The bar where we ate dinner last night was very well-stocked, but I paused for a minute at the serious collection of jars — until I realized it was all moonshine. Well, we are in Tennessee, after all, eating in a place called The Stillery, and there wasn’t a revenuer in sight.
The moonshine came in lots of different flavors, like “apple pie.” I’m sure many party-hearty visitors to Nashville have figured they should guzzle some shine to make their visit fully authentic . . . and then came to regret it the next morning. I wasn’t tempted. In college I learned my lesson well that drinking fruity concoctions where the Kool-Aid-like flavoring serves only to mask the crushing alcoholic content isn’t a wise course of personal conduct — especially when it’s served from what appears to be a garbage pail.
With an inward nod to Granny Clampett, I let the white lightning pass and stuck to a beer.
Kish and I decided to take our long weekend trip to Nashville — a place I’ve never been, but I’ve heard a lot about. She booked a room at the Union Station Hotel, which (as the name suggests) is a grand old train station refurbished into a hotel. The lobby is fantastic — but more on it later.
So far we are thinking that Nashville is a pretty cool place.
Last night the Buckeyes fell short in their bid for the Elite 8, falling to Tennessee 76-73. It was a tough, back-and-forth game, but ultimately Tennessee’s outright dominance of the boards, free throw shooting, and flypaper defense on Buckeye sharpshooter Jon Diebler carried them to a narrow victory. The Volunteers deserve credit for playing a tough game, beating a very good team, and earning their first trip ever to the Elite 8.
The Buckeyes and fans celebrate after beating Illinois
As for Ohio State, we hoped they would win, but they didn’t — and now their season is suddenly over. Although it ended with a loss (a result that will happen for all but one team in the NCAA Tournament) that fact should not detract from an excellent season.
Evan Turner, who played his heart out last night, clearly is one of the best players in the country. Buckeyes fans will long remember his excellent play this year and his gritty and speedy return from a serious back injury; we will recall with special relish his last-second three-pointer to stun Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. William Buford and David Lighty both stepped up their games this year, on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court, all the while playing virtually every minute of every game for the short-handed Buckeyes. Dallas Lauderdale also improved his game and was an intimidating shot-blocking force on defense. And although Jon Diebler had a difficult game last night, his pinpoint three-point shooting was a key ingredient that helped propel Ohio State on its end-of-the-season run to a share of the Big Ten regular season championship, the Big Ten Tournament title, and the Sweet 16 in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Kudos, too, to Coach Thad Matta and his staff for producing an exciting season and a team of young men who were fine representatives of The Ohio State University. Coaching at the major college level is not easy — Coach Matta just makes it look that way.
Tonight the Buckeye basketball team plays for a spot in the Elite 8. Standing in their way is the Tennessee Volunteers, the only team in the country this year to beat both Kansas and Kentucky — generally regarded by the pundits, at least, as the two best teams in the land. Tennessee and Ohio State have a bit of a rivalry going; they played twice in 2007, including a come-from-behind victory by the Buckeyes in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, and another regular season game in 2008 won by Tennessee.
Tennessee plays the press, which is not a style Ohio State has seen much during the regular season. For the Buckeyes, the press will present significant challenges. Evan Turner, as the point guard, will have to work harder to get the ball upcourt and watch for the trap; David Lighty will probably do more ball-handling in the backcourt as a result. If they Buckeyes can break the press, they will need to take advantage. Jon Diebler will have to get to good spots and knock down open three-pointers, and William Buford and Dallas Lauderdale will need to finish if the Buckeyes can get an advantage on the break. Because the Buckeyes typically don’t play many players fatigue could be a factor, and any foul trouble could be a serious problem.
To advance in the NCAA Tournament you need to beat the best teams around, and Tennessee definitely belongs in that category. The Tournament also requires teams to adjust to different styles, like Tennessee’s press, if they want to move forward. I expect that Thad Matta and his staff have worked hard this week on schemes to beat the press. Tonight we’ll see if that work bears fruit.
Dr. Science came over to watch the game yesterday, and while munching on Hills pizza and other goodies we watched the Ohio State men’s team beat Georgia Tech, 75-66, to advance to the Sweet 16. The Buckeyes were led by Evan Turner, who bounced back from a subpar first-round game to lead the Buckeyes in scoring, Jon Diebler, who repeatedly hit three-pointers in the second half to build the Buckeyes’ lead, and David Lighty, whose fearless drives to the bucket and tough defense helped to keep the Yellow Jackets at bay as the game drew to a close. Dallas Lauderdale was a stalwart force in the middle and William Buford contributed 9 points and 8 rebounds. The win was a true team effort.
The Buckeyes next will play Tennessee on Friday night. In the meantime, they get to enjoy a week of extra basketball, of recognition that this has been a season of great accomplishment for the team and its players, and of intense focus on the next match-up that could prove to be the gateway to even greater achievement. For fans like me, this week is like a surprise present. No one takes advancing to the Sweet 16 for granted, so when it happens you just enjoy basking in the glow of the team’s success and participating in a bonus week of happy basketball chatter with other fans.
Of all the fine basketball teams in the nation, only 16 are still alive and competing for the NCAA championship. When your team is one of those 16 teams, it is a sweet week indeed. Go Buckeyes!