True Blood

By Johnny Ginter on March 19, 2012 at 11:00a
Oscar and JerryMagnetic

So in a bayou somewhere in Louisiana, a vampire bites into the neck of a shrill waitress... no, not really. Kidding. This story is about blood, but not quite in the literal sense. It's more of a metaphoric thing, like how you'd call two friends who grow up together blood brothers, or how you might say "well he's not a blood relative but he might as well be" when referring to your "Uncle" Bill who's really just one of your dad's very lonely employees that comes to family functions constantly.

I'm from Middletown, and when I was about 7 or 8, my Grandpa Fay sat me down and asked me to read a book. It was a book about memorization and increasing your brain power by a guy I had never heard of called Jerry Lucas. My grandpa insisted that it was a great book written by very famous basketball player, but for a kid who was way, way more interested in ankylosaurus and beating level 3-4 in Super Mario Bros. 3, I really didn't give too much thought to the local semi-hero who had learned to play ball on a court a block away from my house. Short story even shorter, I never read the book and now I usually forget what I had for breakfast on any given day.

Of course, had I read the book, and had I decided to try and learn more about Jerry Lucas, I might've also discovered that the aforementioned basketball court wasn't just for Lucas; no, that relatively small cement slab used to be an Ohio basketball Mecca of sorts. Players from around the state would come to practice and learn with possibly the greatest high school basketball player Ohio has ever seen.

One of these players was a Oscar Robertson, and though the two never met in a game with as much importance as this Thursday's Sweet 16 game between the Buckeyes and the Bearcats, both Lucas' and Robertson's evolution into basketball superstars would set the stage for a natural (if often unfulfilled) rivalry between two legendary programs.

Oscar Robertson really needs no introduction. An incredible player at Cincinnati, he led them to two Final Fours. In the NBA, he revolutionized the guard position and is the only NBA player in history to average a triple double for an entire season. For Cincinnati's part, he briefly turned them into a national power in college basketball almost by himself and cemented his legacy through his incredible accumulation of statistics.

Jerry Lucas has a similar background. As the most heralded high school basketball player in Ohio's history, he garnered massive attention throughout the state after he led the Middies to two consecutive championships. Considered to be one of the best pure shooters of all time, he was also deadly on the glass at a time rebounding wasn't even tracked as a statistic. At Ohio State, he led the Buckeyes to their only national championship in 1960, but then lost in consecutive years to the Robertson-less Bearcats.

That run of three years where Ohio teams dominated college basketball is something that we have not seen since, although this year recalls that idea; as has been retweeted roughly 10000 times since last night, this year there are four Ohio colleges in the Sweet 16, the only time that has ever been accomplished.

And really, the matchup between Ohio State and Cincinnati is a natural one. After long hibernations, both programs experienced something of a resurgence in the 1990s and early 2000s. Jim O'Brien and Bob Huggins, for all their faults, dragged both programs kicking and screaming back to a point where they could be at least somewhat worthy of Lucas and Robertson, but still the anticipated OSU/UC matchup didn't come.

Maybe not the best role model for a 12 year old but whatever

In fact it would take until 2006, where Greg Oden and company took UC to the woodshed (the game was, no joke, 42-14 at halftime) in a relatively meaningless early season game that was forgotten almost as soon as it was over.

Which is what makes this matchup between Ohio State and Cincinnati so great. There is legitimate history here, both teams are playing very well, and it's a game that is of extreme importance. As a kid who grew up rooting for Ohio State in one sport and Cincinnati and another, for me this is the realization of what should have been a long standing feud between two great programs. Yancy Gates and Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft may not know it, but for me and many people like myself in Ohio, this matters. This means something, something beyond the obvious NCAA tourney implications.

Some of you may be wondering why I didn't focus on Havlicek or Knight for this post, and the reason is this: despite the influence that they both had on Ohio college basketball, Robertson and Lucas never met on opposite sides of the court in college. But years later, they won a gold medal together in the 1960 Olympics, were teammates in the NBA on the Cincinnati Royals (which eventually became the Sacremento Kings), and finally in 1980 were inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame together.

Point is, Thursdays game was always destined to happen. Two teams, bound by a shared past, a shared blood, are going to finally play a signifcant game against each other and it will be awesome. And that's the way it should be: you simply cannot have two very good collegiate sports powers in Ohio and not have them play. It's just way too much fun.


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Buckeye in Illini country's picture

Ohio St. and UC play in the Sweet 16 this Thursday; not the Elite 8.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

Johnny Ginter's picture

hah wow, brain fart on my part, tried to combine two sentences there and failed. thanks man

sharkvsghost's picture

i knew what you meant, johnny. nice piece.

growing up in wilmington, i too once rooted for uc in basketball. but as i got older the ohio state university captured more and more of my heart (and eventually my tuition dollars). although i had cooled on uc through high school, by the time i left for columbus i truly disliked all things bearcat. maybe it had always been there, but when i decided to go to ohio state it became apparent how one-sided and obnoxious the trolling is between fan bases. no one in columbus seemed to have any feelings at all toward uc athletics, yet, when i would go home there were always bearcat fans among my friends and family chirping about ohio state. i'm not sure what it's about other than some variation on the theme of southwest ohio sports contrarianism (brady hoke's disease) that you've identified in writing and on the podcast.  the recent relative successes of the uc football program have only exacerbated the obnoxiousness (or "cat-itude" as they love to call it).

anyway, i hope we win. but i'm thankful that when i now say we i no longer mean them - win or lose.

swing hard in case you hit it.

btalbert25's picture

I deal with the BS from UK fans all the time too.  All UK fans hate Ohio State.  This dated before the recent SEC fans hating on Ohio State for not playing anyone debate too.  I don't get it since Ohio State and UK never play in anything, and their programs don't really have any rivalry.  UK is a basketball school with mediocre to bad football and prior to Matta Ohio State was a football school that was average to good at basketball.  There's no rivalry there I don't get it


Buckeye in Illini country's picture

I had the same thing with both my parents and several of my uncles/ cousins as alumni of UC.  At least they also like Ohio State, but it was always second tier to UC when I was younger.  Now I am one of the few in the family who is all in on Ohio State and really don't care that much about UC.

The bUCeye state thing was very irritating during their one good football season.

Columbus to Pasadena: 35 hours.  "We're on a road trip through the desert looking for strippers and cocaine... and Rose Bowl wins!"

Oakland Buckeye's picture

get a life illini - WE ALL knew what he meant - that is even worse than "first"

Hoody Wayes's picture

All the pressure is on Ohio State - and even moreso, on Thad Matta - going into this game against Cincinnati.

While this season has been an exercise in failing to live up to expectations on the court, this game with Cincinnati will be a watershed moment in Matta's tenure and Ohio state basketball history.

Losing to Cincinnati, will reinforce the notion that Matta won't win the national title, at Ohio State.

Losing to Cincinnati, will only reinforce Cincinnati's right to claim it is the standard-bearer in Ohio college basketball history.

This is a dangerous game for the Buckeyes and Thad Matta. Winning it may yield more of a feeling of relief than joy.   

Idaho Helga's picture

Totally agree w/ you. Many of us will recognize that while the Bear Cats have a great team, the tOSU brand will gather the weight. I don't know spit about the the 'Cats (since Huggins) but if they win it will be seen as epic win when it's really not.

Nevertheless, Vegas has tOSU by 7 and I'm good with that.

I live in North Idaho where we have real live bears (lots!), buckeye/horse chestnut trees, wolverines(1 rare animal recently spotted),cougars, wolves and bobcats. Most are rare, limited to the nearly mountains and I haven't seen any; except wolves. No, I live in town and other than the old hungry cougar who came to town to pick off local dogs and got shot for his poor choices in prey (Plummer, ID) I don't see a lot of problems sometimes moose and elk frequent here grazing in backyards in crappy winters. A Moose got killed on rr tracks because he foraged on trails that the train previously cleared....

Sadly we may only hunt the Buckeyes. They call them "horse chestnuts" here.
Go Bucks

BuckeyeBob's picture

Great 'lunchtime' article...I'm really looking forward to this game on Thursday..being close to Cincy i would hate for the Bucks to be on the losing end (not that i think that they will), since i will have to 'hear' about it from everyone around here..(radio, TV, etc)....but there is such a strong history with both schools (both separately and together), that this game really makes a great story. Again, nice work.

thatlillefty's picture

Can't wait for this game

Ethos's picture

I can, i'm worried :(

"I spent 90 percent of my money on women and drink. The rest I wasted." - George Best

The Vest-er's picture

Lucas wrote a book about state capitals that I learned in forth grade. To this day, when asked about a capital, I walk through the scenes of that book.

Fundamentals are a crutch for the talentless.

Bucksfan's picture

Great write-up, Johnny.  I also grew up rooting for Cincy bball.  This is HIGHLY anticipated.

btalbert25's picture

People crack me up.  Every round people have been worried about the opponent, even the first round there was a post about the possibility of being upset.  People were freaking out about the possibility of meeting FSU in the Sweet 16.  Hell people were even scared of playing WVU in the 2nd round.  Is it just commonplace for this fan base to keep expecting the worst?  Even more troubling to we expect the worst of our team so we can say told you so after they lose? 

I for one would be extremely surprised if they lose this game.  Gates is a load down low, but I just don't see them having an answer for Thomas.  Craft is great and if Bufford plays well this game won't even be close.  That's right, I'm going on record as saying I'm not worried about this game and Ohio State is going to win relatively easy.  UC has had a nice season and overcome a lot, but fact is, they beat an over rated 3 seed to get to this game.  3 games ago they lost to Louisville, a team that other than myself and 1 other person everyone on this site seems to think sucks.  What is there possibly to be worried about.  The last 2 sweet 16 matchups were much more difficult than this one is. 

Even though the first round the Bucks didn't play the greatest, they are in probably the best stretch of play they've had all season.  The MSU game, B1G tournament, and thus far in the NCAA tournament, Ohio State has played some damn good basketball.  They've been in a couple of tight games so far too.  With UNC and Syracuse short players, that side of the bracket belongs to the Buckeyes.  They're going to play focused.

BucksfanXC's picture

Well this is the internet so A) there are kooks among us and B) we have to talk about something. Anything can happen in basketball, and this team show a weakness against the zone that almost cost us against Gonzaga and could still in up coming games. But I know what your saying, my point is, people are here to talk and they gotta talk about something. Where to put the trophy when we win only has so much discussion it can spur.

“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

I get what you are saying, it's just crazy, people were complaining about how hard it was going to be to play WVU in the 2nd round, and how FSU was going to beat us, and Syracuse will do it in the elite 8.  Then as a reaction to that people said quite looking ahead we may lose in the first round.  Then WVU doesn't make it to the 2nd round so Gonazaga was going to win for sure, they'll be tough. Now, since FSU, the team that according to just about everyone said was going to beat Ohio State in the sweet 16, has lost, we are supposed to be paranoid about UC?  I don't get it.  i suppose we'll hear the same when they win and Bucky will be the Elite 8 matchup.

I'm not suggesting everyone should be a homer, I'm just suggesting we enjoy the games and actually not be affraid to say , yeah our team is going to win this one.  They were a top 10 team all year and are more than capable of kicking UC's ass. They've beat better teams this year, and outside of the Illinois loss, I'm not sure they've lost to anyone at UC's level.


moopdawg's picture

I'm with BTALBERT.  If everyone does their job, we win this game solidly.  I'm anxious to read other people's breakdown for this game against Cincy.  I posted this earlier on another thread.  Let me know what you think. 

Haven't seen Cincinatti play until I watched them last night against Florida State.  From what little I have seen, I feel confident in the Bucks getting the win.  Cincinatti seems to have lots of quickness, but they lack size.  I do not believe that they have anyone who can match up with Sullinger.  They will be forced to double him, and that should lead to Thomas, Craft, Buford, and Smith to get open looks.  With multiple days to prepare for this one, I see the Buckeyes being very focused and well rested.

If the Buckeyes are focused, it means that they will communicate on the defense.  This will be the key to shutting down Cincinatti's penetration.  If this is accomplished, I see the Bearcats struggling to find any consistent offense.  Craft and the rest of the back court will need to take care of the ball, because I think Cincy will try to create offense by using their pressure D.  Once again, if the Bucks are focused, they should end up with a solid win from a gritty Cincinatti squad.  Looking forward to a good game.

Matt's picture


DefendOhio's picture

I'm waiting for Warring Harding to weigh in on this issue.