Well I guess it's time for Buckeye Nation to focus back on what is their number one passion - football. A great year in basketball ended last night with a heartbreaking loss to a determined Kentucky squad, that combined athleticism and excellent coaching to top OSU 62-60 on a last second shot by Brandon Knight. You had a feeling this one would come down to a last possession, and it did. After Jon Diebler tied it with a clutch three pointer, Kentucky responded with a big time shot from a kid who has shown repeatedly that he has ice in his veins. It was a Final Four atmosphere and featured two teams that probably entered the tournament playing as well as anyone in the country. Alas, only one team can exit victoriously and on this night that team was wearing blue. However, even in defeat there was a silver lining for the team in scarlet and gray.
My Random Thoughts Looking Back:
1) Kentucky played with a little more passion - I thought UK came out with a chip on their shoulder, especially Josh Harrellson, and at times looked like they just wanted it a little more. I knew the Cats possessed more quickness than Ohio State, but thought the Buckeyes would win the battle in the paint. That wasn't the case, and you have to tip your hat to the big guy they call Jorts. He isn't pretty, but he played hard from the opening whistle until the final buzzer.
2) Thad got outcoached - I love Thad Matta who is a brilliant recruiter and a very fine coach, but I think Kentucky had a little better gameplan and execution in this contest. They established the tempo they wanted and seemed to make Ohio State play their game. I thought Matta missed the boat on not benching Buford for a couple minutes in the second half in an attempt to calm him a little and slow him down. Of course, love him or hate him, John Calipari is a top-notch coach. He might sell his own family members to win, but the man can develop a team.
3) Buford never settled in or settled down - As mentioned above, William Buford never did establish a rythym, and had the worst game of his career, finishing 2-16 from the field. Part of that is due to great UK defense led by DeAndre Liggins. But the ball seemed to be like a hot grendade in his hands, and too often Buford forced the action rather than involve teammates and let the game come to him. It was an outstanding year for the junior from Toledo so you hate to see it end on such a sour note.
The Silver Lining: Although this loss really stings, coming during a season that had the potential of bringing OSU another title, there was good news last night. Both Jared Sullinger and William Buford pledged to come back in 2011-12, which guarantees another fine season in Columbus. Those two will be joined by Aaron Craft and Desean Thomas to form the nucleus of a powerful team, which will get a boost from another fine freshman class. In addition, look for Jordan Sibert to become a key contributer next year. While it may not be quite as potent a unit as the one that took the court this year, it will be a fine team if everyone does return, and all remain healthy. And who knows? Everyone thought the 2010-11 UK team would be down this season, but they have come on like gangbusters of late. The same thing could happen at OSU next year, as well.
Congratulations to a great senior class, that will be missed tremendously. We won't soon forget you, David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and Dallas Lauderdale. Thanks for playing with class, and for producing so many wonderful memories!