Carving Up The Gators

Tonight Ohio State’s men’s basketball team passed a tough early-season test, and did so in impressive fashion.  The Buckeyes carved up the Florida Gators in the second half and won going away, 93-75.

The first half was entertaining.  Ohio State played well on offense but was soft on defense, and Florida took advantage.  It seemed like every Florida player made a hook shot from the low post, and Florida ended the half ahead 41-38.  The second half was a different story, and the story started on defense.  Ohio State pressured the ball and stepped out on Florida players all over the court.  The Buckeyes forced some turnovers, and then put on a clinic on offense.  Jared Sullinger and David Lighty sliced up the Gators down low, and William Buford, Jon Diebler, and Aaron Craft knocked down open shots.  In all, Ohio State scored 55 points — 55 points! — in the second half and notched a very memorable win.

What can we take from this early season game?  I wouldn’t draw too many definitive conclusions, but some things seems clear.  First, Jared Sullinger is good.  He doesn’t play like a freshman, and his presence will help Jon Diebler and William Buford get more open shots.  He seems to have the full package of low-post moves and displays a nice, soft shot.  Second, David Lighty had improved tremendously during his collegiate career, and he is just a fun player to watch.  He hustles, he plays great defense, and he is fearless taking the ball to the rack.  Third, Aaron Craft doesn’t seem to play like a freshman, either.  Florida threw a variety of presses and traps at him, and he handled them well.  Get this — Craft played 29 minutes bringing the ball up against a pressing defense in a hostile arena in his first away game as a college student, and he committed only three turnovers.

If the Florida game is any indication, Ohio State’s inside-outside game will pose some real challenges for its opponents.  But the season is young, so we shouldn’t get carried away.  In the meantime, we’ll just enjoy the sweet taste of some fresh Gator meat.

An Early Season Test

Today the Ohio State men’s basketball team takes to the road for one of those early season match-ups that make college basketball so interesting.  (And, unlike football, an early season loss isn’t potentially fatal to your chances of winning it all.)

Tonight the Buckeyes take on Florida in Gainesville.  Every Buckeye fan would like a bit of payback from Florida.  We’re still smarting from the year in which the Gators thrashed the football Buckeyes in the BCS National Championship Game and then beat the Buckeye roundballers in the NCAA Championship Game.  This game, however, is interesting for reasons that go beyond possible revenge.  Both teams are ranked in the early season Top 10.  Florida has a good team, and the Buckeyes have a  corps of seasoned veterans and a bunch of youngsters who will be playing their first road game — a game that will just happen to be nationally televised.

I think this game will be a real challenge for Ohio State.  The Gators play a pressing defense and Ohio State has no experienced point guard.  That probably means that freshman Aaron Craft will be asked to try his hand at breaking the press in a hostile environment in an ESPN game.  It is a lot to ask of a freshman — and if you can’t get the ball up court, all of your front court talent won’t mean much.  This will be a learning experience for the youngsters, a leadership challenge for the veterans, and a teaching opportunity for coach Thad Matta and his staff.

I’m hoping the Buckeyes can prevail.  It would be nice to take a bite out of the Gators for a change.

Ex-Speaker-In-Waiting

The Democrats in the United States House of Representatives endured an historic drubbing in the recent election.  They lost more than 60 seats, and in the process they lost their majority.  Now they are trying to decide who should serve as the leaders of the significantly diminished caucus that will be seated when the new Congress begins its work in 2011.

Soon to be former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has surprised many people by saying she will seek the position of Minority Leader.  Some surviving House Democrats, however, seem to be saying:  “Not so fast!” They want some time to pass before a new Minority Leader is named, perhaps hoping that a credible challenger to Pelosi emerges.

It is not surprising to me that two of the Democrats who appear to be looking for alternatives to Pelosi are from Ohio.  They know, first hand, how poorly Pelosi plays in the heartland.  It probably was a blunder for House Democrats to select as their Speaker a politician who serves the ultra-liberal enclaves of San Francisco in a safe seat immune from the pressure felt by Democrats in swing states like Ohio — but it would be a disaster if they stuck with Pelosi as leader after the results of this past election.  Pelosi’s liberal views were a campaign issue in a number of races, and I think many voters in Ohio and elsewhere believed that their votes for Republican candidates were a repudiation of Pelosi and her position on the issues.  For Democrats to ignore that message and return Pelosi to a leadership position would be to thumb their noses at middle America and risk being led down a progressive path to electoral perdition.  The situation will be even worse if California experiences the crippling budget crisis that many believe will occur in the next few months and Pelosi is an advocate for a federal bailout of The Golden State.  Such an event would confirm the Republicans’ argument that Democrats are a fiscally irresponsible bunch who never met a bailout they didn’t like.

Pelosi, secure in her safe San Francisco seat, probably does not care what middle America thinks.  She believes that she knows what is best for the country and will pursue it regardless of what the election results may be.  The battered survivors of the House Democratic bloodbath on November 2, 2010, however, do not have that luxury.