Of course, I was sad to see the Buckeyes men's basketball season come to an end last night. But Ohio State put up a great fight against Tennessee, who feature imposing front-line players and stifling defense. (See here.) As Buckeye fourth-year junior David Lighty said, the shots just weren't falling.
At least that was the story offensively. Most important of all, probably, was how effectively the Volunteers bottled up Buckeye three-point threat Jon Diebler, who may have had his poorest shooting performance since the Buckeyes' game against Penn State in Columbus back on February 3. (That was a game the Buckeyes won 75-62. But the final score was more lopsided than most of the game had been. The contest was nip and tuck most of the evening. The turnaround moment, ironically, came when Diebler, who had struggled all evening long, hit a three with 1:29 left in the game. But there was no such turnaround moment last night!)
Once again, as has been true of every year he's been a collegiate head coach, Thad Matta did a masterful job this season. With a short bench, the Buckeyes made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Matta has proven year after year that he is more than a great recruiter; he's a guy who can mold a winning game plan around varied personnel. As an Ohio State grad and lifelong Ohio State basketball fan, I feel that the university is as fortunate to have Matta at the helm of men's basketball as it is to have Jim Tressel coaching football!
I would love to see national player-of-the-year Evan Turner return next year. But I doubt that it will happen.
And who could blame Turner for going to the NBA? The injury he sustained earlier this season--breaking several bones in his back--demonstrates how vulnerable to injury an athlete can be. A few inches difference in the impact point of that injury and Turner might have been far more seriously injured. At least in the NBA, Turner will be paid for taking such risks and be able to afford any long-term care afterward. The risks are simply too great to expect him to come back with the Buckeyes for his senior year.
But, WOW! Turner has certainly added another great chapter to the annals of Ohio State basketball history.
Next year, with two of the top high school recruits in the country and a terrific returning cast of characters, Ohio State's basketball team will be outstanding once again. A Big 10 championship and a deep run into the NCAA tournament are clearly possible.