Saturday, March 26, 2011

50 years and counting for Buckeyes hoops

It couldn't end this way for Buckeyes basketball fans, could it?

Yes, it did. Kentucky's Brandon Knight's shot in the final seconds ruined what might have been Ohio State's best opportunity at a national title since Jerry Lucas and Co. won it all the way back in 1960.

That's a long time, if you're keeping score at home. The start of next season will make it 51 years and counting.

It ended in a regional semifinal for the tournament's No. 1 overall seed, which proves no team is immune to March Madness. One bad shooting performance (OSU was miserable against Kentucky, just 30 percent) and it's over. It was a very good season for the Buckeyes, but not a great one.

Coming up short again, the Buckeyes lost to Florida in 2007 national championship game, begs the question: Will OSU ever win another national championship in men's basketball? That is tough to answer.

College basketball is predicated on matchups in March. Take it as an excuse if you like, but it's fact from this corner. The Buckeyes landed a tough draw in playing Kentucky in the Sweet 16. Whether its shooting struggles were self induced or courtesy of the Wildcats' defense is debatable.

It doesn't matter much now. What matters for the Buckeyes is where they go from here. Coach Thad Matta needs Jared Sullinger and William Buford to return next season to make another run at the top prize. A solid recruiting class is also expected next winter in Columbus.

Still, the top draw in central Ohio is, and will always be, the OSU football program. That in itself makes it a challenge for the men's basketball program, which has never been held to the standard of its gridiron classmate. It should be, though.

The Buckeyes have every means for contending and winning a national title in men's basketball. There's a top-notch facility, a top-notch coach and the university itself to sell nationally.

The pieces are in place, if Sullinger and Buford return, for another run at a title next season, but the clock continues to tick in Columbus.

- Mark Podolski


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