The essential therapy for OSU basketball fans
This season has been painful and stressful for many of us
Admit it. If you followed the 2015-2016 Men’s basketball team, you probably hit a point where you were hoping the team would lose in the NIT so you did not have to watch uninspiring play anymore. You were hoping the off-season was near so head coach Thad Matta could begin preparations on planning a reviving method to help this young team grow.
Yes, this team was very young, but my issue was that we were continuously seeing the same mistakes throughout the entire season. Even uninspired players admitted at bars how this would not be their year. So with “player determination” being low, Matta has a huge issue and job on his hands this summer.
It’s time to shine light on the historical past under Thad Matta. We need to remember how he has built this program up once and he can do it again. The best way to heal a fan base is to show old highlights.
Matt Sylvester denies history
This is the play which begins to lay the foundation for the legacy that the Matta era has created thus far.
Matt Sylvester was an underutilized underclassman who was simply a role player in this season. If you recall, this was season one under Matta and the team took their bumps and bruises, but they also were ineligible for the tournament due to NCAA violation by previous coach Jim O’Brien. Going into this game, Illinois was 39-0 and was trying to finish the regular season undefeated. The Buckeyes were blown out a few weeks prior in Champaign, and Matta had to draw up a new game plan.
According to Sylvester, all Matta told his team the week leading up to the game was “we cannot get embarrassed on national television.” Throughout the game, young Sylvester played a career game with 25 points heading towards the last minute. With the ball, Matta drew up a screen play to free up Matt to hit a game winning three. Brandon Fuss-Cheatham called the play and made the pass. The rest, they say, is history.
Ron Lewis saves “The Dream Team”
Needless to say, the 2006 basketball team was our most talented team since the Runner-up teams on the 1960’s. Although, they faced the most near-eliminations in the NCAA tournament than any team I’ve ever seen.
Everyone remembers Oden, Conley, Butler, Cook, and Harris. In addition, every Buckeye fan remembers Ron Lewis’ moment. Xavier was about as scrappy as a mid-major team can get these days. Drew Lavender was no taller than 5’8″, but that did not affect his ability to be a superstar. The Buckeyes trailed by nine with just under three minutes left. The Buckeyes crawled back to within three points, and Lewis made Xavier pay for missing a free throw. Lewis ties up the game and Ohio State ends up pulling out the win in overtime to move to the Sweet Sixteen to face Tennessee, which happens to end in a similar thrilling fashion. Skip ahead to the three minute mark to relive the shot that kept Buckeye heartbeats beating.
The Villain strikes TTUN
The Villain, Evan Turner’s given nickname by walk-on Mark Titus, was the golden boy of college basketball during this season. Everyone in the sport agreed as he was crowned the Naismith player of the year and carried Ohio State to a top-10 ranking.
The Buckeyes slept-walked through the opening game of the B1G tournament and TTUN had Matta’s squad on the ropes. But the Villain was not ready to pack up and leave Indianapolis quite yet. TTUN messed up miserably by not pressuring the player passing in the ball along with Turner. Their loose defense was the reason Turner had the opportunity to catch the ball in stride and hurry just past the half-court line and released a shot that made me fall out of my BW3’s chair in shock.
Watching Matta’s emotion as he runs towards the score table still gives me chills to this day.
Aaron Craft saves the day
The 2012-2013 season was one of inconsistencies but eventually achieved a two seed in the NCAA tournament. The upperclassmen of Lenzelle Smith Jr., Sam Thompson, Deshaun Thomas, and Aaron Craft led this team in every aspect and carried a rather young team outside of themselves. This tournament was full of many fireworks and surprisingly ended when the Buckeyes were upset by Wichita State in the Elite Eight.
I remember locking myself in the basement for the final three minutes to keep away my family from experiencing my rash behaviors while watching the game. This final play to win the game looked stagnant and horribly drawn up, but Craft did all the work needed. A key pick ‘n roll with Ross forced Georges Niang to switch into guarding Craft and creating a mismatch. Craft capitalized by keeping Niang on his heels before he pulls up for the clutch three with 0.2 seconds left. This became one of the many plays that cemented Craft’s legacy at Ohio State.
Q finally makes his presence felt
LaQuinton Ross came in as a highly touted recruit, and until this game he had not lived up to expectations. He was a good role player, but he was not going to take over a game because he had not grown into that role yet. His first big splash as a Buckeye came in the sweet 16 his sophomore season against Arizona.
This was the next game following the Iowa State buzzer beater, and the ending was just as enjoyable as Craft’s shot. Again, the Buckeyes ran the same pick n’ roll play but to the opposite side with Craft and Ross. Since Arizona did not switch defenders on the play, Ross had a gap between him and his defender chasing him to the spot-up three location. It was a quick catch-and-shoot, and Ross solidified Ohio State’s ticket being punched to head to the Elite Eight.
Ohio State has had a rich tradition under Thad Matta, and there is no reason why one down season should lead to fans calling for his firing. Sure, we were left out of the NCAA Tournament, but this is a young team and they would benefit much more from a deep run in the NIT instead. Be hopeful for next season Buckeyes, this entire team returns and should be a potential front runner in the B1G race. For now, enjoy the season of “March Madness”, and appreciate what Matta’s teams have produced for us over the years.