Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Thad Minute: The Buckeyes thrilling tourney run, ends in a "shocker" in the Elite Eight

Once again, the Buckeyes used a late-game three-pointer, to beat
Arizona, 73-70 in the West Region Sweet 16 matchup last week.
All good things must come to an end, right? After all in a 68-team field in the NCAA tournament, you are going to have 67-bad endings, with only one happy ending down in Atlanta next Monday night. What a run by the Buckeyes over the past month and a half, an 11-game winning streak, which included: what should have been a share of the regular season Big Ten championship (thanks a lot Michigan!), a Big Ten tourney championship, and some thrilling finishes during the team's NCAA tournament run to the West Region Elite Eight. Here's my recap on the Scarlet and Grey's two games from last week.

Ohio State's bench reacts, following LaQuinton Ross' GW 3-pt bucket,
with 2 seconds left against Arizona in the Sweet 16.
Another wild night of Buckeyes basketball last Thursday. Playing at "the house that Kobe built" out in LA, the Buckeyes survived yet another game in this season's NCAA tournament, this time with a new lead role in the spotlight. In a game, that saw the Buckeyes fall behind early, down 11-points (twice) at one point, to a very athletic Arizona Wildcats squad in the 1st half. The Buckeyes finished the 1st half on a run trailing by just four-points (38-34), and would carried it over into the 2nd half, which saw the Buckeyes go on a 16-4 run to start the 2nd frame. With the Buckeyes up 50-42, the Wildcats refused to go away down the stretch, knotting the game at 70-70 with just under 22 seconds to go in the game. That set the stage for another thrilling finish for Buckeye Nation. PG Aaron Craft, the previous game's star vs. Iowa State in the Round of 32, flipped a pass over to LaQuinton Ross in the waning moments of the game, and as if were all alone in the Staple Center warming up, he calmly knocked down the go-ahead three-pointer with 2.1 seconds left on the clock. The Wildcats would not be able to get off a shot in the final seconds, sending the Buckeyes to yet another thrilling victory and into the Elite Eight for the second year in-a-row with a 73-70 win. Standing in the Buckeyes way of a return trip to the Final Four...9th-seeded Wichita State on Saturday night.

The Buckeyes as a team, were unable to slow-down the Shockers,
as a poor-shooting night, doomed the Buckeyes on Saturday night.
Well, in a six-game tournament, you can not afford to have an off-night shooting the ball, or a bad half. Unfortunately, last Saturday night, the Buckeyes were dealt with both. Scoring just 22 points on 24% shooting from the field in the 1st half, the Buckeyes buried themselves early on vs. the Shockers, trailing 35-22 at halftime. The first half had OSU fans remembering that dreadful afternoon up in Madison, WI in Feburary, or that Saturday afternoon contest vs. the Kansas Jayhawks back in late December. They just couldn't buy a bucket, and poor-shooting leads to easy baskets for the opposing team, and Wichita State took full advantage. Unlike, the game vs. Arizona in the Sweet 16, things didn't get any better in the 2nd half, as the Shockers extended their lead to 20-points (56-36) with 11 minutes to go in the game. At this point, as a fan you are just hoping they find a way to make it respectable. The Buckeyes did much more than that. The Buckeyes went on a 23-6 run, cutting the Shockers lead to three (62-59), with just over three minutes to go in the game. In the end, the Shockers out-played the Buckeyes all night long, and made some critical baskets in the final two minutes, to pull off the "shocking" upset, 70-66. A very disappointing ending to an outstanding late season run by the Buckeyes, they just couldn't afford to shoot as poorly as they did, vs. an upset-minded Wichita State squad.

For a team that lost two of their top three scorers from a year ago, nobody could have imagined a 29-win season from this squad, that included once again a Big Ten tournament championship and a 2nd place finish in the Big Ten Standings, a conference that provided some outstanding games all winter long. At the beginning of the season, a Sweet 16 run seemed to be the ceiling for this team. It's safe to say following the 11-game winning streak and another trip to the Elite Eight, expectations were surpassed. This team all season long struggled to provide a 2nd scoring option for Junior swingman AND 3rd-team All-American DeShaun Thomas, who lead the Big Ten in scoring (19.8 ppg). With a number of big-name players from around the conference either graduating or leaving school early for the NBA, the Buckeyes should be back around the top of the Big Ten next season. Now the biggest question to ponder for the next couple of days, month is, will DT come back for his Senior year and another run at a Final Four appearance. Go Buckeyes!

Now, lets talk a little Buckeyes spring football...