Welcome to the Skull Session.
Does Brutus have drip? I'd say so.
Let's have a good Tuesday, shall we?
SHADES OF 1993. When the 1992-93 season reached February for Ohio State basketball, the men's team was 9-8 and in the middle of a six-game losing streak. Meanwhile, the women's team was one of the hottest teams in the country at 16-1. They even set a program attendance record at St. John Arena for their matchup with Michigan State in late January.
Sound familiar? It should. That's incredibly similar to what is currently happening with Ohio State basketball in the 2022-23 season.
Thirty years ago, Randy Ayers' men's team dug itself into a hole at 9-8 through 17 games. Unfortunately, that hole was too deep to climb out of for the Buckeyes, as they finished the regular season 15-12 overall before they were bounced by Miami –*checks notes, takes off glasses, rubs eyes, puts glasses back on* – of Ohio, 56-53, in the first round of the NIT.
Nancy Darsch's women's team, led by then-freshman phenom Katie Smith, would finish the regular season 24-4 before making a Final Four run and eventually losing to Texas Tech, 84-82, in the national championship game. That year is known as “The Dream Season” for the women's program, and that team is still remembered for its achievements and excellence.
Thankful to have our 1992-93 team and staff back in the building! Thank you for paving the way and setting the standard for Ohio State women's basketball!!#GoBucks #OnceABuckeyeAlwaysABuckeye pic.twitter.com/hi6Lk5q2A1— Ohio State WBB (@OhioStateWBB) January 29, 2023
Flash forward to today, and Chris Holtmann's squad is in a similar place to Ayers as it heads into February. The Buckeyes are 11-10 overall and have a brutal stretch of opponents coming down the pipe, including contests on the road at Michigan, Iowa, Purdue and Michigan State, and that's not to mention the home games.
Kevin McGuff's team, though lacking a future Hall of Famer like Darsch had with the legendary Smith, is 19-3 overall and has all the makings of a team that can go the distance in the NCAA Tournament, provided they can return star guard Jacy Sheldon from her injury in time to regroup before the stretch run.
It's said that history repeats itself, and it has thus far for the 2022-23 teams when looking back to the 1992-93 teams of old. Will the paths be similar for the Ohio State hoopers from this point forward, as in an NIT loss for the men and a Final Four run for the women? I'm not sure. But the similarities are there, nonetheless. Perhaps that's enough to make it happen.
“HE HAS THAT SWAGGER.” As Kyle McCord and Devin Brown prepare for a quarterback competition that will likely last throughout spring, summer and preseason camp, many have wondered who will be QB1 in 2023.
Will it be McCord, a third-year with two seasons of experience as a primary backup to C.J. Stroud, or the second-year Devin Brown, who has yet to attempt a collegiate pass but has confidence out the wazoo?
Ask Tom Sugden, McCord's high school coach at St. Joseph's Prep, and he'd tell you to bet the house on his former quarterback. Why? Because McCord “has that swagger.”
“He’s not afraid of competition,” Sugden said. “The best thing about him is that we played all these top-notch schools, so competing against the best and wanting to play against the best has always been part of his DNA.”
As a freshman he was the scout team quarterback, working to prepare a defense that was battle-tested against a variety of nationally acclaimed programs.
“That was his Super Bowl,” Sugden said. “He was carving up our state championship defense. Now, we’re (running plays) off cards, so it’s a little different than getting to play and running the whole deal, but the kid was unbelievable.”
McCord reminds Sugden of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback — and one-time Buckeye — Joe Burrow because of his attitude.
“He has that swagger and being unfazed,” Sugden said.
There's certainly a lot to digest there from Mr. Sugden. First, that McCord is not afraid of competition. Good, that's awesome. Second, that McCord was “unbelievable” in high school. Again, good, that's awesome. Third, that McCord is like Joe Burrow. While that would be awesome, I'll have to take an “I'll believe it when I see it” approach to that claim.
McCord has much to prove this offseason. I think it's fair to say he is the in-house leader for the starting job right now, mainly because he has the benefit of two years of experience compared to Brown's one. But this is Ohio State. The best players play no matter how old they are or how much experience they have. Because that is true, he may be ahead now, but he's not guaranteed to stay there.
One thing is for sure: If McCord – or Brown – is indeed the next Joe Burrow, the Buckeyes won’t want to let him walk this time around.
IS THE NCAA BACK? A few weeks ago, while headlines of Jaden Rashada's $13 million NIL saga at the University of Florida crowded the news, NCAA vice president of enforcement Jon Duncan delivered a forceful message to administrators at the organization's annual convention.
The message Duncan sent was relatively straightforward – that the doors are starting to open for the NCAA to close in and provide accountability and enforcement for NIL violations occurring across the country.
The NCAA and enforcement staff will no longer be hamstrung by uncooperative witnesses when it comes to potential name, image and likeness (NIL) violations, thanks to a new bylaw that went into effect Jan. 1.
Investigators can now use circumstantial evidence (like a tip or news story) instead of on-record sourcing to presume a school violated NCAA rules. Schools can disprove the allegation or else be potentially charged. The move strengthens the enforcement staff’s ability to charge schools and allows more leeway for investigators.
“If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck,” Duncan said. “Instead of putting the burden on the enforcement staff to always come up with a smoking gun, which we don’t always have, there is a presumption. It puts the burden on the school. It’s a really powerful tool.”
While Duncan did not specifically refer to the drama in Gainesville, they nonetheless came promptly in accordance with the events. He claims programs that have blatantly or obviously manipulated NIL (as Florida did) will receive penalties for their actions.
Duncan also mentioned investigations have been opened and will be opened against programs that have skirted recruiting laws with NIL to create an advantage. And while he didn't specify programs that have committed the latter offense, you can probably put the pieces together and understand who he is talking about.
This is a massive step in the direction of the NCAA becoming the governing body of NIL in the future. They should have always been that, but the organization's leaders sat on their hands and cashed checks while state governments passed them by and made laws all for themselves, which in turn created a lawless world in college sports.
Perhaps this new bylaw (and whatever new ones are to come) will help the NCAA become like James West and Marshal Artemus Gordon, who took down Dr. Arliss Loveless to wrangle the Wild Wild West that is NIL in 2023. That would sure be something, wouldn't it?
MOCK DRAFT SZN. In Nick Baumgardner's first mock draft for 2023, The Athletic analyst had Ohio State’s usual suspects as first-round picks. C.J. Stroud was the No. 3 pick to the Raiders (via a trade), Paris Johnson Jr. was No. 8 to the Atlanta Falcons and Jaxon Smith-Njigba was No. 24 to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
However, a fourth Buckeye also crept into the first round for Baumgardner, as he has Zach Harrison at No. 30 to the potential 2023 Super Bowl-winning Kansas City Chiefs. Here is what he had to say about the Ohio State prospect:
Zach Harrison was a behemoth of a recruit who did not put everything together all at once at Ohio State. He’s still a total monster of an athletic prospect, though. Expect him to measure near 36 inches in arm length at the combine while flirting with a 4.4-second 40-yard dash — at 6-6, 270.
It wouldn't surprise me that much if Harrison ended up as a first-round pick in April, primarily because of his freakish athleticism. That said, Baumgardner is the first analyst I've seen who placed Harrison as a first-round selection in their mock draft since the end of the college football season. If Baumgardner has him there, who is to say others won't follow?
As I mentioned last week, Ohio State trails only Alabama for the most first-round draft picks since 2000. The more the Buckeyes can collect, the better a recruiting pitch sounds to high school prospects across the country, so sign me up for hearing Harrison's name called on April 27.
SONG OF THE DAY. “Tear In My Heart” by Twenty One Pilots.
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