Though a few weeks ago I couldn't have disagreed more with the "NCAA Tournament team" portion of the above Jamar Butler quote (inspired by Walter Sobchak's "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!" tirade?), I'm now fully convinced that the '07-'08 Buckeyes had the kind of heart, if not the kind of talent, to earn a spot in the field of 64.
Depending on how much value you personally place on the play-in game, OSU is now officially the 65th or 66th best team in the land. RPI rankings, for whatever those are worth (supposedly their weight in gold to the Tournament Selection Committee) placed the Buckeyes at 38th, before the win over YouMass. While on the subject, the last four wins OSU notched to finish out a suddenly satisfying season were over teams ranked 30th, 45th, 29th and 93rd, respectively (again, as of 4/3 and using bogus math.)
The game in NYC was as entertaining as one could hope for out of an NIT title match. OSU actually dug themselves out of a half-time deficit instead of tunneling deeper with errant perimeter shooting and the like. As far as the post game pandemonium goes, I missed the documented Butler catharsis but 11W and MotSaG have photos up. Though images from the post game celebration are far from Hallmark worthy, it would be an injustice to write off the NIT victory as insignificant--especially considering the steps made by Evan Turner, P.J. Hill (minutes are minutes), Dallas Lauderdale and the return of Kosta.
As for Mr. Koufos, the Mediterranean Mystery, all eyes turn to him between now and April 27th to see if he will return to Columbus for another season. Your guess is as good as any, as there seem to be few insider tips floating around about his leanings. Matta's philosophy on early departure seems to be even more laissez-faire (see: realistic) than Tressel's so if the Draft experts come a-knockin' then don't expect coach to stand between his prized recruit and the money he already turned down once. However, the good news for everyone that doesn't have a name rhyming with Mosta Loufos, is that neither NBADraft.net or DraftExpress list the OSU center as a first rounder.
The obvious "negative" to returning would be the possibility of being overshadowed by the pure-post player master work of incoming freshman B.J. Mullens. Jealousy, of course, is best remedied with a trip to the Final Four.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Jamar Butler, despite voicing his frustrations earlier this season, made his final walk to the Schott's locker room with a smile on his face.
Ok, more like a smirk.
Butler and the Bucks beat Dayton last night, advancing to the NIT semi-finals in NYC. Below is the post-game interview. After he is dismissed we are treated to one of the more endearing images of his prolific career: A cluster of fans in the otherwise empty stands give Butler a farewell cheer as the senior sheepishly tugs on the towel slung over his neck and amicably acknowledges the home crowd for the last time.
The undisputed leader of the basketball Bucks since Terence Dials left will be remembered for his receding hairline, multiple school records, prison tats, and, perhaps above all, enigmatic and humble demeanor. On a more existential level, Butler, recruited during his Mr. Basketball campaign and before Matta arrived, is a rare relic that links to the Jim O'Brien era. Doug Lesmerises of the Plain Dealer writes:
The winningest player in Ohio State history, so famously grumpy after defeats, has been the con stant, the link from coach Jim O'Brien to coach Thad Matta, from center Terence Dials to center Kosta Koufos, from a 2005 postseason ban to the 2007 Final Four. Over four years, he has started 111 games with 15 other players, switched positions from point guard to shooting guard and back again, emerged as Ohio State's all-time leader in assists and 3-pointers, and made his name as a defender, distributor and scorer.
"We always felt like no matter who came or who went, he was always kind of the glue," said his mother, Nancy. "He was always a needed piece to the puzzle no matter what team it was."
Butler is the most unlikely soon-to-be OSU record book reference in recent memory. Though certainly a catch out of high school, he arrived on campus with a Brent Darby complex: thrown into the mix too soon; before loosing that freshman 15. His four year tenure, like that of classmate Matt Terwilliger, already sounds like a misprint in this age of one-and-dones. Butler's path into the annals of OSU legend seems even more round about when compared to that of NBA fast-trackers Daequan Cook and Mike Conley Jr., former teammates who's skill sets are similar to Butler's.
Conley, who inadvertently crashed Butler's coming out party last season, appeared to be the next fan favorite of the winter season. He was a bit undersized with some wrinkles to smooth out, soft-spoken and comfortable playing second fiddle to the big man down low. It could be argued that if Ron Lewis missed that epic three-pointer against Xavier to advance to the Sweet 16 last year, Conley would have never been considered a lottery pick and returned for at least one more season. But, as Gus Johnson can tell you, that shot was destined to fall just as Conley was destined for greener pastures.
All this is to say that Butler is a special player for the very reasons he is not an exceptional player (like Conley or sometimes Cook.) As the Matta recruiting machine gains momentum each season, devouring the top high school talent near and far, the Jamar Butler's of the game will be spit out and distributed to other sleeping giant programs in need of their services. He and his workman-like efforts will be fondly remembered, as he is emblematic of an already-dated aesthetic. If Greg Oden and the Thad Five built the towering framework for an era when Buckeye basketball will begin it's ascent to "powerhouse" status, then Jamar Butler laid the foundation.
Monday, March 17, 2008
The fine scholars at the Syracuse basketball blog, Cuse Country, are hosting their 2nd Annual NIT Bracket Challenge.
Thanks to some grade-A Microsoft Office work and a true commitment to the sport (of casual gambling and basketball), Cuse Country has given all of us Buckeye fans another reason to watch our team throw down with the rest of the best.
DEADLINE IS TUESDAY (TOMORROW), 6 PM so I encourage everyone to head over to Cuse Country and fill out your bracket.
For those following at home, the "official" OCT bracket is displayed below. Notice the juicy match up in the final: OSU v. former Buckeye coach Gary Williams and the Turtlepins (winner: OSU.) Other than that, use the following bracket as an example of what not to do.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Only this year it's in the N.I.T., which, evidently, is not as "prestigious" as the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio St. will face that venerable, history-rich program from North Carolina, UNC-Asheville, which, evidently, exists. (Tuesday, 7PM, ESPN2)
The big story thats making everyone in Bristol, CT giggle is the possibility that OSU and Florida will meet again in a championship setting. It's still uncertain whether this scenerio would be good for anyone.
I'm trying to find a good site for electronic N.I.T. pools. Seriously.