Tuesday Skull Session

By Danny on March 20, 2012 at 6:00a

Good morning Buckeye faithful and welcome to your Tuesday Skull Session.

Not too long ago, people were looking down at the Buckeyes' basketball team. It just seemed as though they weren't playing as a team, citing character issues, Matta losing control of his team, and an offense that featured such great plays as "give the ball to Sullinger."

Point being, the Buckeyes were playing stagnant, lazy basketball. Fans, players, and coaches weren't satisfied with this effort from such a talented squad. But the NCAA tournament has been their coming out party.

More specifically, the Buckeyes' last game against Gonzaga was the best team work I've seen from this squad all season. They even found ways to play without Sullinger which was a difficult task for them early in the season.

While I'm proud of how much this team has come together over the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA tournament, we should not be getting too excited about reaching the sweet 16. This team needs to stay focused and remember that there's more games ahead of them if they can keep their collective cool.

I won't say anything about how far I think Ohio State can go for fear of jinxing their run, but I believe this team is pretty special and that they can accomplish big things. Now we just need to hope Yancy Gates can keep his collective cool and we're set for a fantastic Ohio matchup this Thursday.

MIDWEST IS THE BEST. You may have heard this weekend that there are a couple teams from Ohio in the sweet 16. However, the Midwest also has a few other teams making a splash on college basketball's biggest stage.

Seven teams from the Midwest region made the sweet 16, including: Ohio State, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Louisville, Xavier, Ohio University, and Indiana. All of these teams are less than two hours from Cincinnati. While it is certainly exciting to see the Midwest so heavily represented, Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports points out that all these teams aren't so fond of one another's success.

Wetzel describes how these teams have a particular hate for each other and that there are some pretty interesting rivalries that have developed over the years. In OSU's case, Thad Matta seems to be at the attention of several of these Midwest-area rivalries.

Wetzel discusses how Indiana's head coach Tom Crean has a particular dislike for Matta because of Matta's success at recruiting players from Indiana.

The article also mentions John Groce, Ohio University's head coach, who was an assistant coach under Matta. Groce famously called four technical fouls in a practice game against Jamar Butler, according to Mr. Mark Titus. It certainly would be interesting to see this pupil versus master matchup, but it's beyond unlikely to see OU power past North Carolina, although they did back in 2002.

Wetzel also points out how Matta once was Xavier's head coach. While Wetzel claims Matta is still held in high regard back at Xavier, this was not the case in 2007 when the Buckeyes faced Xavier in the NCAA's. Many were angry about Matta's departure and his former team played like it in that game, nearly pulling off the upset.

It's certainly exciting to see so many local schools this year still in the tournament, and maybe they'll provide some more upsets this weekend.

THE ROAD AHEAD. It's only the sweet 16 and there's still a long road ahead, but ESPN's Eamonn Brennan ranks the Buckeyes as one of his favorites to win the national title.

Additionally, both the KenPom and LRMC rank Ohio State as the number two favorite to win the title this season. Brennan likes how consistent the Buckeyes have played so far in the tournament. He also believes Aaron Craft and William Buford are the two biggest factors moving forward.

If Craft even gets half the results he had against Gonzaga, this team will be extremely more productive. Buford has still yet to get back on track after another poor shooting performance. If Craft and Buford start making shots, the sky is the limit for this team which is already sound defensively.


I'm not jinxing nobody.

WINNERS, LOSERS, AND EVERYTHING IN BETWEEN. The Cincinnati Enquirer takes a look at the winners and losers of the tournament so far. Spoiler Alert: The state of Ohio might be listed as a winner.

Among the other winners, the Big Ten conference is listed for, like the state of Ohio, having four teams in the sweet 16. The Buckeyes and Spartans are the two favorites in both of their regions, Indiana is playing a Kentucky team which they knocked off earlier in the season, and Wisconsin gets a shot at a Syracuse team without their star center.

Overall, the Big Ten has a pretty decent shot to go 4/4 into the elite eight.

PATERNO POLLING WELL. Approximately 46% of people in a 1,300-person poll conducted by Quinnipiac University said they would like to rename Beaver Stadium of Penn State after the recently deceased Joe Paterno.

It appears Paterno's ghost is still haunting a Penn State program which would just like to move on into a new era of football. It's hard for me to have an opinion on this issue because I am not a Penn State fan. If I was, I can imagine I would feel strongly about preserving Paterno's legacy. However, the scandal which ultimately ended his career certainly needs to be a factor in this decision.

LOS LINKS. Would you care for more laxing, bro?... Smart a fit in Illinois?... Browns football? Browns football... Matchup of the half century... Brady Hoke and social media, anyone?



Comments Show All Comments

cplunk's picture

Love the article about the midwest. And it is right. I grew up in Cincinnati, and basektball-wsie to me its all about Cincy, OSU, Xavier, Louisville, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Michigan. When any of those play each other, that's what I watch. And I root vehemently.

Sometimes Wisconsin creeps into the mix, and once in awhile Marquette, DePaul, and Illinois, but really its that top group.


Hasbro's picture

Crean's dislike for Matta is displaced self-loathing for the bitch-slapping he receives from the Harbaugh brothers.

mclovin's picture

Wow, I did not think anyone watched those two games and came away with "coming out party."   Anyone but Loyola and we might have lost, and we beat a 7 seed by 7.  We did win and Thomas has looked really good, but I think this team bumbled through those first two and hopefully have much more to show us against Cincy.

vitaminB's picture

I agree.  De Thomas is due for an off night, and then we might be in trouble.  The key is Craft.  If he can keep getting to the rack and hitting threes then I'm okay with the offense. 

I want to see Amir put ahead of Ravenell in the rotation.  He looked good in those few minutes against the Zags.

mclovin's picture

Agree with the Amir comment 100%.

I liked Craft against the Zags, definitely his high point so far.  I just hate that it came against two young, undersized, and unathletic guards, because I worry whether he'll be able to repeat against higher competition.

RedStorm45's picture

Due for an off night? He's hit 18 or more in 8 of the last 10 games.  Kid is on a roll and UC starts 4 guys who are 6'4'' or shorter (Gates will obviously draw Sullinger) - how is Thomas going to get a hand in his face with his elevation at his height? UC will either have to play zone or play Justin Jackson (I believe) off their bench extensively.  The only issue is if D.T. can stay in front of one of their guards defensively.

It would also help if Buford could hit more than 36% from the field (his average since the MSU game in East Lansing).  He's been way off since post season play started and he continued his circus shots in Pittsburgh.

UC plays more zone than the Zags or Loyola...I don't think Gates can take Sully 1-on-1 the whole game so they may have to double - we have a height advantage at basically every position.  Interesting matchup.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

Yes, Buckeyes played sloppy against Loyola and, for the first 15 minutes against Zaga, played poor defense; but let's keep things in perspective:

Only two teams played dominating bball in the round of 32: Kentucky, the tourney favorite, and UNC, which lost their PG.

Other teams that played well, in performances that were comparable to Ohio State beating a team as good as Gonzaga, but had to fight for their lives: MSU scrapped out a 4-pt win over underrated St. Louis; Louisville in Portland over New Mexico; Syracuse v. K State; Wisconsin barely over Vandy; Cincy barely over FSU.

Gonzaga could play all day long with St. Louis, New Mexico, K State, Vandy, or FSU.

Meanwhile, other schools got easy draws and/or were lucky to advance: Indiana lucky to beat VCU; Baylor beat overachieving Colorado; Xavier over freakin' Lehigh; Marquette over Anne Murray State; Florida over Norfolk freakin' State; Ohio v. USF; NC State versus a lifeless Georgetown team; Kansas was very fortunate to beat Purdue, which Ohio State well-handled in the B1G tournament.   

mclovin's picture

My point was that the way they have played definitely doesn't merit any kind of celebration that would go along with a "coming out party."  Yeah, we won -- badly against Loyola and somewhat better against the Zags.  Other teams did play worse than we did and still managed to win.  But that doesn't make our wins any prettier. 

Run_Fido_Run's picture

The Yahoo article on the "river of hate" that flows through the bball Midwest is quite good. One tidbit made me like Tom Crean even less than before:

About the only bit of thawing in this deal is the fact that Calipari and Hoosier coach Tom Crean are close friends.

Okay, I know applying guilt-by-association is unfair, but some of Calipari's slime just oozed onto the hollier-than-thou Tom Crean, and isn't that fitting?

btalbert25's picture

You know, I'm not so sure that Calipari is all that much different than Tressel was.  Every time anything has happened where one of his players got in trouble or the program had to vacate wins or got in hot water, he used the same defense that Tressel always did and said I wasn't aware of what was going on.  He's a little more candid with the press than Tressel, but he's a lot like a politician.  He's charismatic and wins over the kid's families when he's recruiting.  All of the teams he's coached at have loved the guy and he's done a lot out in the community every stop he's been at.  I've always felt that, while their personalities may have been different, both guys were pretty similar.  At YSU, the Clarrett issue, and even the beginning of Tatgate Tressel simply said I had no idea that stuff was going on!  That's what Cal did at UMass and Memphis and I'm sure when one of his players takes something they aren't supposed to or does something to get the program in trouble Cal will do the same thing at UK.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

I don't believe that Calipari is half the man that is JT, but I do appreciate that Calipari does a lot in the community.

I'm not in a position to suggest that Calipari is a bad person, per se, and I'm not asserting that JT is beyond reproach. Even if I had all the information, I'd hesitate to paint things in such a black & white manner, anyway. They are (or were) coaches in billion $ entertainment enterprises.

But that's also the point: we all fall very well short of the ideal, but some people strive to get back on the path when they've wandered astray. My sense about Calipari is that he pisses on the path whenever he thinks he can get away with it.

btalbert25's picture

I'm not saying he plays by the rules all the time, I just don't think he's the scumbag people make him out to be, much like I don't believe that Tressel is the saint or martyr that people have turned him into either.  I think both are good men, and both understood what you have to do to be successful as the head of enormous athletic programs.  I think Tress may have done a better job of convincing people he was squeaky clean where maybe Cal just doesn't care so much about it.  Either way both men have done great things, both men have probably skirted the rules on more than one occasion, and both have a long of players who have nothing but great things to say about them.  AND they both have won a lot of games.

GABuckeye's picture

There is also a good chance the Big Ten goes 1/4.....

Run_Fido_Run's picture

"A good chance the Big Ten goes 1/4" = the odds are good that the Big Ten will go either 0-4 or 1-3 in the next round. In other words, a gambler would back that proposition at even money.

If a friend offered me that action, I'd take it in a heartbeat.

Ohio State is 8 pt. favorites v. Cincy; MSU is 4.5 pt favorites over Louisville. The odds of both winning is almost 50 percent right there. Wisconsin has probably about 40 percent chance of beating Syracuse, which makes the odds of at least two of those three winning around 65 percent, I'm guessing. Factor-in long shot Indiana, which has maybe a 15 percent chance of winning, and the odds improve a little more.      

misterpants's picture

I can only assume that we will see a slew of articles about how basketball has passed the South by, as Southern schools are unable to compete with Midwestern height.

Run_Fido_Run's picture

No way could Midwestern bball teams do it with height alone, or else Minnesota, Illinois, and even Wake Forest would be in the Sweet 16. It must be that superior Midwestern speeeeeeeeeed!

Buckman's picture

Hahahahaha.  Every kid from the Midwest gets an automatic 5 star rating.

It must be that superior Midwestern speeeeeeeeeed!


I like to believe that my best hits border on felonious assault.


Kalamazoo Steve's picture

That thought went through my head as well.  The majority of folks think the SEC gets the amount of talent it gets because kids want to go to school in a warm environment.  I realize basketball is played inside, but winter is winter.  It's cold when they walk outside.  So why don't the southern schools dominate hoops?  I have a theory that the boosters don't like to pay for basketball because they don't care.  Fewer $100 handshakes for the LSU point guard.

btalbert25's picture

I've often heard the SEC is a Football Conference with 1 basketball program and 1 great academic institution.  Florida wins back to back basketball championships and the fans are still more interested in what Tim Tebow is up to.  Basketball isn't great down there because the fans don't demand it to be other than 1 school.  If they happen to have a great year mixed in than great.

btalbert25's picture

The part about Florida, though, makes me wonder if the Buckeyes won the hoops title this year and a 5 star recruit for football signed on the same day, which story would get more comments on 11w? I think the recruit would myself.

onetwentyeight's picture

I see nothing wrong with this. 

Squirrel Master's picture

depends on what 5 star recruit we are talking about. Is it a 5 star kicker, I would be happier for the bball championship.......maybe!

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

jkrk's picture

I wonder if Craft's ankle is still bothering him. When he drives to the basket he creates all sorts of problems for opposing defenses, but he doesn't seem to do that as much as he used to. 

Re: the Penn State stadium thing, I wonder if "Pre-Sandusky Scandal Joe Paterno Stadium" would satisfy everyone.

Squirrel Master's picture

First of all, hello! Second of all, I had the buckeyes going to sweet sixteen no matter what. I did not think Gonzaga would be such trouble but I believed they were plenty good enough to get to where they are. Now how much farther will depend on the level of play they will produce. I am a believer and can't wait to see a possible final four birth and play Ohio!!!!

I find it funny that a player from the LAX team is named Turner Evans! Sounds very familiar! almost like its the reverse of someone I know! Perhaps someone who hit a briliant game winning shot against X.

and on that topic, I love hom Evan is now starting for a decent 76ers team and will be in the playoffs meanwhile the 2 most talked about players from his draft, Wall and Cousins, are floundering on horrible teams. Cousins is playing well although still has his ups and downs. Wall isn't even closed to the player he was billed to be. I felt Turner was the better player and I think it is going to end up that way very soon here. Turner is just getting started.

I saw a UFO once.......it told me to have a goodyear!

RedStorm45's picture

The 76ers have a bunch of good guards, so E.T. hasn't played much more than 20-25 minutes a game until recently.  He was kind of stuck behind the other A.I., Lou Williams, etc.