Tag Archives: NCAA

Has Buckeye Nation Lost Perspective?

Buckeye Football is fine. Photo Credit: Nike.com

 When the Iowa Hawkeyes drubbed the Buckeyes 55-24, pretty much ending their College Football Playoff hopes, many Ohio State fans threw in their collective towels and called the 2017 season a loss season. But, if the Buckeyes win out, they’ll be B1G Champions for only the second time in Urban Meyer’s tenure. A conference title will land them in either the Fiesta or Orange Bowl. There’s still the very small possibility of a College Football Playoffs birth if chaos occurs. So there is a LOT left to play for.
However, this defeated mindset leaves me ashamed to be an Ohio State fan sometimes. This fan base needs some perspective and I’m here to offer it to you.

As a 37-year old who was born after the Woody Hayes era unceremoniously ended, I missed the golden age he led in Columbus that propelled the Buckeyes to national prominence with 5 National Championships, 13 Big Ten titles and 16 wins over “That Team Up North” in 28 seasons.

My father raised by me on Buckeye football. I listened to him tell stories about the greatness of this program before my birth, yet as I watched as a youngster teams lead by Earle Bruce, I didn’t see it. There were no national titles, but he did win 4 Big Ten titles, 5 bowl games and was 5-4 against the Wolverines. Coach Bruce only had one top 5 finishes (1979) and had eight consecutive seasons of 3 or more losses. This program was no longer on the level of the Notre Dame’s, Nebraska’s, Oklahoma’s, Miami’s and Penn State (pre-B1G affiliation) who dominated NCAA football during that period.

Then there was the Cooper era, the period that hurts and haunts me still. Only 2 wins and a tie in 13 tries against TTUN. 7 bowl losses. 3 Big Ten Titles and No National Championships despite reaching the top 10 in Associated Press Poll 7 times and starting the season in the Top 10 four times.

It wasn’t until I was a 22-year old senior at The Ohio State University that I saw my favorite team play for a national title and win it, led by Jim Tressel, Craig Krenzel and super freshman Maurice Clarett. 22 years it took for me to experience my team win it all. Compare that to a current 22-year old Ohio State fan that has seen the Buckeyes win 2 National titles (2002, 2014), play for another 3, 9 outright/shared B1G titles and 15 wins in “The Game”, which include a current 5-game win streak. I’ll gladly trade my first 22 years of Buckeye football fandom for that of a current 22-year old.

 

These last 15 years especially have spoiled Buckeye Nation and distorted our perspective of how hard it is to truly be great in college football.

The schools that dominated the college football landscape of my youth (Notre Dame, Nebraska, Miami, Georgia, Michigan) and even the turn of this century (Miami again, Texas, USC, Florida and Florida State) have all gone through multiple losing seasons, coaching changes and program derailing scandals. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes have been at the top or in the thick of the Championship race. And when there has been a down season, scandal or coaching change (2011), the Scarlet and Gray quickly bounced back (2012; 12-0).

In the last 25 years or so, we’ve never had to hear the phrase “The Buckeyes are back!” like the Miami Hurricanes are hearing this week ahead of their matchup with the Fighting Irish.

So as you watch this 2017 version fight for a B1G Championship in clearly the most challenging Power 5 conference this season, remember the main goals are still obtainable. But more importantly, there are a lot of fans bases that would love to have our “problems.”

Week 4 College Football Takeaways

Let’s overreact to another week of College Football.

It’s Sunday, so here’s my overreaction to week four of the college football season.

The B1G should replace a few of its schools with teams from the MAC, and would become a better overall conference. Northern Illinois got all the headlines for playing the defending National Champion Buckeyes close last week, but several of their conference brethren have given Power 5 schools headaches. Bowling Green has two wins against B1G schools (Purdue & Maryland) and played Tennessee out of the SEC close until succumbing 59-30. The Ohio Bobcats pushed the Minnesota Gophers to the final seconds this week, before losing 27-24. Kent State also only lost to the Golden Gophers by 3 points a week ago.

It’s clear the top teams in the MAC have caught up. My guess is that many of the top recruits from the Midwest who don’t accept or receive scholarships to power 5 schools–where they’ll have to sit for two years, behind upperclassmen who are also former top recruits–are getting on the field sooner at the mid major program’s, and it’s finally paying off for those programs. Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers, Purdue are a few that come to mind that don’t help the B1G case when it comes to football. Check back with those schools later this fall when hoops tips-off.

TCU is not a top 5 team. Look at their defense. They gave up 52 points and 607 total yards, and needed a fluke tip drill to score a touchdown on 4th down in the following seconds to beat Texas Tech. Last week they gave up 37 points and 508 total yards to SMU. Minnesota, a mid level team in the B1G, gave them a scare in week one. The Horned Frog defense will have circles ran around it against their major in conference challenger, Baylor. Who, by the way, just put up 70 points against Rice on Saturday. Number fifteen ranked Oklahoma, number twenty-three ranked West Virginia and number twenty ranked Oklahoma State may dash their playoff hopes soon enough.

Which brings me to this point, if the College Football Playoffs started today, the top 4 teams would be from the B1G Champion (Ohio State or Michigan State), the SEC champion (Georgia or LSU), Notre Dame and Utah. To me those are the four teams playing the best football, even though they aren’t ranked that way in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 Poll.

This means the Big 12 would get left out of the playoffs again. The Big 12 has become Arena Football with their focus on high volume passing offenses. Any champion from that conference would be physically dominated by the top teams in the B1G, SEC and PAC-12. The PAC-12 winner could have two losses because they best teams in conference and beating up on each other. However, the champion from the PAC-12 would still be highly impressive with two losses.

The Heisman Trophy race is a now two-man race between LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Georgia running back Nick Chubbs. I said last week Fournette should win hands down, but Chubbs is making a case while chasing history at Georgia. He just tied 1982 Heisman winner Herschel Walker’s school record for most consecutive 100 yard rushing games. The winner of the 2015 Heisman may be decided the night these two face off in the SEC Championship game. That is, if both teams continue winning.

Michigan just made the B1G a three team race. The “Fighting Khakis” are back in the Associated Press Top 25 at number 22. The FPI gives head coach Jim Harbaugh’s team a 25% chance of entering the bowl season with 10+ wins and a 56% chance to beat in state rival Michigan State. It was only 34% in the preseason. The Spartans and Buckeyes schedule just got a little more difficult. You happy Brett Bielema? I’m going to stay on his case all season.

The Razorbacks are 0-3 since Bielema called out the Buckeyes schedule.

THEse Overachieving Buckeyes

The Ohio State Buckeyes Men’s basketball team is 25-9 and in the NCAA Tournament for a 6th straight season. Yet, on the Eve of their 2nd Round matchup with In-State foe the University of Dayton, many in Buckeye Nation are unhappy and already penciling in a first round exit in their office tournament pools.

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Courtesy:OSU Hoops

Yes, the 2013-2014 Edition has had a roller coaster season. They started the season with a 15 game winning streak—which was fools gold, because many casual fans built unrealistic expectations—lose four in a row at the beginning of conference play. Then win 4 in a row, lose to a B1G bottom feeder. Win a big game on the road at Iowa, lose at home to Michigan, then get swept by Penn State before beating B1G Tournament Champion and everyone’s favorite to win the National Championship, the Michigan State Spartans.

Regardless, no matter how you slice it, this team has overachieved. First they lost last seasons leading scorer and All B1G player DeShaun Thomas early to the NBA with no adequate replacement. The leading returning scorer coming into this season was Aaron Craft (10.0 ppg). He’s their best player—not most talented—and is known more for his high basketball I.Q., leadership and stingy defense, but a limited offensive game. The expected go to guy coming into the season was in Laquinton Ross, who entered the season off an 8.3 point per game average—with a total of 325 points in two seasons—with a career high of 22 points in an early season blowout over a mid major Northern Kentucky. Plus, he never started a single game in a Buckeye uniform. Ross’ 15.4 points per game average for ’13-’14 is 4.4 points per game less than Thomas’ last season.

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Thad Matta has led the Bucks to 10 consecutive 20+ wins seasons, including 3 30+ wins seasons, 6 straight NCAA Tournament Births and4 consecutive Sweet 16 births./ Courtesy:Associated Press

I could argue this is the best coaching job Thad Matta has done since taking his place on the sidelines in Value City Arena. This team should’ve never won its first fifteen games or finished with twenty five wins regardless of the strength of schedule or lack thereof. This team should be in the bottom half of the B1G with Penn State, yet they had a legitimate shot at winning the tournament title in Indianapolis because of their suffocating defense (if only they could’ve find some offense.)

I see these Buckeyes having a good run, because one thing you need in the big dance is a suffocating defense and experienced guard play. They have the experience of Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Junior. All three have been to the Final Four and played significant minutes in last season’s Elite 8 run. Playing in the domes and bigger arena’s during the tournament, offense’s struggle, but defense’s travel. That’s a feather in Ohio State’s cap. Just look at the B1G Tournament and what they were able to do in their comeback win over Nebraska and their three point loss to the Wolverines. So I expect Ohio State to be a factor in the next coming weeks, and I won’t be surprised if they extend their four year steak of trips to the Sweet 16 to five.

College Sports True King is Back!

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In my opinion, College Basketball is better than College Football.

I know I’m going to get killed for this and I don’t care! College Basketball is better than College football.

In the midst of the first week of the season, I was riveted by the 24 hours of basketball on ESPN from Akron versus St. Mary’s to Hartford at last season’s NCAA tourney darling Florida Gulf Coast aka “Dunk City”, to Michigan State versus Kentucky and Duke versus Kansas. Each and every game has brought a level of excitement and intrigue that you don’t get from early season college football games.

My opponents will say, each individual game doesn’t matter on the hardwood as much as on the gridiron. They’ll say the NBA one and done rule makes a mockery of amateur athleticism and doesn’t give college programs as chance to groom top talent and build into a true power house program. They’ll also say the college game lacks an uptempo flow because of over coaching and tightly officiated games that end in a final of 60 to 58—read my article on how to fix college basketball.

My responses to these claims will be to say true. BUT, I will say, how many times can you watch top 10 ranked teams in the country play each other in the first week of the season, knowing they still can accomplish their overall goals if they lose. The matchup between #1 Kentucky versus #2 Michigan State Tuesday night was the earliest the top 2 teams have played against each other ever, and the first time it’s happened in the regular season since 2008. That will NEVER happen in college football, even with the new playoff. Plus, how great is it to see top teams play each other and not inferior opponents they’ll beat by 30 points in an effort to remain undefeated.

The NBA one and done rule actually challenges programs to find and recruit the best talent to build a program. Take a look at defending National Championship Louisville. That roster had eight seniors and juniors. Coach Rick Pitino who has in the past recruited highly touted prospects, went a different route and offered scholarships to guys who fit his system. Then he groomed them over time together to become champions. Outside of the 2012 Kentucky Wildcat team led by Freshman Anthony Davis and the 2003 Syracuse Orange team led by an eighteen year old Carmelo Anthony, college basketball has still been ruled by rosters filled with upper class-men who’ve grown together for a couple of years. So one and done is not ruining the game.

As far as the slow paced style of play, that comes down to coaching preference based on talent available. I played in a lower level division in college where our philosophy allowed us and our opponents to play games in the the high 80s/low 90s, with the same rules as the upper level divisions. So it can be done, on any level.

The “upset factor” is another thing you get more in basketball than football. Any given night a mid major team can knock off a major. How often does that happen in Football? Maybe once a season? Appalachian State beating Michigan at the big house doesn’t happen three or four times a season. The same goes for North Dakota over Kansas State in Little Manhattan. Big upsets are a regular multiple occurrence on the hardwood season after season and then in the NCAA Tournament.

Also, more importantly, there isn’t much controversy surrounding polls and national championships. Thanks to March Madness, the champs are crowned where they should be, on the court. Right now we are in the final year of the BCS system in football, headed to a playoff. But in this final year we’re on a collision course to a nightmare with 4 undefeated teams and a one loss team in Stanford that has a better resume than all of them. You can bet if an undefeated Ohio State team—who has a weak strength of schedule, thanks to the BIG 10 and playing inferior non conference opponents—gets into the National Championship game, so called experts will be up in arms and calling fowl. That doesn’t happen with a tournament like March Madness, although I’m pretty sure the first year of the football playoff will spark controversy over what four teams deserve to duke it out on the field. But at least the Title will be decided on the field, not on computers.

Please know that I love football. I’m glued to my TV watching it every week from late August through January. My premise is based on wanting to see the best against the best whenever, wherever. College Basketball gives us that excitement for four months. I think it’s great we don’t have to wait to the end of the season to see it.

How to Fix: College Basketball

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Michigan and Louisville treated fans to an instant classic.

Five Months ago the Louisville Cardinals won a thrilling National Championship game over the Michigan Wolverines 82 to 76. There was the rarity of seven players reached double figures, including a 20 point scorer on both teams. Each team hit 8 three pointers while shooting 52 and 46 percent from their floor; a shootout by college basketball standards. The game also featured several future NBA draft picks, up tempo play similar to the pro game and several highlights that will be shown on future broadcast. The game also showed what college basketball could and should be. College basketball is great from mid March to early April, but something needs to change to make it just as exciting from midnight madness in late October until selection Sunday in early March.

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According to Ken Pomeroy, a college badketball statistician who runs kenpom.com, NCAA teams are scoring at an average of only 68.13 points per game. There are several factors contributing to this result, including defense, tightly called games by officials and a defection of top players year after year to the NBA. What follows are my suggestions to help increase scoring as well as interest in the college game in the months leading up to the madness of the NCAA Tournament.

The college game is slow, not because of the lack of athleticism but because of time constraints such as the shot clock.

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Trim the shot clock.

The NCAA needs to consider minimizing the shot clock from 35 seconds and adopting the NBA timer of 24 seconds. This will create more possessions, which will increase scoring. It will also cause ball handlers to push the ball up court – instead of walking – and get teams into their plays sooner before turning it over on a violation. If they don’t want to completely go the NBA route, cutting the shot clock down to 30 seconds would still create a handful more possessions.

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Jump ball ties up should lead to jump balls. Not possession arrows.

Next, get rid of the jump ball possession arrow. ESPN Analyst Dick Vitale has been calling for this for years. It won’t help with scoring, but the jump ball tie up has screwed a few teams late in games and taken the air out of the building. It is even being used as strategy. When I played in college, coaches would tell us to purposely go for a tie up when the possession arrow was in our favor. Coaches do this now today, hence we have players with quick hands like Ohio State’s defensive standout Aaron Craft who reach in while playing defense to create a tie up and get the ball back via a jump ball.

Another NBA rule the college game should adopt is six personal fouls before disqualification. Due to the current five foul limit, coaches have to take key players out early to protect them. This causes a change in game plan and coaches tend to get more conservative. Adding another foul, would allow coaches the opportunity to take a gamble and stick with their original plan.

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Finally, change the limit on the bonus. Right now it is at six and all fouls including non shooting fouls count towards it. Once a team hits the limit, the game becomes a free throw shooting contest. I don’t blame officials for this, because I truly believe for the most part, they’re calling the games correct. The only reason you see so fewer fouls called in the NBA is because lesser name players get less benefits than the stars. How many times have you heard a commentator say “he doesn’t have enough stripes to get that call?” or “that star player got away with that on reputation.” That’s where the NCAA game has a leg up on the pros. But increasing the foul limit will keep the game at a steady pace while the officials continue to call it tight.

College basketball is more exciting to watch because of what’s at stake every game when it comes to seeding for the Conference and NCAA Tournaments. But it needs tweaking in order to fully maximize its potential as one of America’s top draws all season long. Now that I’ve solved college basketball’s problems, I’ll turn my attention to fixing college football and the BCS/playoff system. It could be awhile before I finish that project.