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April 10, 2012

Unscripted: Don't look back in anger

Follow Noon | Rowland | Givler | Birmingham

COMMENTARY - The couches have been extinguished, the feet have been amputated, and John Calipari has his next vacated title in hand. Yes, the Men's Basketball season is over and our Buckeyes did us proud. Make no mistake about it, this team did the unthinkable. Just a few short weeks into the season, it looked as if this Buckeye team would bow out early in the NCAA tournament. The team, however, did not share that sentiment as they went on a deep run that almost no one predicted, but everyone was ecstatic about. They managed the improbable, making it to their second Final Four under Head Coach Thad Matta with a lineup that most saw as Jared Sullinger and four other guys.

When it mattered most, however, it wasn't Sullinger that was the hero of the tournament. Every single man stepped up to the plate and delivered performances worthy of the jersey they wear. Some set career records. Some changed national perceptions. One saw his college career come to an end just one game short. Two have made the tough decision about their playing futures. Needless to say, this squad will have a very different appearance and method next year. The Buckeyes will be bigger under the hoop and could possibly play two point guards for a majority of the time. Regardless of how this season ended, I ask that you not look at this past season as a disappointment. Sure, the National Title is always the ultimate goal, but a Big Ten Championship and Final Four run are nothing to scoff at.

This team was up and down all throughout the season, from the uplifting beatdown that caused Coach K's butt to become sore to the horrendous losses that left every fan holding their heads in shame and anger. We went through stretches when we knew who the refs were and the very sight of the name Ted Valentine would instantly deflate any optimism one might have had. We endured career, record setting performances from our opponents. We endured TTUN's taunts and jibes about how they had the best point guard in the conference. We then returned the favor when they bowed out to Ohio University in the first round as we chugged along. We toughed it out alongside Sullinger, Aaron Craft, DeShaun Thomas, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., and William Buford as they simply willed their team to wins. We played armchair Matta, and at times called for his job and his head, not necessarily in that order. And all year we have been wondering if this is the last time we see a Sullinger wear the No. 0 on the court for Ohio State. It turns out that we have.

In the end, Ohio State exceeded expectations. Oh sure, the national writers had us at No. 3 to start the season, and they climbed as high as No. 2, but those that watched just about every game knew that this team was nowhere near that lofty ranking. We all knew that the Buckeyes start slow against good competition. We knew that this team had issues on several fronts, including finding a consistent shooter. So when we saw them come out gunning against Kansas, some of us thought that we'd seen a turnaround. We thought that, perhaps, they had finally found their magic formula, and at just the right time. Little did we know that the slow start was being reserved for the second half. So we sat there on the court with Jared and William, our proverbial jerseys over our heads.

Buckeye Nation is heavily invested in their athletics. This is not in dispute. We have one of the most vocal fanbases in the country and it shows. People hate us for our passion, they ridicule us for our emotional investment with these college kids, and they point fingers and laugh when our teams falter and fall. So when Aaron was called for that lane violation, we all felt the frustration and disappointment that the players on the court and the bench felt at that moment. We live vicariously through our All American athletes. Some might call that delusion, irrational, or just plain crazy.

We call it The Best Damn Fans In The Land. We stick through. We persevere. We take our moment of silence then reload for the next team. Above all, we never lose faith. Not during the first seven loss season since 1897. Not during the turmoil of losing a legendary coach to NCAA shenanigans. Not during two embarrassing National Championship blowouts. And so we should not lose faith in our basketball program. Keep the faith that Thad Matta and his staff know exactly what they are doing and have goals in mind. Keep the faith that, even though Jared has made the leap to the Association, we have the backups and role players to once again challenge the country.

We are Buckeyes and we bleed Scarlet and Gray.



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