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Sunday, March 31, 2013

NCAA Tournament, Elite Eight: Stunned


That is the one word I will use to describe last night's game between Ohio State and Witchita State, and I think it is fitting.

I think we've all grown tired of hearing that other word that CBS/TNT analysts have often used, especially if you happen to be an Ohio State fan like myself.

No, I'm stunned. Stunned that not only would two of the team's best players (Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas) have their worst shooting games of the season on the same night, but, for 31 minutes, it also seemed that Ohio State wanted victory less than Witchita State did.

Seriously, for about three fourths of the game, instead of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, it felt like Thad Matta's Nightmare Before Easter. The team kept missing shot after shot, taking ill-advised three after three. And, to make matters worse, whenever Witchita State would miss, there was nary an Ohio State defender around to even challenge for the rebound.

About five minutes into the second half of last night's contest, I received a text message stating that Aaron Craft was the most overrated player in the country (from a fellow OSU fan, no less). Having committed 3 fouls, 3 turnovers, and on the worst shooting performance of the night, he might have been right. The really sad part is that, despite having more turnovers than assists and steals combined at that point, Craft's on the ball defense of the Witchita State point guard was absolutely horrendous.

At the 15 minute mark, with the Buckeyes down  22, 55-33, I should have just walked away and chalked it up as another loss. Then, with about 9 minutes and 30 seconds left, things started to change. Sophomore LaQuinton Ross would come off the bench to hit some timely threes. The Buckeyes would soon clamp up on defense, hitting the glass too, chipping away at the lead. And with some key free-throw shooting, they had cut the Shockers lead to 4 with just over two minutes to play.

Would the miracle run for Ohio State continue? Unfortunately, no. But Ohio State fans shouldn't be disappointed with their finish this season, even if a loss to the West Region's no. 9 seed wasn't the way they wanted to go out. After all, they did make it deeper into the tournament (the Elite Eight) than three of the four 1 seeds, and all but one of the other 2 seeds (Duke still plays Louisville this afternoon).

And guys like LaQuinton Ross have given fans something to look forward to next season. If junior (that's right Mr. Elmore, I said junior) forward Thomas returns for another year, expectations will be even greater.

But that is still several weeks away. Last night, once again, I ran the gamut of emotions (anger, elation, and then melancholy) that has become the signature of March Madness. And, while in the heat of the moment I had decided I would not talk to anyone about the game or my brackets anymore, this morning I have calmed down. After all, it is only a game.

Want to know something else? Even though all of my brackets are busted and I don't have a dog in the fight, I may actually cheer for Big Ten rival Michigan tonight(whose gone mad now? ha ha). That is of course, as long as Duke beats Louisville.

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