Another week. Another Monday. It's time to caffeinate and dominate.
It's also time for you to submit a question to the weekly beat writer chat/Q&A I will be doing at 2 p.m. this afternoon. Let's talk Ohio State sports, why “Good Will Hunting” is the greatest movie ever made and anything else you would like to ask.
And, most importantly, let's have a good Monday, shall we?
A TOP 10 SHOWDOWN. Ohio State women's basketball is about to enter its most challenging stretch of the regular season – one that starts with a top-10 matchup against Iowa on Monday at 7 p.m. in Columbus.
The No. 2 Buckeyes (19-0, 8-0 Big Ten) will put their perfect record on the line when they host All-American Caitlin Clark and the No. 10 Hawkeyes (15-4, 7-1 Big Ten) at Value City Arena. Clark ranks third nationally with 26.7 points per game and adds 7.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists per contest for Iowa. Monika Czinano (17.9 ppg) and McKenna Warnock (11.9 ppg) are right behind Clark, averaging double figures for the Hawkeyes.
But talented players and teams with plenty of scorers haven't kept the Buckeyes from winning this season, not even against Tennessee, Louisville, Oregon and Michigan – all of which were ranked in the top 15 at the time of playing Ohio State.
Kevin McGuff's squad has been so successful against the best of the best (and against the not-so-great teams) because they also have talented players and plenty of scorers, including Taylor Mikesell, Rebeka Mikulasikova, Cotie McMahon and Taylor Thierry, who all average double figures for the Buckeyes.
Mikesell and Mikulasikova have been the bread-and-butter combo for Ohio State all season long, especially as Jacy Sheldon recovers from a foot injury that has limited her to only five games this year. Mikesell leads the team with 18.5 points per game, along with 3.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists, while Mikulasikova has contributed 14.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest.
So, with two teams ranked in the top 10 with talent galore on their rosters, it feels like a lock that Ohio State vs. Iowa will be one of the best games of the season in women's college basketball. That means you should watch it on ESPN2! Better yet, if you live in or close to Columbus, you should purchase a ticket and go! If you can find a ticket, that is.
If you will be in attendance for tonight's game, Ohio State has some incentive for you to arrive early. From a women's basketball press release:
Monday’s game is Buckeye Club appreciation night and 614 night. The first 2,000 fans will receive a free dub chain T-shirt. For 614 night, a concession deal will be offered in certain concession stands – get a popcorn, water and hot dog for just $11 (6+1+4). A jump rope group will be performing at halftime and the Buckeyes will be welcoming back former OSU and current WNBA great, Kelsey Mitchell (’18).
And, folks, the shirts are sick. Can someone grab an extra one for me?
Time to win No. 20, McGuff and Co. Buckeye Nation is behind you.
(HOPEFULLY) BACK ON TRACK. While the women's basketball team must wait until tonight for its chance to beat the Hawkeyes, the men's team already accomplished that feat over the weekend with a 93-77 win at home on Saturday.
The victory snapped a five-game skid for Ohio State. It also snapped me out of depression from watching the Buckeyes, as they F-I-N-A-L-L-Y played to their potential against a quality opponent. In this instance, it was the Fran McCaffery-coached Hawkeyes, who came to Columbus as winners in their previous four games.
Brice Sensabaugh should be named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday (for the fourth time this season) after a dominant performance in which he shot 10-of-12 from the floor and four-of-five from behind the arc for a career-high 27 points. He also added five rebounds, one assist and one steal to his statistical totals.
But it wasn't even the best performance from an Ohio State player in the game.
No, that honor belongs to Isaac “Ice” Likekele, the Oklahoma State transfer who played his best game as a Buckeye in his 16th appearance for the Ohio State program. As our basketball beat writer Griffin Strom expertly wrote, “Ice Caught Fire” on Saturday, as Likekele contributed a season-high 18 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in the blowout win.
It was an outstanding all-around performance from Chris Holtmann's squad and gave us a glimpse of what this team is capable of at its best. Sensabaugh was dominant. Likekele, Zed Key, Justice Sueing and Sean McNeil were fantastic. I mean, even sequences like this were a frequent occurrence:
Where has that Ohio State team been all season?
Hopefully, this victory will be the one we all look back to as the turning point for the Buckeyes when this season is all said and done. The victory that helped Ohio State – a very talented team on paper – to quit playing with its food and go win basketball games.
One can hope, at least.
WHEN BUCKEYES BECOME BENGALS. As I mentioned last week, I am a Browns fan coping with the reality that my favorite team is cursed for an eternity and will only bring me sadness. Because that is true, I have a void in my heart that needs to be filled with fandom for an NFL team. The Cincinnati Bengals have officially filled that void.
Folks, the Bengals are too dang likable, and I had a lot of fun watching them beat down the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. What makes them even more likable – to me, at least – is that there are so many former Ohio State players on their roster.
Two of those Buckeyes are Sam Hubbard and – yes, he is a Buckeye – Joe Burrow. Those players also happen to be two faces of the Bengals, who will face the Kansas City Chiefs in its second consecutive AFC Championship appearance this weekend.
Even more, something I recently learned about Hubbard and Burrow is that they’ve shared a friendship dating back to their time at Ohio State in the mid-2010s. As Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic wrote over the weekend, that friendship was built on football and, of all things, BD’s Mongolian Grill.
Inside a group chat of about 10 Ohio State football friends, a specific series of events continued to play out.
“I would always say, ‘Who wants to get some food?'” Hubbard said. “Nobody would want to go ever — except Joe. Him and I were always going to all-you-can-eat BDs Mongolian Grill or Hibachi just trying to make weight the next day. We just kind of always bonded that way back when you were both backups and trying to make weight together.”
Mounds of Asian stir fry would help reshape their bodies and, they wouldn’t realize in that moment, permanently reshape the image of Bengals football. These meals allowed two Ohio kids playing in a sea of the country’s most talented prospects to connect about similar upbringings, views on taking care of others, attitudes toward football and approaches to leadership and winning.
Neither was the outgoing type constantly attracting attention of the locker room or much interested in the distractions that come along with playing major college football. They merely discovered a genuine connection. And $10 all-you-can-eat stir fry.
“We just have similar mindsets,” Burrow said of their days in the Columbus dorms. “We always had similar goals and always worked really hard. Had some fun times as well. When you go through all that together in your formative years you develop a bond that lasts forever.”
That story rocks. And the Bengals rock.
While I will never turn on my beloved Cleveland Browns because I'm hardwired never to quit or give up on something (which can be painful at times, as it is now), I will happily cheer for the Bengals as they make another run for a Super Bowl.
So, for now... Who Dey.
OSU IS WRU. Remember that old picture from an Alabama media day with Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle walking on the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium? Here is what it looked like in case you haven't:
Alabama really had FOUR first-round wide receivers at the same time.— (@sportingnews) April 30, 2021
Devonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs. pic.twitter.com/jIcb7CgCg4
Well, a similar photo of Ohio State receivers has been making its rounds on social media recently – one that features Marvin Harrison Jr., Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Chris Olave. Oh, and they're all speaking with C.J. Stroud, for what it's worth.
With both photos now out there for people to see, there's been plenty of debate regarding which group of receivers will be seen as better when it's all said and done. And call me biased or a homer or whatever, but Ohio State is the clear choice here.
Smith is the only Heisman winner out of all eight receivers – I get that. But Jeudy, Ruggs and Waddle's college careers were all just fine. Meanwhile, only Smith and Waddle have made real impacts thus far in their pro careers, with Jeudy on the hapless Denver Broncos and Ruggs no longer in the league.
As for the Ohio State players, need I explain?
I’ll take the Buckeyes. It's WRU for a reason.
SONG OF THE DAY. “WKRP in Cincinnati” by Steve Carlisle.
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