Thursday night, Ohio State will take the court for their third consecutive Sweet Sixteen. Of all the angles this game brings, that may be the one that is not being explored in the headlines.
Think about it for a minute – the only player on the Buckeyes who knows what it’s like to NOT make a Sweet Sixteen is William Buford. This team should be very comfortable in this setting.
However, at the same time, there is a hunger that lies within the men of the scarlet and gray. Last year, they were the #1 overall seed and got thrust into a murderer’s row of a region. They were ousted by Kentucky, and the failure fell most upon Buford’s 2-for-16 shooting performance.
This is a team that knows how to win and wants it. If for no other reason, to win it for their leader, Buford.
Most fans (of which I am proudly one) want the same thing. Exorcising the demons from that loss to Kentucky would be sweet justice for a player that has given everything to Ohio State and will be playing in his final games as a Buckeye over the course of the next 1 to 12 days. And as a diehard fan, I see a great journey for the rest of the NCAA Tournament, should the basketball gods allow it.
Thursday night – Cincinnati. I live in the Queen City, and I know plenty of fans who can’t stand the Buckeyes. Mostly it’s due to Little Brother Syndrome, but that’s understandable. They get overshadowed all the time by the giant living in Columbus. Still, a handful of them like to repeatedly point out that they can beat Ohio State in both basketball and football (the football claim is laughable, because the Bucks routinely destroy UC….Bearcat fans can only point to 2002 to claim relevance, and they still lost that game 23-19).
A win over the Bearcats will push back against those claims and would be a nice victory.
The Elite Eight – Wisconsin. If the Badgers get past the Syracuse zone (and that’s not as tough as you might think for a team like Wisky), Ohio State can get another crack at a team that has fast become a heated rival. The Buckeyes were leading Wisconsin last month by 8 points late, and then fooled around and lost the game on a late 3-pointer.
Revenge would be sweet, especially against Bo Ryan.
Final Four – Kansas. The Jayhawks beat Ohio State earlier this year, but Jared Sullinger was on the sidelines with an injury. The Buckeyes were within 4 points late, but without the strong inside game, they were doomed to fall to an experienced, dominating team like Kansas.
A win here would be another big payback moment.
The Championship Game – Kentucky. Really, do I have to say why this would be a big win? You know why.
John Calipari would have blown another Final Four before the sanctions come calling, and Ohio State would have a title. Everybody wins.