Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thad Minute: Men's hoops snag another BIG tourney, while the Women's team gets their bubble burst

Thomas' late three, sealed the upset win,
for the Buckeyes in Bloomington.
Ewww!!! Weeeeee! What an incredible month of March it has been up to this point, for the Men's basketball team, over at THE Ohio State University. All, but buried after an embarrassing 22-point loss up in Madison, WI (to the Baddgggeeerrsss), the Buckeyes turned things around quickly to finish the season strong. Heading into the 2013 NCAA Tournament this weekend, the Buckeyes are currently riding an 8-game winning streak, while holding their opponents to 60 points or less, in each game. Let us take a look back at the past couple of weeks, in this latest edition of The Rock's, Thad Minute.

The Buckeyes took their three-game winning streak on the road to Bloomington, IN on March 5th in a ESPN Super Tuesday showdown with the #2 Indiana Hoosiers. Faced with an almost impossible task of beating the Hoosiers (on their Senior Night of all things, they were ready to party), the Buckeyes shocked the nation, and knocked off the Hoosiers, 67-58. Led once again by Junior forward DeShaun Thomas, and classmate PG Aaron Craft, the Buckeyes went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams in the nation during the season, while doing it on the road. The Buckeyes denied the Hoosiers of winning the outright Big Ten Championship (which made this moment a little awkward), however, the Hoosiers would eventually capture an outright title later in the week, beating that team from up north in Ann Arbor. Following the big-time win on the road, the Buckeyes finished the regular season with a home game on Senior Day in Columbus with a revenge win over Illinois, 68-55. The Buckeyes finished the regular season with a record of 23-7, 13-5 in the Big Ten, tied for second place with the Michigan State Spartans, a game-behind Indiana. Seeded #2 in the Big Ten Tourney, the Buckeyes went up to Chicago this past weekend, on a five-game winning streak and the hottest team in the conference.

With a little lady luck on their side, the Buckeyes were fortunate enough to face the #10-seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers in the quarterfinals on Friday night. After falling behind, 15-6 early on in the 1st half, the Buckeyes rallied and raced past the Cornhuskers for a 71-50 victory, their sixth-straight. The Buckeyes faced a familiar rival in the semi's on Saturday afternoon. The Michigan State Spartans, coached by Tom Izzo, are always a tough out come this time of the season. In a back and forth game all afternoon, the Buckeyes were once again up for the task late in the game, pulling away from Sparty, earning a berth in the Big Ten Championship Game (their fifth straight appearance), with a 61-58 result. Playing their third game in as many days, the Buckeyes took on the Wisconsin Badgers, with payback on their mind. The Buckeyes prevailed 50-43, in another back-and-forth Big Ten grind it out contest (that was just down right ugly, tired legs of course), capturing their 4th Big Ten Tournament Championship under Head Coach Thad Matta (5th overall) and running their current winning streak to 8-games.

The Buckeyes celebrating their 2013 Big Ten Tournament Championship,
their third in the past four years.
Now, the fun begins. Hopefully, you have all got a chance to fill-out your NCAA Tournament brackets, as tonight with the first two of four Play-In games begin in Dayton, the start of the craziest//funniest/wildest three-weeks of the year (at least in terms of CBB, haha) gets under way. Sunday night's Selection Show revealed the 68-team field, that will determine this season's National Championship. In a year, that saw the #1 team fall almost every other week and top team's upset nightly, a record number of team's all have a chance of winning 6-straight games over the next three weeks, as this year's tournament is up in the air, with no a clear favorite, unlike in the past (i.e. 2012 Kentucky Wildcats, 2009 UNC Tar Heels, Knight's 1976 Hoosiers, and Wooden's Bruins). 

The Buckeyes seeded #2 out in the West Region (LA "Hollywood"), opens up play, Friday night (7:15) in Dayton, with a game against the #15-seeded MAAC Tournament Champions, Iona Gaels. Many experts are picking the Buckeyes to come out of the West Region and make a trip to the Final Four in Atlanta The West region features teams like: 31-win #1 Gonzaga, an up and coming #3-seeded New Mexico squad, and yes...Bo Ryan's #5-seeded Wisconsin Badgers.

At the beginning of the season, I think the goal for this current squad was to compete for a Big Ten Championship (which if it won't for a Wolverines late-game collapse, the Buckeyes would have won a share of their fourth-straight regular season crown), and reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row. As the season went along, I don't think many fans believed that a deep tournament run was in the making this season. However, with the late-season surge (winning streak) and momentum (shutdown defense) on their side, the Buckeyes run at a repeat Final Four appearance is not that far-fetched. Name me a team, that plays as good as on-the-ball defense as the Buckeyes play, and with the scoring machine of Thomas and the emerges of Craft's production along with the sophomore's, maybe...just maybe, the 2012-13 Men's program, will do something special (if winning the Big Ten Tournament Championship, wasn't enough, especially this season). SEE YOU ALL IN DAYTON! Go Buckeyes!

Tayler Hill & Co. saw their season come to an end,
losing to #1-seeded Penn State in the quarterfinals
of the Women's Big Ten Championship.
It was a long-shot, and I'm not even sure how close they were to getting there, but with the revealing of the 64-team field on last night's Women's NCAA Tournament selection show, the Lady Buckeyes' were left out. This marked the first time since 2002, that the Women's team would not be invited to the NCAA tournament. With a record of 18-13, the Lady Buckeyes' just didn't do enough this season, to receive an At-Large bid out of the Big Ten Conference. Jumping out to a 10-3 record this season that included a win on the road against Gonzaga, they were unable to come up with big-time wins vs. Notre Dame to start the season, and UNC during the Women's Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Then went the whole month of January with just one win in eight outings in Big Ten Conference play, all but ending their chances of an NCAA bid. However, a bounce-back February/March saw the program go 6-2 which included wins over Michigan State and Michigan, to finish out the regular season at 17-12.

Seeded #9 in the Big Ten tournament, the Lady Buckeyes' used a strong 2nd-half performance to oust the #8-seeded Minnesota Lady Gophers in the opening round of the tournament, 58-47. In their quarterfinal game vs. #1 seeded Penn State, the Lady Buckeyes put up a fight in the 1st half trailing by only two-points at halftime, but eventually were unable to pull off the upset, and were defeated by the Penn State Lady Lions, 76-66, ending the season for the Lady Buckeyes'.

Ending her, outstanding senior season and career with the Buckeyes' was guard Tayler Hill, who finished her career close to the top on the all-time scoring list in women's basketball at Ohio State. Hill, averaging 21 ppg (11th in the nation) as a senior was the leader of this team, and was unable to get much help from the other ladies around her. With no NCAA or NIT berth, the Lady Buckeyes' finish their season a little sooner then what has been the case in recent years. Well, here's hoping, Head Coach Jim Foster can get the program to bounce back next season, and once again compete for the Big Ten crown and another NCAA tournament berth. Go Buckeyes!