Huge Win In The Old Conference Now!

I stayed up for it, and I’m glad.  Let the snow fall, and the winter storm roll in.  I’ll take it, because the Ohio State Buckeyes have beaten the Indiana Hoosiers in one of the most improbable victories we’ve seen in a while.

Remember, this is the Indiana team that manhandled the Buckeyes in Columbus.  But tonight, the Ohio State backcourt of Shannon Scott and Aaron Craft controlled the game.  Every time you looked up, Craft was driving to the hoop for a clutch bucket, or Scott was making an unbelievable steal to keep the Buckeyes in control.  And the Hoosiers lost.

It’s unimaginable, really, that Ohio State would beat Indiana in Bloomington, on Senior Night, with the Big Ten championship on the line — but they did.  They neutralized Victor Oladipo, kept Cody Zeller from domination, and controlled the entire second half.

It was an awesome performance by the Buckeyes, and an awesome coaching job by Thad Matta and his staff.  If I weren’t a working man, I’d watch it again right now.  But I am . . . which means I’m watching it again, tomorrow night.  Awesome performance, Buckeyes!

(I’ll also repeat what I’ve said earlier.  This year’s Big Ten is one of the greatest, most competitive college conferences ever.  It’s just been terrific basketball.)

Advertisements

The Dreaded 9 O’Clock Start

I’m a working man.  On weekdays, I get up before 5 a.m.  I’m out the door and off to work by  7 a.m., and I typically don’t get home until after 6:30 p.m.

Why do college basketball game planners hate people like me?  Why do they put good games, like Ohio State’s match-up with Indiana tonight, on the schedule for 9 p.m. on a weeknight?  It’s Tuesday night, for crying out loud!

So, here’s what will happen.  I’ll watch the game.  I’ll stay up later than I normally do.  I’ll be charged up about the game for a prolonged period of time.  And when the game ends around 11 p.m. or so, I’ll be unable to get to sleep right away.  Either I’ll be upset at how the Buckeyes played and focused on their loss when I try to sleep, or I’ll be excited that Ohio State somehow pulled off an improbable road victory — on Indiana’s senior night, no less, when the Hoosiers are trying to win an outright Big Ten championship — that the adrenalin won’t let me rest.  Either way, I’m not going to get a good night’s sleep.  And don’t even raise the possibility of overtime!

C’mon, ESPN, and Big Ten.  Give a working man a break!

A Gameless Weekend

The Ohio State Buckeyes aren’t playing this weekend.  After a grueling last few weeks in the Big Ten meat grinder, and some hard work in pulling out a win over Northwestern at Evanston, the Buckeyes are getting a well-deserved rest.

IMG_3108We fans, however, are pining for a weekend game.  I enjoy the adrenalin rush the games provide, and I rationalize that the spikes in my blood pressure caused by bad calls from referees during an OSU game probably are good for my system.  Every once in a while, you want to make sure that your body can withstand various stresses.  Isn’t that what those doctor-supervised stress tests are all about?  Getting seriously into a Buckeyes game is just the self-administered version.

Still, in a way it’s also nice to have the weekend off.  We get to see other teams play without having an enormous emotional investment in the outcome.  Today I’ll watch the Michigan-Michigan State game.  Whatever the result, it will help the Buckeyes in their quest for a higher seed in the Big Ten Tournament.  If Michigan loses, they drop below Ohio State in the loss column; if Michigan wins, Michigan State joins Ohio State and Michigan with five losses in the conference.

So today I’ll watch the games with a relaxed attitude.  I’ll be husbanding my emotional and stress-related resources for Tuesday night, when Ohio State travels to Bloomington for a make-or-break game against the top-ranked Hoosiers.

The Big Ten Tightens Up

This year’s Big Ten has got to be the most entertaining basketball conference in years — and, perhaps, the best conference as well.

Over the past few days, the top three teams in the conference — Indiana, Michigan State, and Michigan — all have lost.  Ohio State’s victory over Michigan State on Sunday wasn’t that much of an upset, but Minnesota’s win over top-ranked Indiana last night was a real surprise, and Penn State’s victory tonight over Michigan, in a game in which Michigan frittered away a double-digit lead, is an absolute shocker.  Before that game, Penn State hadn’t won a conference game all year.  As a result of the upsets, Indiana leads the conference race with three losses, Michigan State and steady Wisconsin are right behind with four losses, and Ohio State and stumbling Michigan are one game farther back.

College basketball is a lot of fun because the players are kids, the students watching the game are into it, and emotion can play a significant role.  When a conference has have a bunch of very good teams, some good teams, and some teams that can rise to the occasion when their home court advantage comes into play, you get lots of surprises and unexpectedly close games.  The last few games of the conference regular season over the next week and a half are likely to be a free-for-all.  If a team like Ohio State wants to stay in contention, it had better be ready to play every game against every opponent — starting tomorrow night, when it travels to Evanston to play Northwestern.

After the regular season finally ends, we’ll have the Big Ten Tournament.  There’s a reason why this year’s tournament is the first one ever to be sold out:  it should be a very good show.

Hoping To Avoid Hoosier Hubris

Tonight the Buckeyes take on Indiana at Memorial Stadium in a rare Saturday night matchup.  It’s one of those games where Ohio State fans will hold their breath and hope to avoid the dreaded letdown after a big game.

Last weekend it rained touchdowns for the Buckeyes, who hung an amazing 63 points on Nebraska.  After a poor first quarter the Buckeyes suddenly turned into an awesome offensive juggernaut as they gashed the Cornhuskers through the air and on the ground.  Braxton Miller had a career-best day for rushing the ball, Carlos Hyde scored multiple touchdowns, and Nebraska had no answer.  How do you follow up a performance like that?  More importantly, how do you keep the Buckeye offense from getting swelled heads and thinking they are the Greatest Show on Turf?

Indiana, on the other hand, has had its traditional bad luck in the Big Ten.  The Hoosiers were well ahead of the Michigan State Spartans last week but let the Spartans score 17 unanswered points in the second half to win a squeaker, 31-27.  That’s par for the course for the Hoosiers, who rarely are competitive in the Big Ten and who have a terrible head-to-head record versus Ohio State.  It’s exactly the kind of game that the Buckeyes could overlook.

Here’s where Urban Meyer earns his salary.  Excellent coaches — and no one disputes that Meyer falls easily into that category — find a way to keep their teams focused on the next opponent and on constant improvement.  The Buckeyes can, and should, get better.  Tonight, versus the Hoosiers, we’ll see whether they can ignore their press clippings and come out to play some good, tough football.

In The Valley Of The Wind Turbines

Along I-65, about halfway between Indianapolis and Gary, Indiana, are rolling farm fields that also feature gigantic wind turbines.  The turbines have been planted, like crops, on both sides of the highway, running in rows in all directions, as far as the eye can see.  When all of the turbines are lazily spinning as they were today, their enormous blades slashing the summer air, it makes for quite a sight.