By Bucking-A on 11:58:04 01/30/02
There couldn't be a more classic example of the changing tide in college hoops than last night's game. If you need proof, just look at the highights from ESPN's College Hoops 2Night. There were the Bucks playing unselfishly, actually running plays and setting screens for one another. There was Illini "great" Frank Williams, time after time, trying to break his man down 1-on-1 and taking a difficult, low percentage shot. It's something O'Brien has picked up on early and which coaches like Self will learn eventually...you can have all the talent in the world, OSU certainly has some, but Illinois has more...but, in order to do special things, you need to work as a team. A post earlier down the board said it best...Illinois has a bunch of scorers. That's their problem, no one is looking to cover the other guy's back, no one is willing to put forth the extra effort, to do the little things that win games.
Thankfully, that is not a problem at OSU as O'Brien has his system and recruits players who fit it. He likes big guards that get after it on defense and are multi-dimensional and unselfish on the offensive end. He likes his big guys to be strong in the lane and defensive stoppers more than they are offensive forces. We all see Dials as a star in the making, but right now he and Zach Williams do a great job doing their job...playing strong defense on their man and help out when needed, doing a great job of not allowing the kind of easy baskets OSU got repeatedly in the first half last night.
Many on the outside say Ohio State doesn't have big time talent and are overachieveing..Jay Bilas said it last night actually...but the Buckeyes are plenty talented. College basketball analysts have gotten so caught up in what the NBA considers talent that they have lost sight of what true college basketball talent is. Quite possibly none of the Buckeyes on the current roster will see a day on a NBA roster, but that doesn't make them less talented, it just makes them a great group of college players who are strong in every phase of the game and maximize the talents each has to win basketball games.
Bottom line, Ohio State is a team full of winners and Illinois is a team full of individuals. The team with the "talent" will always get the preseason publicity while the team which is better than the sum of its parts will have to prove itself over and over again in order to gain respect. O'Brien and the Buckeyes do have people on notice once again, despite what the polls say. My old roommate from college called me after Florida, our Alma Mater, lost its third straight, this one to Kentucky. All he could talk about is how he wished the supremely talented Gators could play like the Buckeyes he saw paste Illinois in the early game and how it was a joke OSU wasn't getting any love in the polls. "Watching Ohio State was unbelievable man, they were like surgeons out there," was his quote.
After a hiatius, team basketball is back in college basketball. After years of trying to recruit like Duke and thinking talent is the only thing you need to win, the dreaded chemistry word is killing a number of teams again. The thing many coaches and ADs forgot while they were copying Duke is that the Blue Devils, as much as I hate them, always play unselfishly, despite all the basketball gods on the roster. Yes, a change is afoot in college hoops and OSU and O'Brien saw it early on and got on the ground floor...and we as Buckeye fans are reaping the awards now. A great season like this is always more sweet when no one saw it coming. No one outside of the Buckeye nation that is, although this year has exceeded even our lofty expectations.
Get O'Brien a big time extension now. Lock him up and throw away the key. Go Bucks.