Sports Updates every 20 minutes
Weekday mornings and afternoons
Basketball Bucksline: Mondays 7-8 p.m.
Sunday Morning Sports Talk: 9 a.m.-noon
Crew fans get more on your favorite team
By Matt McCoy
Ohio State has a chance Sunday to continue a remarkable run...and I don't mean the opportunity to share a fourth consecutive Big Ten Championship.
The title is at stake as well, but the Buckeyes, ultimately, don't control that. They'll not only need to beat Illinois, but have Michigan beat Indiana to share the championship. But just by beating Illinois, Ohio State would accomplish something that no other Big Ten team did.
If the Buckeyes get payback for the 19 point beatdown they suffered at Illinois in January, OSU will have beaten every team in the Big Ten. Indiana didn't do it, losing its only meeting at Illinois. Michigan played Wisconsin once...and lost. Michigan State was swept by the Hoosiers and Wisconsin lost twice to the Spartans.
But it goes deeper than that. Not only will Ohio State have beaten every team in the Big Ten this season, but it will make four consecutive regular seasons in which Ohio State has beaten every team in the league.
I know what you're thinking...'big deal'...but it is. To pull this off it not only means that you pay back teams that previously beat you--which Ohio State already did once this week with the win at Indiana--but in today's Big Ten, there are four teams you play only once--and you have no margin for error. The Buckeyes beat all four, winning at Purdue and Penn State and home against Minnesota and Iowa. Last year they did it as well, with those home and away games flipped.
In the two years prior to that, before Nebraska joined the league, there were two teams that you only saw once. In those years, one of the Big Ten's best programs, Michigan State, was a one-timer for the Buckeyes. In 2010, Evan Turner's group went into East Lansing in February and won, and the 2011 Buckeyes got the Spartans at home.
How Rare Is It?
I wanted to see if beating every team in the league in the regular season was unusual. Is the Buckeyes potential streak, of four years in a row, impressive? I did not go back into the deep history of the Big Ten...I don't have that kind of time...but I did look at the Thad Matta era.
Over the last nine years, only four teams other than Ohio State have been able to beat every Big Ten team at least once in a season. Ironically, two of them did it in the same year--and in one of the years the Buckeyes pulled it off...2010-11.
That was the great No. 1 ranked Buckeye team of veterans David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford, along with freshmen stars Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft. The Buckeyes lost two Big Ten games that year. One to Wisconsin and one to Purdue. Both the Badgers and the Boilermakers that year, defeated every other team in the league.
The other two to pull it off in the last nine years are Michigan State in 2008-09 and the Illinois team that Matt Sylvester shot down in the regular season finale in 2004-05. Ohio State also did it one other time--the Greg Oden, Mike Conley national championship game team in 2006-07.
There have been many close calls. Wisconsin went 16-2 in the Big 10 in 2007-08, but both of its losses were to Purdue. The Boilermakers went 15-3 in the league that year, but lost their only meeting with Indiana.
The Robbie Hummell, JaJuan Johnson, and E'Twaun Moore Boilemerkers were also close in 2009, but they were swept by Illinois and in 2010--a year they shared the title with Ohio State--they were upset in their one and only meeting with Northwestern.
Wisconsin also came close in 2007. It went 13-3 that year and handed the Buckeyes their only league loss. The Badgers, however lost their only meeting with Indiana.
Michigan State and Michigan shared the title with the Buckeyes last year, but the Spartans lost their only meeting with Illinois and Michigan lost its only game against Iowa.
Among the others that came close...Indiana, before the post-Kelvin Sampson dark years lost its only game with Illinois in 2006 and Iowa, that same year, would have done it but they were upset by Northwestern.
What does it mean?
To be honest, I'm trying to process that myself. It obviously means Thad Matta has brought a bunch of good players into Ohio State, who know how to win, but I think it's more than just that.
Number one, I think it speaks to competitiveness, toughness and a champions mentality. For one thing, you need all of those to win consistantly on the road in this league. For another, if you study the seasons, as I did, you'll find that most of the splits for Ohio State in these last four years were situations when the opponent had beaten Ohio State first...meaning the Buckeyes were the team looking for payback.
The two biggest examples have come the last two years. Michigan State roughed up the Buckeyes in Columbus a season ago but with a Big 10 title hanging in the balance, the Buckeyes went into East Lansing and won on William Buford's shot.
This year, Indiana thumped Ohio State by 13 in Columbus, but Tuesday night, the Buckeyes dug in, and out-fought, out-toughed and out-played the favored Hoosiers to set up a possible fourth consecutive Big Ten title. As CBS analyst and former Buckeye Clark Kellogg put it with Joel Riley Wednesday morning, "they showed a champions resolve...they played like champions do."
I also think it speaks to Thad Matta and his coaching staff. There are many things that impress me about Matta, but at the top of the list is preparation. I've always felt his teams are uber-prepared for games. In the case of playing a team that already beat you, I think Matta adjusts, motivates and prepares his team for what to expect and how to attack as well as anyone in the country.
The only payback in the last four years that Ohio State has not accomplished is one that I'm sure will bother Matta and his players forever...Kansas last year... but even in that case, the Buckeyes had control of the game--but let it get away.
One other thing it tells you is that Thad Matta does not lose to teams he should not lose to. He's never lost to Penn State and only once to Northwestern. It may drive you crazy that the Wildcats always seem to scare Ohio State. Heck, it's puzzling to me too---but the bottom line is Ohio State has won all of those games, save one. As I outlined above, two teams, Purdue in 2010 and Iowa in 2006, would have been added to the list of those who beat every team in the league had they figured out how to finish off the Wildcats.
Who did it last?
The last time the Buckeyes were swept in a season series was in 2009. Two teams did it. Michigan State was one----and the Buckeyes paid them back in the Big 10 Tournament that year. The other was Illinois...which brings us back to Sunday. The Illini will try to not only spoil the Big Ten title hopes of the Buckeyes but also end a streak that started with their sweep of OSU four years ago.
Maybe I'm overstating it but I find the fact that the Buckeyes are a win away from beating every team in the league for a fourth straight year remarkable....and considering that only four other programs, in nine years, have done it even once should tell you all you need to know about the guy running this one.
Sunday will be the final home game in the career of Evan Ravenel. The 6'8 senior from Tampa transferred from Boston College and sat out the 2010-11 season but has been a key role player the last two years. He is coming off one of his best games, when he had eight points and six rebounds in the upset of Indiana.
"It's going to be a bittersweet feeling," Ravenel said of Sunday's game with Illinois. "I've really enjoyed my time here. I'm happy because I get a chance to play basketball here one last time but I'm going to be sad too because it's going to be my last time playing (at home). My time here at Ohio State has been wonderful from the day I stepped on campus."
Ravenel said his father will be at the senior ceremonies Sunday but his mother will not because she will be with his sister, a student at Florida A&M University.
"My sister got inducted in the AKA sorority so my mother is going to be down there to support her," Ravenel said.
While they won't walk out on the court with him in the pregame ceremony, Ravenel said the Sullinger family, including Jared, will be at the game to support him.
"They've been a big part of my career here. They've been supportive from day one," Ravenel said of the Sullingers. "Everybody...that whole family has been supportive."
To hear Ravenel's comments on his final game in the Schott click HERE:
No Title talk
Thad Matta would not bite when asked about the possibility of winning another Big Ten title share--with a win and then some help from Michigan, who must beat Indiana.
"We would be foolish to think past 12:30 on Sunday," Matta said. "The on thing I've told (the team) is you can't win anything if we don't play well on Sunday and you're playing a team that literally destroyed you on January 5th. Quite honestly there hasn't been much more conversation than that."
Illinois beat the Buckeyes 74-55 in the second conference game of the year.
"We don't owe Illinois a thing, we owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our fans, to our school and to our community because we went up there and embarrassed everybody, including ourselves," Ravenel said of the first meeting with Illinois. "The way we played is unacceptable for an Ohio State team. We showed no fight, we showed no toughness and we got embarrassed."
To hear Thad Matta's pregame thoughts on Illinois and Senior Day click HERE:
One Other Goodbye
For 30 years, Debby Cacchio has worked at Ohio State University. For the last 23, since 1990, she has been the Men's Basketball office administrator. In the media, we don't usually deal directly with her but there have been occasions when I have and she's as good as it gets.
Debby is retiring this year so Sunday will be her final home game. I was happy to hear that the University does plan to recognize her in the pregame ceremonies. If you going to the game Sunday and arrive early enough for the ceremonies, give her a big cheer...she deserves it...and she will be missed.