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B1G 2016-17 Basketball Recap: Ohio State Buckeyes

My bad

Ohio State v VCU Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The Ohio State Buckeyes came into the season with mildly high expectations. There were some losses to graduation and transfers, but there was still talent on the roster. Thad Matta had never finished a season with less than 20 wins, and there was no real reason to think this team couldn’t do it. I think we all knew there was a possibility that they wouldn’t, but like many, I was mildly optimistic.

The season started off with a win against Navy in New York. It wasn’t a great game, it wasn’t a terrible game. The Buckeyes were favored to win by 16, and they won by 10. One thing thing fueling my optimism was that Kam Williams, after averaging 8.3 points the year before, scored 23.

Ohio State v VCU Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

I can’t say I was full on fire ready for the basketball season, as football was still in the stretch run of Big Ten play, and searching for a playoff spot, but I was getting warmed up. Then came the home opener against Norther Carolina Central.

The Buckeyes pulled out a closer than expected win, 69-63. A worrying stat was that they were dead even in rebounds. Like many, I didn’t give it much thought. The Bucks won, and on the football side, Michigan State was the ultimate trap game, and Michigan loomed on the horizon. Also, there were starting to be scenarios where Ohio State could win out and not make the Big Ten Championship, and thus likely miss the playoffs. Michigan losing to Iowa was huge.

The Buckeye basketball team rattled off three more wins, none close, but none against impressive teams.

Then came the first loss of the season, against number 6 Virginia out of the mighty ACC. It was a 2 point loss. The Bucks were up most of the game, before sloppy play got the best of them. We had a long season left and Virginia was expected to contend for a 1 seed and the title. I never saw OSU as a title team, but this was an encouraging sign on their ability to make the NCAAs. I kind of noticed.

The rest of the non-conference schedule seemed to fly by. There was a hiccup against Florida Atlantic. It was an overtime loss to a lightly regarded team. I would like to say I cared, but it was 2 days after the selection committee put Ohio State football in the playoffs after not winning the B1G. I just wrote it off while celebrating the semi-shocking selection.

Then there was another non-conference loss against then number 2 UCLA. I am actually sad I missed this one, partly because I had no idea of the phenomenon that is LaVar Ball.

Overall, headed into Big Ten play, the Bucks were 10-3. Two acceptable losses, one hiccup, and one head scratcher. What the rest of the season held was anyone’s guess.

Then disaster struck. The football team lost on New Years Eve by 31, in a shutout. Also, the basketball team lost 4 straight to open Big Ten play. There were dogs kicked, TVs broken, and some people were even mad about basketball.

Sure, some of the basketball losses looked bad at the time, but looking back, they weren’t that bad, except maybe Illinois.

The season then spiraled downward after that. The talk radio shows around Columbus seemed to be taking their frustration about the football team out on the basketball season. The fans did the same. There was talk that it might be time for Thad to go. I am not going to get into the history of OSU basketball here, but trust me when I say that other than a 10 year stretch in the 60s when OSU was LOADED with talent, the Thad Era is the best in OSU history.

And it still wasn’t certain that he wouldn’t win 20 games and make the tournament when this talk started.

There were 4 or 5 games that were decided by a point or 2 that kept OSU from making the dance. The Bucks even managed 10 point win against a ranked Wisconsin that gave a huge glimmer of hope with 2 games left. Win out, and make a little noise in the Big Ten tournament, and the NCAAs were within reach. They went 1-1 and dropped a stinker in the NCAA tournament to Rutgers.

Overall, it was a bad year for Ohio State in basketball. They finished up the season 17-15, and didn’t make the NCAA tournament.

Times like these call for soul searching, and I decided to do some.

I haven’t been paying as much attention as I should.

So I will take all the blame for the less than spectacular basketball season. I just didn’t give enough of an effort.

More than most sports, college athletics are a team game. The fans give money, support the team, help get recruits and so on. The administration can give varying levels of support. The city or town that holds the college, the same. Throw in the students and their passion, along with the most important, the actual players and coaches, and it truly is a village that raises a team.

I am not going down alone. Ohio State, and their fans, just don’t support the basketball team like the football team, and it’s not close.

Just glancing at the numbers, it might not seem that bad. OSU is like 16th in the country over the last 5 years in basketball attendance. The problem is you have to factor in football, and the size of the arena. While the fans support basketball, they don’t fill the arena. They fill the stadium for the spring game in football, while in the home opener in basketball, they were at 60% capacity.

To put this in perspective, imagine you have two children. You give one 100k to go to college and the other you give 25k. When the second kid comes to you, and says, “Hey, this crap isn’t fair!” it’s real easy to say, “There are plenty of kids that don’t get a dime to go to college!” You can say it, and you would be wrong. If you have the same expectation for both kids, you have to give the same resources. If you don’t, you owe the other kid an explanation. And no matter how hard you try to explain it, there are always going to be deep seeded anger and resentment from the second kid. It’s human nature to want things to be “fair”.

If we hold OSU basketball to any kind of similar expectations as we do football, we have to give much better effort, from the bottom up.

At this point, some of you are ready to start telling me that the basketball team needs to suck it up, or are going to say that if they start winning, then the money and fans will show up.

There is a little song, and we all know it.

I Wanna Go Back to Ohio State

I wanna go back to Ohio State

To old Columbus town,

To the stadium to hear the band,

By far the finest in the land,

I wanna go back to Ohio State

To old Columbus town,

I wanna go back,

I gotta go back,

To Ohio

Ohio, Ohio

The hills send back the cry [O - H!]

We're here to do or die [I - O!]

Ohio, Ohio

We'll win the game or know the reason why!

And when we win the game, we'll buy a keg of booze!

And we'll drink to old Ohio,

'Til we wobble in our shoes!

Ohio, Ohio

We'll win the game or know the reason why!

The reason why is simple. We don’t care enough. We can shift it to the players, the coaches, or whatever, but really it’s on all of us.

For the fans, we simply have to give more support. 60% capacity on opening night, and we wonder why it seems like the players don’t try hard enough in practice and games? That’s a little hypocritical, don’t you think?

Next year, I pledge to give the basketball Buckeyes more of my attention. If more fans join me, it will pay off in more success in the future.