Back by popular demand! Marty Bannister, the play-by-play voice of the Ohio State women's basketball team for the past nine years, will be keeping a blog once again throughout the season to provide fans with insight on the team and give his take on the Buckeyes, the Big Ten and the rest of the college basketball landscape. In addition to his duties with the women's cagers, Marty also has served as the football sideline reporter for The Ohio State Buckeyes Radio Network since 2006 and shares play-by-play duties with the baseball team in the spring.
March 13, 2012
I always like watching the reaction of Ohio State's players and coaches on selection night when the Buckeyes' name and seeding pops up on the screen. It was really interesting Monday evening when the Buckeyes found out their destination. I would say a mix of shock, disappointment, amazement and some anger would be the best way to describe what I saw that night. Ohio State was given an #8 seed and will play the #9 seed Florida in Bowling Green Sunday around 12:15 p.m. Coach Jim Foster said he was as disappointed in Monday's seeding for one of his teams as he has been in 26 years of tournament appearances.
So, to break it down: winning 25 games, finishing second in one of the top-rated power leagues, beating nine NCAA tournament-bound teams (three of them on THEIR home courts), being one of a handful of schools to not lose a non-conference game and having the Big Ten player of the year, is the equivalent of a 8 seed by the selection committee.
It appears to me the committee simply based Ohio State's seeding on how the team played in its last 10 games, which is completely unfair. Yes, the Buckeyes were not very good down the stretch, but does that wipe out what happened in the previous 21 games? Does the entire body of work in a season count for anything? If that's the case, then simply scheduling 11 to 13 wins non-conference wise appears to be the way to go. That hurts the overall development of the women's game and in the end, isn't that what all this is about? Making the game one the fans want to watch and be a part of. It does the women's game no good to have same four schools play for the title every year. I agree with Jim Foster as well on this point: a Big Ten voice needs to be a part of the selection committee and OSU AD Gene Smith would be the perfect choice. Having already served on the men's selection committee, he fully understands criteria and how it should be used, which judging from what happened Monday night, the current committee has lost sight of.
So after all that, it now boils down to getting the job done on the floor. The matchup with Florida falls into the category of a typical 8 vs. 9 seed game (although these teams may be better suited for a 4 vs. 5 game). The Gators played a handful of close games, most of those in the treacherous Southeastern Conference. They, like Ohio State, are not afraid to push the ball and spread the floor. Should be a good one. Overall top-seed Baylor plays the 16-seed UCSB in Sunday's second game. I would image the Lady Bears are a little miffed as well, not about seeding, but why they are playing in Ohio. It seemed logical for the top-seed to be put as close to home as possible.
A plus in all this is Ohio State gets the chance to play before what will hopefully be a partisan crowd at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green. I have heard nothing but good things about the Falcons new home, and am looking forward to seeing the arena in person.
We will be on the air from Bowling Green Sunday at noon, with the tip at 12:15. The game, as always, on AM 1460 ESPN and available free worldwide at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
March 7, 2012
Well, you can't win it every year I guess. It's funny, but after watching Ohio State reach the Big Ten tournament final in four of the last six seasons, sitting at home on Sunday while Purdue beat Nebraska in this year's final seemed very odd. That being said, going into this season I would imagine not many gave the Buckeyes a shot at winning an unprecedented fourth straight tournament crown anyway. Still, a Sunday spent watching felt different, and that tells you how dominant the Buckeyes have been in this event.
Ohio State's two games in Indianapolis against Michigan and Nebraska were two very different affairs. Jim Foster calls tournament games "grind it out" type meetings and the 57-48 win over the Maize and Blue in the quarterfinals fit that bill. The Buckeyes defense came up huge in the second half, key plays by Amber Stokes and Tayler Hill were big in the win. Kalpana Beach, Darryce Moore and Raven Ferguson all had big games and the Buckeyes withstood a Michigan push from down 16 to win and move to the semis. I will admit, and I said this on the air Saturday, that I have never seen a game in my 30 years of broadcasting change as quickly as the Buckeyes game with Nebraska did. The Cornhuskers looked every bit a team playing its third game in three days for the game's first 13-plus minutes, as they trailed Ohio State 24-11. Then a Brandi Jeffery three (the Huskers first after going 0-for-9) followed up by consecutive baskets by Kaitlyn Burke and almost as fast as you could say "welcome to the Big Ten", the Cornhuskers were within six and had all the momentum. I usually do not listen back to our broadcasts, but Monday I took some time to do so with this game. My thoughts were confirmed after listening back. Ohio State, even though ahead, was doing some of things they had done while struggling down the stretch. Quick shots, no ball reversal, and not closing out on defense. So while the Buckeyes had the lead, they were not doing the things they do best. Credit Nebraska, they scored 11 points in the first 13 minutes, then outscored Ohio State 25-6 to end the half. When they started raining threes, it was an onslaught the Buckeyes never recovered from.
So now it's on to the NCAA's. The big question surrounds what seed the Buckeyes will get and where they will play. I have been asked a lot what I think the number seed that awaits the Buckeyes. You factor everything in, strength of schedule, record vs. Top 25 teams, conference RPI and how the team finished down the stretch and I feel Ohio State is a solid No. 5 seed. Lost in the rough finish is the fact this team owns wins over Temple, LSU, at Oklahoma, at California, at Michigan State over Nebraska and over Purdue. All the aforementioned teams are NCAA tournament bound. It also seems to me that the first and second rounds hosted by Bowling Green would be the logical destination for Ohio State. The NCAA loves to see arenas full at women's tournament games, so can you imagine what the Stroh Center at BG would be like if Ohio State, Dayton and Bowling Green would comprise three of the four teams at that site?
I also think six teams will make the tournament from the Big Ten. Michigan will have the toughest wait for this Monday's announcement show on ESPN than anyone. As much fun as it is to revel in anything that makes the Wolverines suffer, you have to throw that out at this time of the year and root for the conference as a whole. Michigan did finish with 20 wins, but also placed seventh in the league standings. Kevin Borseth's team needs favorites to win conference tournament titles to keep them on the bubble.
Again, the field of 64 will be announced this Monday evening at 7 on ESPN. Go Bucks, and we will talk soon!
Feb. 29, 2012
Well, more about the "good", than the "bad" from the last two games of the regular season for Ohio State. The "good", of course, being what happened Thursday on senior night. Jim Foster summed the night up best, calling the night the perfect "Hollywood script". Samantha Prahalis eclipsing Katie Smith's school single-game scoring mark of 40 by scoring 42 in the 81-56 win over Minnesota, in Prahalis' last game in front of the home fans. Special it was, no question. Even her heart felt remarks after the game fit the evening perfectly. She addressed the crowd with genuine emotion and appreciation looking back at her 4 years in Columbus. It was fun and an honor to have been a part of the night, and to have the chance to describe her games over the last four years.
The opposite end of the spectrum came Sunday in Lincoln, when Nebraska put the Buckeyes away 71-57. For whatever the reason, Ohio State has become a different team away (5-5 this season) from Columbus (19-0 this year). All the things the Buckeyes do so well at home -- ball reversal, space the floor, turn up the screws defensively, balance on offense -- all have left the team when playing away. Why? I wish I could tell you. Remember, this is a team that in December won at Oklahoma and California. Both of those teams are likely NCAA-bound. The Buckeyes confidence seems to have disappeared away from home. Here's hoping the move to Indianapolis and the neutral site for the Big Ten tournament will be a cure for whatever has caused the Buckeyes to lose their road "mojo".
Speaking of the tournament, the four days coming up in Indianapolis should feature some great basketball. Ohio State plays as the #2 seed, opening up on Friday against the winner of the Thursday game between seventh-seeded Michigan and the 10th seed Illinois. Both of those teams have defeated the Buckeyes, and gave Ohio State some serious match-up issues. The Wolverines, in fact, have won the last three times they have faced the Buckeyes. Ohio State does not need to win the tourney in order to get the NCAA tournament. Michigan, though, in all likelihood, would increase its chances by at least getting to the semi-finals. Perhaps the most dangerous team arriving in Indianapolis is Iowa. The Hawkeyes have not lost since losing guard Jaime Printy eight games ago to a knee injury, and Lisa Bluder's team sure looks like a confident bunch. The other team that could be a factor is Michigan State. Sparty was in serious trouble, I think, entering February, but they closed with a rush and have won their last four games entering the tournament.
The conference also handed out post-season honors this week, and to no one's surprise, Samantha Prahalis was named as the league's Player of the Year. What was a bit surprising, to me anyway, was Jim Foster NOT being named coach of the year. That honor went to Coquese Washington of Penn State. Now, understand, Coach Foster cares not one bit about such things, but he guided a team that lost the four-time player of the year, as well as two other starters, to a second place league finish and 24 wins. That after Ohio State was picked to finish outside the top three in the league by the same group (media and coaches) that did not vote him Coach of the Year. Coach Washington did a good job, but her team was picked to finish first, (it did) and returned 3 starters and the leagues freshman of the year. He got my vote, and I think those that did not vote for him miss the definition of what Coach of the Year should be.
We join you Friday from Indianapolis at 11:15 in the morning, with the tip at 11:30, on 1460 ESPN, and free everywhere at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Go Bucks, we will talk soon!
Feb. 22, 2012
Well, fun the visit to "Happy Valley" was not, so no sense in trying to sugarcoat what went on Monday night. Penn State soundly beat an Ohio State team that had not been treated like that by an opponent since the Connecticut loss last season in Madison Square Garden. Even the Sweet 16 loss to Tennessee was a game Ohio State was in, but Monday night was very tough to watch and to describe. Sixty Penn State rebounds, 29 offensive, and a 29-0 edge in second chance points pretty much sums up what happened. It was surprising to see Ohio State not put up more of a fight than what they did, in so much as this team has been such a confident bunch all season long. You look at the three prior losses, and a basket here, a defensive stop there, and each of those games could have been different. Monday, though, wow. Take nothing away from Penn State, they played very well and are a team that in winning at least a share of the conference crown is going to be a tough out in Indianapolis at the Big Ten tournament.
So two games remain. The first of which is Thursday at the Value City Arena against the Minnesota Gophers. The game will also be senior night, and the final home game in the career of point guard Samantha Prahalis. Say what you will, and many have, but watching Prahalis play over the last four seasons has been nothing short of entertaining. She has brought a flare to the women's game that not many others have. Prahalis is one those players that if she is on your team, you love playing with her. If you are an opponent, she drives you crazy. Many point to her flashy play, her tattoos, her theatrics on the floor, but many overlook her ability on defense. She has emerged into almost a lock-down type guard. Ask Penn State's Maggie Lucas (3 for her last 25 from the field against Prahalis) or Iowa's Jamie Printy ... the list of high scoring opposition guards Prahalis has guarded and kept from having their typical night goes on and on. In my mind, she is the conference's player of the year, and she will get my vote on my ballot. It will be interesting to see how that vote shakes out, because there are many in this league who can't look past the "flash" or the substance of her game. Two quick stories on Prahalis. I'm sure she does not remember this, but I first met her in the locker room on a recruiting visit. She was somewhat shy and looked like she was in the 8th grade. I turned to an Buckeyes assistant coach and said: "That's the player you all have been raving about?" ... Shows what I know, right? One other story. The night the Buckeyes returned from a disheartening season-ending loss to Florida State in the NCAA tournament to end the 07-08 season, I was standing next to Jim Foster at the airport waiting on our luggage. Everyone was very down after the way that season had ended, and I said to Coach Foster: "A pleasure working with you, and things will be better next season." He turned to me, and with something of a gleam in his eye, said, "Wait until we get Prahalis in here next season. This league won't know what hit them." And he was right.
Ohio State closes out at Nebraska Sunday. That game is huge for a number of reasons, NCAA and Big Ten tournament seeding, and gaining momentum going to Indianapolis. For Ohio State, it will be important to see how they handle a hostile environment roughly a week after the Penn State beat down. Remember, entering the last two games, Ohio State's four losses have all been away from Columbus. A win in Lincoln could go a long way in erasing the memory of last Monday, and give the selection committee a positive on Ohio State when discussing their NCAA seeding. Minnesota is first, though, Thursday, The Gophers have one of the league's bright future stars in guard Rachel Banham. Really like her game a great deal. The Gophers have been playing better down the stretch.
We join you Thursday at 7:45 with our pre-game show, with the tip at 8 p.m. Sunday it's a 3:45 pre-game with a 4 p.m. start. Both games on 1460 ESPN, and free everywhere right here at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Go Bucks, and we will talk soon!
Feb. 14, 2012
A split last week of games with Illinois and Purdue gears Ohio State up for a fun stretch run towards another Big Ten regular season title. Lets look back for a moment and take each game one at a time.
First, at Illinois last Thursday. Buckeyes end up losing 66-65 when Alexis Burke was able to wiggle free on the baseline and score what proved to be the game winning basket with 3 seconds left. Ohio State got the ball back and a running, half court heave by Samantha Prahalis was off the mark at the buzzer. I mentioned on-air that when Ohio State expanded the lead to twelve at 56-44, I thought the game was there for the Buckeyes to take. Jim Foster and I have had this discussion on different occasions, and sometimes, like last week, you have to credit the opponent instead of trying to figure out why your team failed to win. Did Ohio State commit unforced errors? Yes. Breakdowns defensively? Yes. Illinois though, converted on those chances and won. So credit the opponent.
The Purdue game lived up to expectations and the atmosphere surrounding two pretty good rivals getting after each other. The 80-71 Buckeyes win was a credit to Ohio State's better defense and rebounding in the second half. It's been stated here, and elsewhere, that when Ohio State has balance offensively, everything else seemingly falls into place. Four players scored in double figures, led by the 26 from Prahalis. How about her big three-point shot with under a minute left and the Buckeyes clinging to a two point lead? Seniors are expected to do clutch things, and she did. And congrats to the 8,000-plus who came out to the game! Your input (aka noise) was a huge part of the fun Sunday.
So now the Buckeyes enter their final four games a half-game in back of league-leading Penn State entering this week's play. The old "we are in control of our own destiny" sports-cliche' fits here for the Buckeyes. Win out and the top seed and the Big Ten regular season title belongs to Ohio State. Winless Indiana visits first on Thursday, and the Hoosiers, while playing hard, just are lacking in overall talent this year. They gave Ohio State fits in the first half of the game last month in Bloomington, but the Buckeyes simply had too much in every area in the second half and won going away. Give IU credit, they do compete. Looking forward to the Monday visit to Penn State and the only regular-season match up with the Lady Lions. The teams are relatively similar in that both like to run, can run, and will run, at just about every chance. From afar, it appears Penn State simply tries to outscore people. That may sound obvious, but they just try to run an opponent off the floor. Defense will a very interesting aspect of the Monday meeting and the team that is better there, could come out on top.
It's been a very interesting season so far in the Big Ten. While the league may not be the nation's best, it may well be the best balanced of all the major conferences. The top four teams all have at least 3 losses, and the middle part of the league, the Iowa's, Michigan State's, and Michigan's, can, and have, all beaten one of the top four teams. Don't forget Minnesota, which has wins over both Ohio State and Nebraska. The first week of March at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis will very entertaining.
Go Bucks, and we will talk soon!
Feb. 2, 2012
Despite the split this past Thursday and Sunday, Ohio State still remains in control of it's destiny in regards to winning the Big Ten regular season title. Now, that does not ease the sting of losing at Minnesota, or not playing well and winning at Indiana, but a positive is a positive no matter how you look at it.
I wrote in my last blog entry how I felt the games would be mental challenges in many respects for Ohio State -- a team riding high going into two very different atmospheres to play. In both outings, the Buckeyes struggled in the first half. They were able to recover against a struggling Indiana team, but could not get over the hump in Minneapolis Sunday. The "poor first half followed by a strong second half" has been a bit of a troubling trend for the Buckeyes this year. They have recovered and posted wins in most of the games they have started poorly, but the losses both at Michigan and Minnesota show that's a button you simply can't push and expect things to go your way every night. I know this is an area the coaching staff has addressed with the team, and Jim Foster even took the brunt of the blame at Minnesota, saying simply "I did not do a good enough job of preparing us mentally". The problems that contributed to the losses, lack of reversing the ball on offense, defensive breakdowns, and getting significant offensive contributions from players other than Samantha Prahalis and Tayler Hill, are all correctable. A week away from a game is a good time to work on these areas, and that's what Coach Foster and his staff now have.
Believe it or not, we are down to the final SEVEN games of the regular season. Hard to imagine, huh? This month of February will be very entertaining, as the Buckeyes will get their first and only looks at Purdue and Penn State in the regular season. Prior to the Minnesota game, Gophers radio announcer Corbu Stathes asked me if the Buckeyes would be interested in trading schedules with Minnesota. He noted the Buckeyes having to face upper echelon teams like the Boilermakers and Lady Lions just one time each, while the Gophers faced those squads twice each. I'm sure many see that as an edge for the Buckeyes, but it's only an edge if you win those games.
A rapidly improving Wisconsin team comes in Monday night, then it's right back on the road to Illinois next week. The Buckeyes have already defeated both those squads, and both games followed the "script" if you will, I wrote about earlier in this blog. Especially the game in Madison, where the Buckeyes roared out of a close game at the half to post a 16-point win. The first Illinois win was a testament to Ohio State imposing it's will on the Illini. Illinois would have loved to have made the game a half court, possession by possession affair, but the Buckeyes just ran them off the court and wore the Illini down in the 96-84 win.
Monday night we join you at 7:15 p.m. for our pre-game, followed by the tip at 7:30. Then from Champaign we are with you at 7:45 p.m., with a game start of 8 p.m. ET. The games as always on 1460 ESPN, and free anywhere at "OhioStateBuckeyes.com"
Go Bucks, and we will talk soon!
Jan. 25, 2012
Two exciting games last week -- against teams at the top and bottom of theconference standings -- for Ohio State. The wins followed the same successful script that has worked throughout the season: defense creating offense, key contributions from the bench, and the continued outstanding play of guards Samantha Prahalis and Tayler Hill. The ability to move the ball (ball reversal) on offense, makes Ohio State very dangerous on that side of the court as well. Jim Foster has mentioned that aspect of the Buckeyes game numerous times. While stats can sometimes be misleading, the Buckeyes offensive output (they lead the conference in shooting percentage) and points per game (also #1 in the Big Ten) readily back up what Coach Foster talks about.
So after the impressive win over then #20 Nebraska (82-68), and the up-tempo, exciting win over Illinois (96-84), the Buckeyes are now 19-1 on the season heading towards road games with Indiana and Minnesota this week. Although lots of basketball remains, the question is being continually put to me: "Just how good is this team?"
This Ohio State team has pleasantly surprised me, and I say that as not a knock on what it has accomplished, but as a compliment to what it has done. Honestly, no one, from myself to my broadcast partners Kristin Watt and Toni Roesch, would have put this team at this point with 19 wins in 20 games. Only the players would be the ones to see this kind of run. Not many teams lose 3 starters from a Sweet 16 team and throw this kind of season on the board the following year. Roles have been assumed and accepted, along with a new style, and it has all meshed nicely. This is a team I think with it's style and ability, when doing what it is capable of, can be a handful for alot of teams. Does that answer the question? Not really, because I think right now no one can pinpoint just how good any one team is in January. It's been a fun ride so far, so lets enjoy it and see if we can come up with a better answer in March.
The stretch that started with Illinois finds Ohio State playing teams that currently own a combined 5-23 mark in league play. While that sounds like an easy stretch, remember it includes games at Indiana and Minnesota. Both of those games are in arenas where Ohio State has not played it's best basketball in the recent past. The games are played in remarkedly different atmospheres. In Bloomington, the 17,000 seat Assembly Hall is normally populated by as many Ohio State fans as IU supporters. The Buckeye fans in attendance usually increase the crowd total to over 1,000 or so. In a state that is basketball crazed, IU women's hoops has yet to gain any sort of a foothold in Bloomington. The Hoosiers, large crowd or not, play the Buckeyes tough there. In Minneapolis, the loud, ancient, Williams Arena, jumps when the Gophers are playing well. Most say the raised floor is a homecourt "edge" for the Minnesota, but most Buckeyes players I have talked with like playing there. For whatever reason though, games there are usually a dogfight.
We are on the air Thursday at 7:45 p.m. ET from Bloomington, and then Sunday at 12:45 p.m. ET from the Twin Cities, on 1460 ESPN, and free anywhere right here at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Go Bucks, and we will talk soon!
Jan. 17, 2012
A nice bounce back week for Jim Foster's team, as Ohio State won tough match-ups with Northwestern on Thursday, then at Michigan State on Sunday. I think a lot of us who cover this team (well, mostly Jim Massie of the Dispatch and myself) were very interested to see how the Buckeyes would respond to the dismal performance at Michigan on January 7th. In the Northwestern game, the Wildcats did score 72 points, but Ohio State's defense down the stretch was big in determining the outcome. So big in fact, the Buckeyes outscored Northwestern 30-10 in points off turnovers. That aspect of Ohio State's game, the defense generating offense, has been a big reason why this team is now 17-1. The win in East Lansing came in an environment Ohio State had already played in this year on the road.....a loud, juiced up crowd rooting for a team that couldn't wait to get a shot at the Buckeyes. With 14,000-plus screaming (and I do mean screaming), the Buckeyes last trailed at 3-2, had the lead as large as 11 points, and withstood every run by Sparty to post the win. Ohio State has now won three straight games at the Breslin Center.
It's been interesting to hear the reaction from the other radio broadcasters I encounter around the league when the team whose games they broadcast play Ohio State. Michigan State's Rick Berkey echoed a sentiment I have heard from just about everyone when he told me prior to the game "I figured Ohio State would be good, but wow, not 16-1". The Buckeyes play has elicited that response from many national media members as well. The interesting thing is, it's not something anyone on this current team even deals with. They show up, play the game, get on the bus or plane, go home and then focus on the next opponent. In my opinion that starts right at the top with Jim Foster. He is single-minded in his focus: one game, one practice at a time. In our post-game show Sunday after the MSU win, I asked Coach Foster about the importance of beating a team that Ohio State plays just one time this year in the Spartans. His response: "We have Nebraska Thursday". I think its that type of mindset that keeps the team grounded. They know every night they have a target on their back, so they can't even think about two or three games down the road.
One other thing about Coach Foster. I am often asked by other media members what he is like to deal with, as if he is some foreboding figure who snaps the head off unsuspecting media members. This is the 9th year I have worked with him, and I learn something new about basketball each time I talk to him. He can be glib, insightful, and very funny. He also is thoughtful when he answers questions, measures his responses, and says what needs to be said in either a sentence or a paragraph. He is a guy who will answer any question, but is not a sound bite waiting to happen, which is frustrating for many in our business these days.
Looking forward to seeing Nebraska in person on Thursday. Despite the 20-point home loss to Penn State Sunday, the Cornhuskers, in some ways like Ohio State, have surprised people with their start. Having watched them play on television, my impression is they play hard for 40 minutes, play within themselves, and have solid talent in Jordan Hooper and Lindsay Moore. They have already won at Penn State and Iowa. Illinois follows the Big Red into town on Sunday, so Ohio State has a chance to hold serve at home.
We start our coverage Thursday at 5:45 p.m. with the tip at 6:01 p.m., then Sunday at 1:45, tip time of 2 p.m. The games, as always, on 1460 ESPN and free anywhere on www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Go Bucks, and we will talk soon!
Jan. 10, 2012
Well, it was disappointing, the loss at Michigan Saturday. Not so much in the fact that the Buckeyes lost - no one in reality expected this team to win every game - but the way it lost was the toughest part of the day. Coach Jim Foster has said it often, "defense has to be a constant, as some nights your shots are not going to fall." That was never more evident than in Ann Arbor. While Ohio State's offense struggled to find itself, the defense, which had generated numerous opportunities in prior games that jump-started the offense, did not become a factor in the game until it was too late. Add into the mix that Michigan is a match-up problem for Ohio State, their bigs spend a lot of time on the perimeter, and it equaled a rough afternoon for the Scarlet and Gray.
The other aspect of the loss centers on seeding looking ahead to the Big Ten tournament. Michigan is one of the five conference opponents (with Iowa, Purdue, Michigan State and Penn State are the others) that the Buckeyes play just one time in the regular season. So right now, the Wolverines hold a seeding tie-breaker over Ohio State.
We are also starting to get to the time of the year when I start to spend time reading Charlie Crème's "Bracketology" page on ESPN.com. Creme projects the brackets for the NCAA Women's tournament. In my opinion, he for the most part does a pretty good job, but I find some of his projected destinations for teams a bit interesting. For example, his current update has Ohio State a No. 3 seed and headed to Spokane, Wash. Bowling Green is hosting first and second round games this year in their new on-campus arena. With attendance such a big factor in why schools are allowed to host games and play on their home courts come NCAA time, I find it hard to believe Ohio State would not be a logical choice to go there in March.
I watched Nebraska play at Iowa Sunday and came away very impressed with the Cornhuskers. They are not the most talented team, but do they play hard. Jordan Hooper is a solid player for the Big Red. They have already won at Penn State and now at Iowa - not an easy thing to do for anyone - and come to Columbus a week from Thursday.
Buckeyes host Northwestern this Thursday, then have to go back to "that state up north" to face Michigan State on Sunday. We will find out a lot about the Buckeyes and their mental make-up in these next two games. Remember, the Wildcats swept Ohio State last year, and Sparty, you would have to think, will be lying in wait for Ohio State after the trio of losses they suffered at the hands of the Buckeyes last year.
Thursday we start our coverage at 6:45 p.m. with the tip at 7 p.m., and on Sunday from East Lansing we begin at 3:45 p.m. with the tip at 4 p.m. Both games on 1460 ESPN and as always, free to you on OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Go Bucks, and we will talk soon!
Jan. 5, 2012
Good to be back in the saddle again Saturday when the Buckeyes head to Michigan. My thanks to Neil Sika for filling in for me at the Iowa game. For those of us in broadcasting, and who cover teams and get as close to a squad as I have become to this one, a day like Monday was a tough one. For those who do not know, part of my job duties include serving as sideline reporter on the Ohio State/IMG Football Radio Network, so I was busy Monday covering the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville While the basketball game went on against Iowa. Thanks to all who texted and kept me updated. Let's just say I was a little nervous seeing the team down 15 in the first half!
One factor that has jumped to the forefront about this team is it's ability to roll with the punches. Nothing seems to bother them. Last Friday at Wisconsin, the Badgers put up a first half fight before the Buckeyes found another gear in the second half and rolled to the relatively easy win. Monday's game seemed to follow that same script. Defense was a factor in both games ... it's almost as if when the Buckeyes decided to tighten the screws on that end of the floor, it was game over. Having two guards doing what Tayler Hill and Samantha Prahalis are doing right now, both on offense and defense, is big as well. They are providing stability and leadership, along with points, assists, rebounding and defense. Everyone else seems to feed off what those two are doing. Falling behind in the first half and then relying on a second-half spurt is not a recipe for season-long success and that is something that needs to be turned around.
My thanks as well to the team (and everyone else) for the nice birthday wishes last week at Wisconsin. Among this team's strengths is its vocal ability. They cranked out a very nice rendition of "Happy Birthday" to yours truly.
Buckeyes head to Michigan Saturday. Three road games have been played to this point, and the one in Ann Arbor should be very interesting. The two games with the Maize and Blue last year were Michigan wins, and to this day, I still am not sure how the Wolverines won those games. Talent on talent, Ohio State wins hands down matching up the two teams. But you have to give Michigan credit for outplaying the Buckeyes twice last season. This game will be a solid test for Ohio State, as I don't expect Michigan to try and run with the Buckeyes, instead hoping to slow the game down as much as possible. Both teams have strong backcourts and I think Michigan's Kevin Borseth is among the better coaches in the conference. He certainly is the most animated. Watching Borseth and Jim Foster match wits will be an entertaining part of Saturday's game.
We will be on the air at 4:45 p.m. ET Saturday with the 5 p.m. tip on 1460 ESPN and Free Worldwide on OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Go Bucks! We will talk soon.
Dec. 29, 2011
Hope you enjoyed your Christmas and as well are enjoying the holiday season...it is certainly one of the best times of the year. Big Ten play starts Friday for the 13-0, ninth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, when they visit Wisconsin. I think I am as excited about this coming season's race as any in recent memory.
Even though Ohio State is the lone unbeaten right now, I think it is fair to say there is not a completely "dominant" team among the 12 that start competing for the regular season title this week. You can look at every team and find something that will give you a moment's pause when analyzing what each team brings to the table. That being said, from what I have seen to this juncture, Ohio State is as close to a complete team as is in the league. The Buckeyes certainly can get better, and I think improved minutes from Ashley Adams remains a key to this team's success. Adams and Penn State's Nikki Green are perhaps the only "size-wise" post players in a league that really does not have a dominating inside presence. Do not misunderstand, I think Adams may be the best passing post-player Ohio State has had in the nine years I have been calling the games, and she is a very talented shot blocker. It sure seems Ohio State is a much more dangerous team when she plays like she did against Florida State and Oklahoma.
As we enter Big Ten play, here are some favorites of mine around the league (keep in mind, most of these categories are prefaced with "other than Ohio State")
Favorite Atmosphere: Mackey Arena at Purdue. The set up of the Arena makes it feel like the crowd is right on top of you, and 4,000 people sound like 10,000 in there.
Runner-up: Breslin Center, Michigan State. Seems like it's always "Girl Scout Day", or "Elementary School Day" or some type of "day" there when the Buckeyes play in East Lansing, and the building is loud and electric.
Best Arena: Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. That's a basketball arena, from the historic signage around the building, to the seating design. My opinion, but the league is making a HUGE mistake moving the post-season tournament from a city that actually cares about the event, Indy, to one, Chicago, where it is just another in a long line of things going on. Add to the fact the women's tournament will not be played at the United Center and will instead be in the suburbs at a much smaller venue that from what I have gathered, even those who live in Chicago are not sure where it is.
Best Fans: Well, this is easy.....Ohio State. Okay, I know, you expected that. The Rebounders do a great job supporting the team, and the fans who make the bus trips to road games are a welcome sight for the team when it takes the floor. Purdue's fans are very good, and from what I hear, Nebraska has a strong fan base. (I know the two times Ohio State has played there recently they have had good crowds in Lincoln)
Oddest Sight: The Lego Blocks used at the Breslin Center to keep track of time-outs at the scorer's table. They stack them up, and remove each one when a time out is called. Pretty cool actually.
Best Scoreboard Feature: The dancing caricatures of Ohio State's players singing Christmas songs during time outs at the Schottenstein Center. Hilarious.
We will be on the air at 7:45 Friday night from Madison on 1460 ESPN, and don't forget, FREE anywhere by logging on to OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Go Bucks, we will talk soon!
Dec. 21, 2011
The last week has been a busy one for the Buckeye women's team; a trip to the West Coast, then a "scarlet"-eye flight (get it, Buckeye fans?) back from California, then a Sunday practice followed up by consecutive afternoon games. At this time of the year, with no classes, a player really can ask for nothing more than games, more games, and then just for good measure, more games. That's what the last week and half has sure felt like.
The trip to California a good one, on many fronts, for the team. At the top of course, was the win Saturday in Berkeley over a very athletic Cal team. The Bears Gennifer Brandon had an amazing day, with 24 points and 24 rebounds, but Ohio State was able to withstand her efforts with balance, points off their defense, good ball movement, and, well, some luck along with the way. Cal missed 18 of 38 free throws, and three shot attempts in the final FIVE seconds of the game. Luck may be too strong a word, because Ohio State earned that win, and it was a victory past Buckeye teams may not have captured. The win also career victory number 750 for head coach Jim Foster. I mentioned that to him on our post-game show Saturday, and he looked at me like he had taken a drink of sour milk. I honestly believe he had no idea that was number 750 for him. He was simply focused on the fact that it was win No. 10 on the season for his team. Afterwards, as the team was leaving the arena and getting on the bus, a number of players and assistant coaches starting chanting "750!, 750!" as Coach Foster walked out. Again, his response was basically no response, almost as if he wasn't sure who they were chanting for. The Buckeyes had time to kill after the game, and took a tour of San Francisco, which included going across the Golden Gate Bridge, and a chance to go a very crowded Union Square, before the flight home.
I was very impressed with the Monday win over Charlotte. Back on the floor in a little over 24 hours after getting off the plane, the Buckeyes crushed a decent Charlotte team. Columbus Dispatch beat writer Jim Massie told me Tuesday that Charlotte coach Cara Consuegra felt her team had a legitimate chance to beat Ohio State. She may have thought her team was catching the Buckeyes at a good time. Well, Ohio State led by 30 in the first half and was never seriously challenged by the 49ers in the 88-58 win.
Tuesday's sluggish start against Southern Utah was overcome by a better second half in the 88-50 win. Both games provided Coach Foster and his staff a chance to use every player, and to look at numerous combinations. With the Big Ten right around the corner, that's very big, with roles close to being defined, players have a chance to again show what they can do in game situations. By the way, someone please tell Southern Utah not to wear black jerseys with black numbers outlined in red again ... makes it very tough on us play-by-play announcers to identify the players ... ok, I feel better now, lol.
Washington State comes in Thursday, the Cougars have already played three Big Ten teams already ... losing to Penn State and Michigan while beating Wisconsin. Former Buckeye June Daugherty coaches Washington State, after moving east from Seattle and the head coaching job at Washington to coach in Spokane. 7 p.m. tip time Thursday on 1460 ESPN, and free online at OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
I have Christmas shopping to do ... we will talk soon, Go Bucks!
Dec. 14, 2011
Looking forward to a visit to the West Coast as 12th ranked Ohio State heads to California Thursday, the game with the Golden Bears set for Saturday afternoon in Berkley. Ohio State has returned from exams with two easy wins, belting Canisius and Southern by a total of 77 points. Those were two games Ohio State should win by that margin, but it was the approach to each game that I was impressed with. Anyone who follows this program can recall the "thud" that accompanied the team upon the return last year from a week away for exams. An 8-0 start that ended with a loss at Syracuse that quickly unraveled into, well, a mess of a mid-season stretch. The Canisius and Southern wins were highlighted by quick starts, no letdown, impressive ball movement, and a defense that continues to produce steals and points. Jim Foster told me prior to the Canisius game what happened last year after exams was a point of emphasis for his staff this year, and it was good to see the way the team responded. The return from exams this year punctuated by a great 1st quarter grade-wise for the team, something Coach Foster attributed to the approach to the last two games. Congrats as well to Amber Stokes, who recieved her degree Sunday in just 3 and half years!
Ohio State's last visit to Berkley came during the 2008-09 season, when the Buckeyes reached the NCAA Tournament "Sweet 16" and lost to Stanford on the same floor (Haas Pavillion) they will face Cal on come Saturday. I remember that being a less than "neutral" floor, with Stanford's campus located around 45 minutes away. Understanding Cal and Stanford have an "Ohio State-Michigan" type relationship, the Buckeyes nevertheless were still without a doubt the visiting team that day. Ohio State embraced the loud atmosphere in Norman when facing Oklahoma. A similar type attitude will be needed facing an 8-2 Cal team whose losses have come by a total of 4 points this year. The Bears were losers at Rutgers 73-70 in their season opener, then lost to Texas 61-60 in a tournament in Hawaii. Among their 8 wins are victories over Illinois and Virginia.
The Cal came is part of a 5 game stretch over 10 days, which includes two afternoon starts Monday and Tuesday back at home. Charlotte and Southern Utah provide the opposition, then Washington State comes calling the following Thursday.
Thanks to all of you who stop by our broadcast location and say hi at home games. It's always great to meet all of you, and please feel free to come up tell me your thoughts on the team and the season. For those who don't know, our broadcast location is on the 121 level, across and above from the visiting bench.
Go Bucks, and we will talk soon!
Dec. 6, 2011
Wow, what an impressive win for the Buckeyes Sunday in Norman against Oklahoma. The 69-63 win over the 18th-ranked Sooners improves the Buckeyes to 7-0 on the season as they head into finals week. Not only did the team navigate a very difficult three-game stretch of LSU, Florida State and Oklahoma, but they did it doing many of the "little" things that add up to wins. A Martina Ellerbe rebound that kept a possession alive and resulted in a key basket Sunday. Emilee Harmon stepping off the bench, providing four points (and two big free throws) and a rebound. Raven Ferguson hitting two large threes in the Florida State game. Scrappiness on the defensive end of the floor from just about everyone and the continued great play on both ends from Tayler Hill and Samantha Prahalis. Confident, but not surprised, seems to be this teams mental outlook right now. The approach to Sunday's game in Norman was the same as it was in the prior six home games, made all the move impressive by the fact it was Ohio State's first road game with a still young team.
The early part of the schedule has been called a test, and it will now be very interesting to see how a team with momentum returns from a week away from game action. Last year's tumble on the return from finals week is still fresh in a lot of people's minds. The Buckeyes will now spend a week dealing with finals before returning to action Saturday when they host Canisius.
The Big Ten has posted some nice wins so far in the non-conference portion, notables include Penn State's home win over North Carolina and Purdue's win Sunday in West Lafayette over defending national champion and fourth-ranked Texas A&M. Ohio State's last three wins would fall into that category as well.
From the "it is indeed a very small world" category: Last Friday I received a phone call from my oldest daughter, Amy. She is serving a tour of duty in the U.S. Navy and is stationed outside the country on deployment. The first thing she asked me on the call was how Buckeye players Ashley Adams and Shelbi Honeycutt are doing. Amy is a huge Buckeye basketball fan and in the past has attended games and gone on road trips, so she knows the team. I admitted to being a bit surprised at her question about Ashley and Shelbi. Amy proceeded to tell me she was having "chow" with Josh McClellan, who just happens to be Honeycutt's brother and what was described as "like a brother" to Adams. Amy and McClellan were just discussing life in general and the topic of what parents do for a living came up, and well, the rest is history - lol. Thanks to Josh for his service to our nation, and of course, to my daughter Amy ... (not that I am proud Dad or anything!).
Go Bucks! We will talk soon!
Dec. 2, 2011
How much fun have the last two games been for the Ohio State women's basketball team? The win Sunday over an athletic, talented, SEC contender in LSU was followed up by a thrilling overtime win against an athletic, talented, ACC contender in Florida State Wednesday. For a Buckeye team that is still learning roles and what it can do, those two wins were huge for the development of this team.
Jim Foster, I think, summed it up best on our post-game show after the Florida State game when he told Toni Roesch and I: "These are the types of games you look back at in March and say they helped determine what kind of team you have become." The play of junior guard Tayler Hill has been nothing short of sensational, especially against the Seminoles. A career high 31 points, including a breathtaking drive to the basket that tied the game at 69 with .03 seconds remaining, were part of her night. Her defense and leadership were huge as well. She had to be the floor general after Samantha Prahalis fouled out in regulation. Another player who elevated her game was Ashley Adams. After taking just four shots and playing 35 total minutes in the prior two games, Adams responded with a double-double, points and rebounds, and played 42 minutes. Her presence in the middle was huge for the Buckeyes in keeping the Seminoles' Cierra Bravard from dominating the paint. Coach Foster felt a little talk he had with the 6-5 Adams in the days prior to the game went a long way towards the night Adams had.
Wednesday's crowd was great, and the type of games witnessed with LSU and Florida State I think are pretty good indicators as to what type of games you will see coming to the Schottenstein Center this year. I have had a number of people already come to me and say "yes, it's a great start, but we have been fooled before by the way this team has played early on in the season". I understand that feeling, but I just sense a different attitude in this group. The style is fun to play, the chemistry mix is good so far, and this team seems to really enjoy practicing and playing together. TV analyst Debbie Antonelli related to me how she asked Samantha Prahalis about handling adversity this year, and Prahalis said: "I'm not worried, I am ready and will deal with whatever comes my way". That may not sound big to others, but I think that's a welcome response from a player who obviously gets the maturity part of being a co-captain this year.
A big test next as the first road trip awaits Sunday when the Buckeyes visit Oklahoma. The Sooners have had a week to get ready for Ohio State. The game is part of the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge. We are on the air Sunday from Norman at 2:45 p.m. ET, followed by the tip at 3 p.m. on 1460 ESPN.
Nov. 24, 2011
Three games have been played, and Ohio State has posted three wins. Ask anyone associated with the team and they will tell you this team is still very much a work in progress. That's not a bad thing. In fact, I think it's a plus. The change in emphasis from a post-oriented, look-inside-offense first team, to the perimeter oriented, dash and go squad that this team is evolving into, is a pleasure to watch. That is not to say Ohio State teams in the past did not run. Conversely, they were as good as anyone in the Big Tem at that. But the presence inside of a Jantel Lavender or a Jessica Davenport really produced no secrets as to where the Buckeyes were looking first on offense. This team is developing scoring options and different ways to score. Make no mistake, once the Big Ten rolls around, 6-5 Ashley Adams will need to become a presence underneath. But so far, the opposition has not dictated that. I think that changes when LSU visits on Sunday, followed by a very good Florida State team in mid-week, then a visit to Oklahoma a week from Sunday.
I like what I see out of Samantha Prahalis through three games. She has shown a great deal of leadership and while she has not been called on to really clamp down on someone on defense yet, you know that part of her game is there. The big surprise is the play of 6-2 sophomore Darryce Moore. She looked lost at times last year and really struggled when put in games. Her off-season work ethic proved valuable and she is now a changed player. She senses the game better and looks so much more comfortable on the floor. Her last two games against Temple and Howard are hopefully an indication of what Jim Foster can expect from her as the season goes on.
A big stretch of games - LSU, Florida State and at Oklahoma - await the Buckeyes after the Friday Stony Brook game. Those three games will give Jim Foster and staff a pretty good indication of where his team is and where it needs to go.
Hope you are enjoying the holidays and we will talk next week! Beat Michigan!
Nov. 15, 2011
Many things to like in the season opening 78-51 season opening win over Tennessee State for Jim Foster's team Sunday. Five players scored in double figures, everyone but Amy Scullion(slowed by a foot problem) saw the court and there were flashes of the athletic, get-after-it defense that could be a real bonus for this team as the season goes on.
I know, you are waiting for the negatives now, right? Well, color analyst Kristin Watt pointed out to Jim Fosteron our post-game interview that Tennessee State played the Buckeyes even in the second half. That's about all I can find as a possible negative, but keep in mind, the Buckeyes were up 27 at the break and used many different combinations of players in the final 20 minutes. Getting into any kind of offensive and defensive flow was tough for the Buckeyes in the second half as the coaching staff looked at a number of different things.
I was very impressed by the play of freshmen Kalpana Beach and Raven Ferguson. The two combined to total 20 points and 14 rebounds as they shared time at the forward spot. The level of competition goes up starting Friday, but those type of numbers on a game-by-game basis will go a long way towards making Ohio State a very good team.
Coming up in our next visit, I'll look at the Big Ten through the first two weeks.
Buckeyes host Temple this Friday evening at Value City Arena. Our coverage starts at 5:45 p.m. with the tip at 6 p.m. on 1460 ESPN/97.1-HD2 and www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Nov. 10, 2011
As hard as it may be to believe, Ohio State starts its 2011-12 season Sunday when the Buckeyes host Tennessee State. It seems like it was only yesterday that Jim Foster's team was pushing top-seed Tennessee to the limit in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament in Dayton.
The Ohio State team that takes the floor Sunday will look vastly different than ones Coach Foster has put on the floor in his prior 9 seasons. For the first time in the last seven years, a dominant, game-changing post player will not be on the floor wearing Scarlet and Gray. I kept looking for Jessica Davenport or Jantel Lavender's name on the Big Ten pre-season all-conference ballot, but came up empty.
That being said, watching this current Buckeye team in practice makes me feel a little more at ease, even despite losing the talent that was Lavender. There is speed and a great deal of athletisicm at virtually every position. Coach Foster has talked about spreading the floor and allowing his quick guards to penetrate, and that looks to be the case. Samantha Prahalis, Tayler Hill and Amber Stokes can all take a defender off the dribble and get to the bucket. As we saw last year, those three on the perimeter can also play defense. That will be this team's strength, but let's not forget 6-5 Ashley Adams inside. While she may not be the post player of a caliber of Lavender or Davenport, she is a very good passer who can knock down a jump shot and a very good shot blocker. A freshman looks likely to join her across the front line in 6-1 Kalpana Beach. 5-11 Raven Ferguson has a bundle of talent and will factor in as well. Martina Ellerbe has shown an ability to play different positions and her 6-2 frame will help across the front line. This team through pre-season practice has shown great enthusiasm and there appears to be a "let's show everyone we're not as down as some may think" mentality.
Ohio State will again face a challenging non-conference schedule, with games against Temple, LSU, Oklahoma, California and Florida State to come before Big Ten play starts. In a interesting bit of scheduling, Ohio State in Big Ten play faces Purdue, Michigan State, Penn State, Michigan and Iowa just once.
Our coverage this year again comes your way on AM 1460 ESPN, but games also can heard on 97.1 FM/HD-2, and for free right here at OhioStateBuckeyes.com. Kristin Watt and Toni Roesch will once again split analyst duties this year, joining me 15 minutes prior to tip-off each game. We look forward to having you join us again this year!