March Madness 2011: Ohio State's Sad Ending to a Memorable Season

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March Madness 2011: Ohio State's Sad Ending to a Memorable Season
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Well, I guess it's time for Buckeye Nation to return focus to their No. 1 passion: football. 

A great year in basketball ended last night with a heartbreaking loss to a determined Kentucky squad. The Wildcats combined athleticism and excellent coaching to top OSU 62-60 on a last-second shot by Brandon Knight. 
You had a feeling this one would come down to a last possession, and it did.  After Jon Diebler tied it with a clutch three-pointer, Kentucky responded with a big-time shot from a kid who has shown repeatedly that he has ice in his veins. 
It was a Final Four atmosphere and featured two teams that probably entered the tournament playing as well as anyone in the country.  Alas, only one team can exit victoriously, and on this night, that team was wearing blue. 
However, even in defeat, there was a silver lining for the team in scarlet and gray.
Here are my random thoughts looking back:

Kentucky played with a little more passion.

I thought UK came out with a chip on their shoulder, especially Josh Harrellson.

At times, the Cats looked like they just wanted it a little more, and I knew they possessed more quickness than Ohio State, but thought the Buckeyes would win the battle in the paint.  That wasn't the case, and you have to tip your hat to the big guy they call "Jorts."  He isn't pretty, but he played hard from the opening whistle until the final buzzer.

 

Thad got outcoached.

I love Thad Matta. 

He is a brilliant recruiter and a very fine coach, but I think Kentucky had a little better game plan and execution in this contest.  They established the tempo they wanted and seemed to make Ohio State play their game.  I thought Matta missed the boat on not benching Buford for a couple minutes in the second half in an attempt to calm him a little and slow him down. 

Of course, love him or hate him, John Calipari is a top-notch coach. He might sell his own family members to win, but the man can develop a team.

 

Buford never settled in or settled down.

As mentioned above, William Buford never did establish a rhythm and had the worst game of his career, finishing 2-for-16 from the field.  Part of that was due to great UK defense, led by DeAndre Liggins. 

But the ball seemed to be like a hot grenade in his hands. Too often, Buford forced the action rather than involve teammates, and let the game come to him.  It was an outstanding year for the junior from Toledo, so you hate to see it end on such a sour note. 

 

Sully responded when his manhood was challenged.
I thought Harrellson outplayed big Sully in the first half, but to his credit, the much ballyhooed freshman came back in the second stanza and took it to his counterpart. 
Down the stretch, Sullinger carried Ohio State and proved what kind of a competitor he is and how much heart he possesses. 
The Silver Lining.

Although this loss really stings, especially coming during a season that had the potential of bringing OSU another title, there was good news last night. 

Both Sullinger and Buford pledged to come back in 2011-12, which guarantees another fine season in Columbus.  Those two will be joined by Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas to form the nucleus of a powerful team, which will get a boost from another fine freshman class. 
Look also for Jordan Sibert to become a key contributor next year.  While it may not be quite as potent a unit as the one that took the court this year, it will be a fine team if everyone does return and all remain healthy. 
And who knows?  Everyone thought the 2010-11 UK team would be down this season, but they have come on like gangbusters as of late.  The same thing could happen at OSU next year as well. 
Congratulations to a great senior class that will be tremendously missed.  We won't soon forget you, David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale. Thanks for playing with class and producing so many wonderful memories!
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