Monday Skull Session

By Luke on January 24, 2011 at 6:00a

Welcome to your Monday Skull Session. Hopefully you had an enjoyable, restful weekend that was also rampant with football. If you exclude the all-star games/exhibitions, we're now down to but one game of consequence in the 2010/2011 football season. While I know the harsh reality of Monday looming is ominous enough, after a week from Sunday, it's going to be a long time before we see meaningful football again. /weepsuncontrollably

That being said, congratulations are in order. After Green Bay's 21-14 victory over Chicago and Pittsburgh's 24-19 victory over New York, Ohio State saw five of their own headed on a collision course for Super Bowl XL in Arlington, Texas. Green Bay's AJ Hawk, Matt Wilhelm, and Ryan Pickett will represent the NFC while Will Allen and NFL Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau will be on the opposing sideline carrying the AFC banner. Should be a heck of the game. Congratulations and best of luck all those with Ohio State ties attempting to reach the pinacle of their profession.

 WE (HAD) THAT B-ROLLE! While you were busy finally taking down the Christmas lights and attempting to make right by the significant other on Saturday to preserve you the chance to spend an inordinate amount of time glued to the championship games Sunday, Brian Rolle was busy capping a week of busting tail to impress NFL brass:

Rolle certainly distinguished himself in the East’s 25-8 victory with two tackles, a forced fumble — on the game’s first play, no less — and one pass defensed. But that was just part of it.

Upon arriving in Orlando for practice and to meet with NFL scouts, Rolle wanted to show them that any concerns about his size (5-foot-10, 228 pounds) and whether he can hold up in traffic against the big boys.

A solid week of practice and a good game on Saturday hopefully took care of that.

“Coaches, after this week, see that I can play with the big guys and the best players in the country and that I can hold up,” Rolle said.

Rolle also mentioned that proprietors of Tampa-2 defenses (Minnesota and, well, Tampa, duh) expressed the most interest in his unique skill set after the fact. Makes sense given all that he brings to the table. Rolle's combination of pure speed, instincts, and intelligence make him a real potential asset in that system. While Rolle is almost assuredly ear marked for an OLB role in one of those defenses, it should be interesting to see where he ultimately lands.

 A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To 19-1 ESPN's Eamonn Brennan of ESPN (late of Big Ten hoops blog Inside The Hall) recapped the OSU/Illinois affair in grandiose fashion, rehashing that indeed this one did have all the makings of a potential upset. Until, well it didn't. Despite heading into proverbial trap game territory, the Buckeyes dug deep and overcame what seemed at one point like a train going off its rails to ultimately prevail 73-68. Make no mistake about it, Ohio State's perhaps season defining win to this point started from the middle and reverberated outward. Brennan had more:

For all of OSU's perimeter weapons, that toughness starts in the post, which means it starts with Sullinger. The freshman put up another classic line Saturday, scoring 27 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in a full 40 minutes on the floor. But perhaps most impressive was Sullinger's free throw shooting. The big man, who is shooting about 73 percent from the line this season, made 13 of his 15 foul attempts Saturday. You probably don't need me to tell you just how lethal that is. Sullinger is so good at getting early position on the block, and so strong once he's there, that you practically have to foul him if you don't want him to get two easy points. But what good is fouling if Sullinger makes his free throws? Big Ten coaches of the world: You are now free to slam your heads repeatedly against your desks. (As if you weren't already.)

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Sullinger v. path of most resistance becomes somewhat the recurring theme of the the '10/'11 hoops season. Purdue's JaJuan Johnson and the bulk-by-committee the Gophers offer up may prove Sullinger (and Ohio State)'s greatest challenges pre-mid-to-late March. That isn't to say the Bucks are invincible should the arsenal surrounding Jared suddenly collectively pull up lame, but it may not be until the defining parts of Ohio State's season that we really know this team's achilles heal.

 Freshman of the Year? How about NPOTY? Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn (strong name, bro; all we Lukes do is win) thinks those following Jared Sullinger's growth may need to look beyond the recurring weekly awards young Sully's been accumulating and start approaching things from a little bit grander scope. Besides rangeless sharp shooter Jimmer Fredette of BYU and UConn's brilliant point guard Kemba Walker, Winn suspects Jared Sullinger may find himself in the mix when everything's said and done to become potentially Ohio State' second consecutive national player of the year. Given the 27/16 he showed in Champagne Saturday, it's starting to become increasingly difficult to doubt some of this sort of chatter about the limitlessness of his game:

A Sullinger game typically involves a series of heated exchanges between coaches and officials, because refereeing him is not easy. He cannot be defended one-on-one -- Illinois had to use what Sullinger would call a "semi-double-team," with a second big lurking in the paint -- and every play involves contact. In the first half, there was OSU coach Thad Matta, imploring ref John Higgins to do something about the Illini who were (allegedly) pushing Sullinger in the back; in the second half, Illinois coach Bruce Weber fiercely stared down the men in stripes as they sent Sullinger to the line for six attempts in the final 4:18. The views on which whistles were appropriate, as you can suspect, varied widely from bench to bench.

"When [Sullinger]'s making free throws, it's pretty impossible to stop him, because he does such a great job of using his body to get position, and going up through people and drawing contact," Diebler said. "Early on in the season, teams were just saying, foul him, we'll make him shoot free throws. Well, he's making them [now]."

The Columbus product's evolution is making it awfully hard to exclude him from the list of some of the best in Ohio State's long basketball history, even this early in his career.

 Not just a godless shot chunking machine While DeShaun Thomas has frustrated many of us in the early stages of his time in Columbus, Saturday's game showcased many of the reasons why he was a highly thought of recruit/McDonald's All-American type in the first place. The Dispatch's Bob Hunter profiled Sunday some of the reasons Thomas may prove invaluable in Ohio State's quest for their first national title in almost 50 years:

But the surprise guest star of this frenetic road drama was freshman Deshaun Thomas, who joined Sullinger and Craft on the floor with 10:37 remaining, the Buckeyes down by six and William Buford headed to the bench because of a sore ankle. In the next 91/2 minutes, the 6-foot-6 forward hit a pair of three-pointers, scored under the basket and played aggressive defense. When he went to the bench for air with 1:04 left, Ohio State led 68-61.

That was the same Thomas who was 0 of 9 on threes in the past seven games. For him to hit those shots in the face of this crowd and this pressure says something about the kind of environments in which his talents were incubated.

"I'm a scorer, that's what I do," Thomas said. "Coach (Thad Matta) puts me in the game to put it in the basket and also work on my defense. There's no hesitation. You've got to treat every shot like it's a winning shot. I played through it in high school, took big shots even in the state championship. That's what I did, took big shots, and they went in."

While there will undoubtedly be times where Thomas continues to look very much like the freshman that he is, the lottery type NBA talent may yet win the day when the Buckeyes need it most.


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buckeyedude's picture

How did you know I finally took my Christmas tree and stuff down on saturday Luke? You must have e.s.p.!

I met Dane Sanzenbacher at the Toledo Walleye hockey game saturday evening(after taking down aforementioned Christmas tree). What an incredible, humble and friendly young man! My son got a picture with him. They honored him at 2nd intermission on the ice and most of the fans broke out in O-H-I-O(in the presence of many grumpy looking scUM fans, LOL)when they played the fight song! Good times. 

I watched the OSU/Illini b-ball game and wanted to turn the TV set volume down! Those two announcers were SOOOOOO biased and were pulling for the Illinois upset from the get-go, big time. I understand rooting for the underdog, but that was rediculous, IMO. Really proud of the way the boys came back after falling behind by 8 on the road. I just worry about Sullinger getting in foul trouble, as he did in the scUM game a few weeks ago(which I went to, btw). When he goes out, inside game is in trouble.

And another thing that bugged me about that game, and I certainly hope Matta noticed: when Sullinger has the ball down low, the rest of the Buckeyes seem to just stand around and watch. And I also noticed some actually start to head the other way, as if they don't need to try to rebound a missed shot! Many times, Sullinger was the only Buckeye trying to get a rebound around 4 or 5 Illini.



slippy's picture

Amen re: announcers.  I don't know why everyone loves Gus Johnson so much.  Do we love him because he's so cheesy and terrible or what?  He gets excited for no reason and has stupid catch phrases. 


I'd love to hear a conversation between him and Ian Eagle.  There would be so much random yelling it would be hilarious.

blazers34's picture

I love him bc he calls a game like he is watching it with his buddies.  Always brings the emotion.  Not everyones thing I guess, but I love it.

btalbert25's picture

I really and truly thought people were joking when they were excited about Gus Johnson doing games.  Then I discovered people were serious and it seriously confused me.  Every play should not be called with the enthusiasm of a buzzer beater or great plays in a championship game.  When I see that Gus is doing a game, I am just about as annoyed as when Vitale is calling the game. I just don't like announcers who feel the need to make themselves more important than the action being called.

tomcollins's picture

Don't compare Gus to Duke Vitale.  Gus is awesome.  Just watch the end of the Texans - Jaguars game if you don't believe me.  HA-HAAAA

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Okay, I watched the Texans - Jags hail mary and Gus certainly made up for his lack of alertness on the play with some really fine post-play screeching. One of the most important qualities in a good announcer is prolonged screechability.   

btalbert25's picture

LoL, I'm just a big fan of not really noticing the announcers.  That to me is the mark of a good one, because the game should be about what's going on on the field or court, not in the booth.  So, when an announcer is an asshole like Jessie Palmer I notice it and can't focus on the game.  When the announcer screams on every play like Gus does, I get irritated and lose interest in the actual game going on.  When a guy in an incompetent old windbag who yells baby all the time I notice it.  I don't mean to suggest Gus is a bad guy like some of the others, but I have to group him with the others because he is equally annoying to me.

tomcollins's picture

If Joe Buck called that game:

"Jags back to pass.  And it is complete in the end zone.  The Jaguars win."

gwalther's picture

LMFAO. So true. And yeah, Gus Johnson > all other announcers.


I can't watch football on Fox anymore because Joe Buck and Aikman make me want to take a f*cking nap.

Class of 2008

tomcollins's picture

I should be a bit worried about Gus.  I think he plays it up now that that's his shtick, which could make him really annoying.  I'm sure some day many years ago Vitale wasn't too bad, and just became a caricature of himself.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Actually, if could cross-breed Gus with Pat Summerrall, that would be awesome.

Is it Saturday Yet's picture

Thank you. I'm tired of Gus.

AeroBuckeye2001's picture

How can you guys hate on Gus after OSU/Xavier 2007?

Considering the alternatives, I'm fine with a bit of emotion.

The Ohio State University Class of 2001

BS Aero & Astronautical Engineering

Codeezy's picture

I was at a Walleye game last year in December before Christmas. I got my food in the concession line and Dane was standing right behind me. Since I'm a royally christened buckeye fan, I should've done more than stand there not knowing what to say, but I got nervous. It was a way better experience cause no one knew he was gonna be there he was just there with one of his friends. He's my second favorite buckeye ever.

buckeye33's picture

If you've never noticed how important a point guard is to the overall success of a basketball team, look no further than our offense with Craft playing and when he's on the bench. Buford with all his skills is not a point guard, when he's at the point , players are standing still, Lauderdale is not an offensive threat, & there is little penetration. Once he comes in the game, everything opens up for our perimeter shooters, Sullinger has more room & oportunity to work, & penetration with dish offs or kick outs make our offensive go.  While he may still be playing the sixth man role, he will be getting more playing time. Only other change you may see, if teams go big against us, look for Thomas to spell one of the forwards, while Craft remains on the floor.   GO BUCKS !!

TLB's picture

Go Steelers!

Cross Village's picture

as in..... Go Away!

ERIC OSU's picture

Amen TLB! Big D here we come

BigRedBuckeye's picture

Obvi Sully had a monster game, but I am almost inclined to give Thomas the game ball. The spark he provided, and the importance of those shots he hit, were undeniable and changed the course of the game. Call him selfish, a ball hog, or what have you, but the dude does have a nose for the basket. I also noticed a high energy/effort level on the defensive end, which is great to see, esp. because that effort is not always part of the package with a natural scorer. It speaks volumes to where the young man's head is at, his personality, and Thad's coaching. You could easily foresee a less-positive scenario for Thomas, given that he is an extraordinary freshman talent but has been, in all reality, relegated to third fiddle billing behind Sully and Craft in the eyes of fans and the media. You could foresee that being an afront to young, naturally gifted scorer's ego; in fact, with the stereotypical scorer, you might even expect some negativity to result. But we don't see that with Thomas. I hope he stays the course and keeps down the path he is currently on, because I think that path leads unquestionably to team and personal success for the young man.

And we'll drink to old Ohio, 'Til we wobble in our shoes! 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Good comments. All three frosh are "extraordinary" and "gifted," but Craft and Sullinger also just have amazing degrees of maturity, well-roundedness, basketball IQ. It's not that Thomas is lacking in those areas, at all, but that we're naturally going to compare where he is, 20 games into his frosh year, to two other guys who epitomize the old phrase, "mature beyond his years." When Thomas does catch up, though, look out!

btalbert25's picture

When I heard Sully had 6 rebounds about 6 minutes into the game, I thought to myself, here comes a monster game.  I didn't expect 27 and 16 though.  If Thomas develops into the player he was recruited to be, this team will definitely be a final four squad.  If Saturday sparks his confidence a bit, we could see some good production out of him going down the stretch.  Then you add another player who can go off for 20 on any given night.

I was thinking after the game on Saturday, forget freshman of the year Sullinger has to creep into national player of the year conversations.  Then low and behold Saturday night on Sport Center a graphic pops up with Kemba Walker, Sully and the dude from BYU as the 3 top contenders for POY.

buckeye33's picture

Right on....It's a "scorers mentality" something that coaches look for. Miss 2 or 3 shots in a row, not even a hesitation to take the next shot.  I too thought those shots were key in the turnaround & run we had.  I think the first time he dishes off to someone for an easy basket, he'll get a standing "O".

gwalther's picture

Big game Tuesday.. I hope the Schott is appropriately unhinged.

Class of 2008

Chris Lauderback's picture

I'm very interested in how the crowd shakes out. Last week versus Iowa, the talk was that a 6:30pm game is "too early". Will a 9pm weekday start be "too late" for some fans?

My guess is the place will be packed and loud which is great because the only drawback of being credentialed is that we can't join in the screaming and yelling in support of Thad's crew or verbally assault Ed Hightower, Ted Valentine etc after another horrible/showboat call. 

buckeye33's picture

Truth is (and we don't want to admit it) even with the #1 team in the country & a great product..............We're still a Football School.

Chris Lauderback's picture

I don't disagree, but that's on the fans, isn't it? Why some fans settle for OSU being just a football school is beyond me. I know that's probably just the way they were raised but I think being a fan of OSU is even better if both football and hoops are performing at a nationally elite level. Why some fans seem disinterested in having that is hard to grasp - of course those same "football school" mentality fans are slowing jumping on the bandwagon.

BucksfanXC's picture


Does being a basketball fan make me any less of a football fan? Then does being a basketball school make OSU any less of a football school?

I've been an OSU fan all my life, both basketball and football. I've been to more games at St Johns than I've been to in the Shoe though, just because basketball tickets were/are always cheaper.

That being said, I've spent the last 8yrs at Michigan State, which you can maybe debate whether or not it's a "basketball school" but most would say it is. Around here, when the football team doesn't do well, everyone goes to the old "well, at least we have basketball" as their comfort. But when football is good, they care and support it just as strongly as they support the basketball team. When the team is down the football games might not fill out the student section for every non-conference game or Indiana/Illinois/Minny game, but they will all be here for the rivals and the ranked teams. And you'd better believe if the MSU football team were ranked, they'll sell out that stadium. It amazes me that the same can't be said for OSU basketball. Now, I know basketball is a bit different because there are weekday games and lots more games in general, but still, students can't fill up the lower bowl when the team is #1 in the country? Get off your dorm room couch and get your ass to the game ppl! We should be better Big Ten fans/supporters of our team.

“Any time you give a man something he doesn't earn, you cheapen him. Our kids earn what they get, and that includes respect.”  - Woody

btalbert25's picture

Yeah it's a football school, but football has decades of success to fall back on.  Basketball has some success in it's history, but it's been isolated and scattered over the last 50 years.  The current era has been good, but it's not exactly like we are a perennial top 5 yet either, and this era came on the heels of one that had some controversy.  With Oden's class and the run to the final four, Evan Turner last year, and this current team, there is a lot of momentum.  If Thad stays here for another 10+ years and this team consistently competes at a high level, there will be much more buzz about basketball.  That's what is crucial.  We can't be Florida where they had 2 great years of basketball and nothing since. 

Matt's picture

Here's a thought that Ramzy posted on twitter last night:  John Cooper hasn't coached a game in more than 10 years, and he has three players playing in the Super Bowl.  Coop had many faults, but being a poor recruiter and/or lacking an eye for talent were not among them.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

I guess its cause I am semi-young, but I was totally unaware LeBeau was a Buckeye.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

Chris Lauderback's picture

Yep. Sure was. In fact, he was a pimp at both HB and Corner on the '57 national championship team.

I can't load this vid at work but maybe you can view. It's DLB talking about his time at OSU: 


The_Lurker's picture

Purdue up to #12 in today's poll. Sully is POW and FOW (again). Looking forward to tomorrow night. THE Ohio State is a football AND a basketball school! (and hockey, and soccer, and synchronized swimming, and volleyball, etc., etc., ad nauseum.)

RBuck's picture

Does anyone know if tOSU ever had a football and basketball team both ranked No. 1 in the same scholastic year prior to this season? What a great accomplishment and a tribute to the coaches and programs. We're getting spoiled.

Long live the southend.

Alex's picture

2006 football team was #1 and lost to UF in the MNC...Oden and his boys were #1 in bball that year as well!

Colin's picture

Both came to Florida as well...quite the anomaly.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

That was a rough January through April....I absolutely HATE the Florida Gators.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

Bucksfan's picture

Just through April '06??  For some, the pain still lingers.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

It still lingers today for me. But those few months had my immediate family concerned about me having suicidal tendancies. Not that it was that serious, but I was pretty bad off.

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama