, you can buy what the Buckeyes are selling.
Going in to Saturday’s game, the Badgers had won six straight. Last time the Buckeyes had traveled to Wisconsin, they lost in devastating fashion, blowing a 15-point lead late in the second half. Both before and after that game, Jared Sullinger was spit on. Thad Matta had never won in Madison. The Buckeyes had folded when tested on the road this season against Illinois and Indiana.
That didn’t matter on Saturday. The Buckeyes did everything they failed to do in Indiana and Illinois. Jared Sullinger came up big with 24 points and 10 boards. Ohio State took advantage of his dominance in the post. A Buckeye finally came up big from distance in a key moment when William Buford put the game out of reach late in the second half with a trey. The team’s defense held up for 40 minutes.
Most importantly, the Buckeyes finished off a quality opponent on the road for the first time in a season filled with 30-point blowouts at the Schott.
A win like this requires mental toughness and elite focus. Teams don’t win national championships without those traits. The Buckeyes are a supremely talented team, but before their trip to Wisconsin, they hadn’t proven their mettle.
They did Saturday. Perhaps the Buckeyes have finally grown up. Perhaps they’re ready to tap into their massive potential. If so, look out.
Urban Meyer is dragging the B1G, kicking and screaming, into 2012
Bret Bielema won’t come quietly. Neither will Mark Dantonio. Until they do, and no matter how much they whine, the Big Ten is a two-horse race.
So far, Urban Meyer has brought the best of the SEC to Columbus while leaving the worst down South. He recruited aggressively, flipping eight recruits in two months, most from other Big Ten programs. Simultaneously, he’s turned away recruits whose primary motivations are financial. He’s also implemented a blistering strength and conditioning program designed to cure Ohio State of its current lackluster athleticism.
In short, he’s doing everything the Big Ten failed to do in the last decade. There’s a reason the conference hasn’t won a national championship in ten years: it’s made the mistake of thinking that “doing it well” and “doing it right” are mutually exclusive. By ignoring what works, the conference stopped trying to be the best in the country, instead settling for best in the Midwest.
No wonder Meyer’s arrival has ruffled feathers. Mediocrity won’t cut it anymore in the B1G. The past two months are evidence of that. Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Penn State’s mediocrity resulted in a recruiting bonanza for Ohio State and the SEC-tested Meyer.
So when Bielema and Dantonio complained about Meyer flipping their commits this week, they weren’t whining about Kyle Dodson and Se’von Pittman, who respectively flipped from Wisconsin and Michigan State. They were whining because they’re headed straight to the second tier in the B1G. And they know it.
What Bielema should have been doing, instead of stupidly calling Meyer’s recruiting tactics “illegal,” was writing Ohio State and Urban Meyer a thank you note on official Big Ten stationary. The fact is that the conference needs Meyer. For ten years, the B1G has been defined by subpar athleticism, lazy recruiting disguised as dignity, and a holier-than-thou attitude borne out of jealousy.
Being stuck in the past doesn’t give the Big Ten (or Bret Bielema) the moral high ground. Moving into the future with ethics and dignity does. That’s what Urban Meyer is doing in Columbus. The B1G would be wise to follow.
Stefon Diggs, the lone remaining uncommitted recruit the Buckeyes are interested in, is scheduled to make his decision this week. His decision may come Friday. If he signs with Ohio State (as many believe he will), he’ll instantly be the most exciting offensive player the Buckeyes signed this year.
With a key road win under their belts, the basketball Buckeyes host Purdue and Michigan State this week. The matchup with the Spartans is particularly intriguing. The Buckeyes and the Spartans are the two best teams in the Big Ten. This is the first contest in a series between the two that may not end until the Big Ten Conference Tournament finals.
The Ohio State Spring Game is popular every year, but with the hype surrounding Urban Meyer’s arrival in Columbus and the recruiting class he brought in tow, tickets might be hard to come by. Buzz around campus suggests a near-sellout. Adjust your plans accordingly.
Right now, Jared Sullinger isn’t National Player of the Year. He’s an All-American, but his game hasn’t progressed as far as many expected after his freshman season. He’s not out of the running, though. Eight out of the remaining nine games on the Buckeyes’ schedule will be played on ESPN or CBS. A dominant run in front of a national audience will vault him back to the top.
The Week Ahead
Tuesday (Men’s Basketball): Purdue @ Ohio State. 9 p.m. on ESPN.
Friday (Football): Stefon Diggs makes his college decision.
Saturday (Men’s Basketball): Michigan State @ Ohio State. 6 p.m. on ESPN.
Congratulations to Jake Ballard and Jim Cordle, both former Buckeyes who play for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Ballard’s efforts this year earned him a PCL tear in one knee and a meniscus tear in the other. Needless to say, he earned his ring.
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