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Friday, February 4, 2011

Ohio State Men's Basketball: Will they go Undefeated? No Will they win the national title? Yes

As the Ohio State men's basketball team continues its warpath through the Big Ten, the hot topic is whether they can become the first team since Bob Knight's 1976 Indiana Hoosier team to end the season undefeated.
Well,  I hate to burst your bubble, Buckeye fans, but the answer is no, they will not end up undefeated. In addition to the fact that they have to play four of their next five games against opponents ranked in the top 25(three of which are on the road), should they manage to end the season 31-0 they still have to play in the Big Ten tournament.  As fortunate as the Buckeyes have been, I just don't see them running the table.

But after last night's comeback performance at home against Michigan, I do see a team that is on the cusp of winning the school's first national championship since Fred Taylor's squad did so during the 1960-61 season.  These Buckeyes, even though they go only seven deep, are far from a one man show.  Sure, it helps that player of the year candidate and frosh sensation Jared Sullinger is averaging almost a double-double a game.  But this team, unlike last year's squad, is more than one player.  William Buford's performance last night during crunch time proved that when this team needs someone to step up and deliver, the call will be answered.  As much as teams would like to key on one or two players from OSU, the fact that three players are averaging double figures in points makes this team very hard to defend.

There is also something to be said for the fact this could be a team of destiny.  Many people quick to discredit the Buckeyes will point to the numerous games they have won this year by five or less points, including a 1 point win over Northwestern; however, that the Buckeyes have been in such fierce battles, especially on the road, should serve them well come tournament time on a neutral floor.

Want more evidence that Ohio State is a team of destiny?  Take a look at this highlight of the OSU-Northwestern game last Saturday:

As you might or might not have noticed, Jared Sullinger could have been called for a double dribble twice on opening highlight, yet the refree did not whistle him for it either time.  This is a noncall that a lot of teams would be lucky to get on their own court, let a lone a visting one.  And it is not the only time Sullinger was not called for a double dribble, as he also got away with one earlier in the game on a steal and fastbreak layup.  These are just the kinds of calls you need to go your way when your mission is to win it all.

The odds do not favor Thad Matta's crew being the first men's college basketball team in almost 30 years to go undefeated.  Yet with the talent this team has, and their ability to catch breaks at key moments within the game, they should bring home something that OSU fans care much more about: an NCAA tournament championship.   

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