What more can be said about the Buckeyes Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games that hasn't already been said? How about that I sat on the absolute edge of my seat and at times was pacing the living room during the second half of the Syracuse game. Did I mention that my neighbors are now very well aware that the Buckeye logo's on my car aren't just for show?
So onward they go. Off to the New Orleans Superdome to face the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday night, and (God willing) a matchup with Kentucky on Monday night for all the marbles. Like most of you, I was elated. I couldn't stop repeating to myself "Final Four" until I finally fell asleep. And when I woke up Sunday morning, it started all over again.
I think that despite earning a two seed, most find this years tournament run to be a surprise. And in a lot of ways, that factor may be what has made this years Final Four team so special. We heard how great Gonzaga was, and how if they got past Robby Sacre (his face, my fist, they will meet!) and the Bulldogs there was no way they'd beat Florida State or Vanderbilt and especially Syracuse. Well guess what? Here we are, standing tall and climbing ladders to cut down nets.
I can honestly say that once again I have no idea what to expect this weekend. If the Kansas team that played NC State shows up, the Bucks will blow their doors off. If the Kansas team that played in an instant classic with North Carolina shows up, it'll be one of those long, back and forth nights where anything can happen. But isn't there something about that that makes this so great? Would you honestly want it any other way? What's that you say, a nice comfortable but fun 8-10 point win? Yeah, alright, you got me.
Did anyone notice how downright angry Jared Sullinger looked while being interviewed at halftime of the Kansas-NC game? That kids muscle mass, with his footwork and ability, mixed in with that kind of attitude may be the recipe for success in the Superdome. I think Jared Sullinger is looking forward to letting Kansas know what they were missing on December 10th when he was not on the floor. I also think that, while I'm sure he respects his game, Jared Sullinger just may be a little bit tired of hearing about Anthony Davis and his uni-brow.
How awesome is it that Chris Jent, in his first year on Thad Matta's staff, gets to go to the Final Four? Most of you are too young and only remember Jent as LeBron's shooting coach and as a former Buckeye player. A lot of you don't recall or lived through the 1992 NCAA tournament. Jent was a starter for my all-time favorite Buckeye hoops team.
Chris Jent was part of a starting five that included Jamaal Brown, Mark Baker, Jimmy Jackson and Lawrence Funderburke. Those guys... man! Funderburke was so intimidating. JJ was the player of the year. And when the tournament started, will anyone ever forget them coming out on the court in the shiny grey jersey's and the red, black and mostly grey Nikes? And what a tournament that year! That was year of the Laettner shot vs Kentucky. And down in the Southeast region, played in Lexington, Kentucky at Rupp Arena were the number one seeded Ohio State Buckeyes.
Ohio State played fourth seeded North Carolina in the 7 o'clock game on the Friday night of the Sweet 16. A somewhat close score doesn't truly depict what went on in that ballgame. I still laugh every time I see Hubert Davis on ESPN. The Buckeyes flew high and rocked Carolina right out of the tournament. I wish so badly I could find that picture of Lawrence Funderburke hanging on the rim and pointing at Eric Montross! My friends and I (in 9th grade!) had a massive blowout in my parents living room. We chanted like we were at the game. Dean Smith be damned, our boys were moving on that night!
We didn't even bother to watch the second game in the Southeast regional, which pit Oklahoma State (with Big Country Brian Reeves) and... dun dun dun... Michigan. A Michigan team that started five freshman, that the Buckeyes had ran roughshod over twice in the regular season.
What turned out to be one of the best games of the tournament that year, wound up in the waning seconds of regulation with the score tied and the ball in Chris Jent's hands. Jent stepped to the low block and missed what most would consider a "bunny" of a shot that sent the game into overtime. I vividly remember that moment, the empty stomach feeling when the ball went up and then banged off the rim. True, the game was tied, but you could tell Michigan had the momentum. The 91-92 Ohio State team, as great as it was, never realized their Final Four dream or the countries most anticipated and talked about matchup of them vs Duke. The Blue Devils subsequently went on to beat Michigan in the national championship.
I was never mad at Chris Jent. In Fact, I always felt so terrible for him. Jent was the guy who mopped the floor with his jersey, dove in the stands for loose balls, played the game like it was drawn up to be played a long time ago. For him to be the guy to be blamed for the 91-92 team never reaching its goal, I have always found unfair.
Twenty years later, Chris Jent is a part of an Ohio State team in the Final Four. Some would say twenty years too late. And that's a fair statement, the 91-92 team as a whole will tell you that. And I'd wager not one of them has ever blamed Chris Jent... because it was Randy Ayers fault! (I'm just kidding... maybe.)
Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote an excellent article about Jent prior to Saturday's regional final with Syracuse. Copy and paste the link below to read it... after you finish reading my blog, of course.
Now, I in no way want to get ahead, but...
"You see?! You see?! He's not a machine, he's a man! He's a man!" Duke to Rocky in "Rocky IV"
That's the madness level with which I feel this whole Kentucky hysteria has gotten. Someone needs to remind them that they are mortal! I think anyone (I'm talking to you Rick Pitino!) who wants to beat Kentucky is going to have to beat them in their own heads first. Kentucky will face two of the three out of Louisville, Kansas and, of course, Ohio State. Whichever one of those teams isn't intimidated by the beast that the national media has turned Kentucky into, will have a good shot at beating them. Are they good? Absolutely. But they're talked about like the UNLV team of 1991, as being unstoppable... until they ran into Duke, who wasn't intimidated, found a weakness and exploited it. This Kentucky team is talked about like the 1985 Georgetown Hoyas... who happened to run into Villanova, who wasn't intimidated, and came up with and executed a sinister gameplan. And Kentucky isn't nearly as good or intimidating as that UNLV or Georgetown team.
We likely won't talk again before the championship game on Monday night. Just know that if our Buckeyes are fortunate enough to be in it, and they are playing Kentucky, they need to walk on the floor like stone cold killers! As if they are in no way, shape or form even impressed with Kentucky, regardless of the respect being given on the inside. But I don't want to get ahead, Kansas first!
Football? This is a basketball school, no?
Spring is in the air and sweat is about to be poured out in bucket loads at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as spring practice gets underway on Wednesday. Obviously, we won't get to see much until the Spring Game. If you're a spring-ball junky like me, make sure you're following on twitter the Dispatch's Tim May @TIM_MAYsports, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises @PDBuckeyes and Brandon Castel @BCastOzone and Tony Gerdeman @GerdOzone of theozone.net. They'll have on the scene reports and links to their stories. They are where I go for the best information!
Anyone else ready to see Braxton Miller become the most dangerous force in college football?
Who's ready to see Jake Stoneburner become a first round draft pick after he has an Aaron Hernandez-like season?
Have you seen how bulked up Ryan Shazier has gotten since Mickey Marotti took over the strength program?
Despite not having a bowl game, there is nothing but pure optimism for this season's team. They'll hit bumps in the road. There will be times when people wonder if Urban Meyer is truly committed and other various forms of nonsense that people who hate Ohio State (and some fans who just want to be a turd in the punch bowl) love to try and make stories out of. Of course it won't be smooth sailing for twelve games. But we're on our way up. Count on it!
The closing moments...
Be sure, whatever you do, and ENJOY Saturday night! Get with some friends, go to a local hangout, invite people to your house, wherever. Just get with some like-minded people, put on your scarlet and grey and have a blast! And if someone wants to be that guy who has to try and temper everyone's emotions by saying things like "I'm just stating the facts, even if they win, Kentucky is too good", well throw his ass out! This is about us and living in the moment!
And please, please, (please!) remember that William Buford is giving his all and wants so badly to be a positive reason that his team wins, for his teammates and for us. I know how we all can get, but look at the name on the front of his jersey. If that kid can do it, he will. And if can't, he'll go down fighting like crazy to get it done. For his teammates. And for us.
Metallica track of the week
One Cause in the end, there can only be one team left standing when "One Shining Moment" is played. And I'm hoping it's THE Ohio State Buckeyes. And of course, the song is a pure thrash classic!
Here's a video of One in Sofia, Bulgaria from "The Big Four" dvd... and by the way, if you've never actually seen this live, like in front of you, I promise it changes your life!