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Catching Up with Cagers

Evan Turner of the Ohio State Buckeyes - future POTY.

If this is not the future POTY then something is definitely wrong…

I have been trying for the past three weeks to get back to blogging about the Buckeyes.  Granted – after going to the Rose Bowl game and witnessing firsthand as The Vest, TP and the rest of the football team removed the three year bowl monkey from the back of the program it pretty much knocked me out with a month long euphoria that took over my brain – however it is finally wearing off it and I realized it was about time to start paying attention to hoops again.  I watched the hoops team play, read about them online but when I would sit down to write about them the words just didn’t string together.  But that is no excuse – I consider myself to be a Buckeye fan through and through – and that means following the cagers as well.  So it is about damn time to get back to it.

To begin with – I have always found it to be a little strange that the retro term for basketball players is “cagers” – from what I understand it is because back in the day the game was played in a cage – so it seems as though professional wrestlers were not the first to have steel cage matches.  But that is something that I will leave for Mark “The Shark” Titus to blog about as he is much more the professional wrestling aficionado than I.

As for the Buckeye hoops team – there was a little dry spell with not much to blog about other than frustration with Turner being out given that the focal point of the team was missing.   After he went down what came next were losses to #20 ranked Butler and the first two conference games against Wisconsin and TSUN, but then the team bounced back looked good against Presbyterian, Delaware State, and Cleveland State.  Upon the return of The Villian – the team takes care of the Hoosiers, then puts up a lackluster effort against the Gophers in a loss, but rebounds with huge wins on the road against #6 Purdue and gets payback at  home against the Badgers (#16).  However, a week or so later drops one to Chuggy Bear’s #12 ranked West Virginia.  Once again the bounce back with two wins – albiet against unranked Iowa and Minnesota.

What is the underlying theme I am getting at?  Much like last year the Buckeyes look good against lesser opponents, but most of the time struggle when playing better competition.  Most of the time Turner and Buford play well, Diebler blows up against the scrub teams in blowouts and up front Lauderdale and company are overmatched against teams with multiple bigs.  As cynical as it may sound – it seemed like we were staring down a first/second round exit in the big dance.  Almost like déjà vu from last year.

That was a couple weeks ago – the past few weeks it seems like I have been watching a different team.  It has started up front with Lauderdale actually making some noise not only on defense but also by putting in double digit points, granted they are all dunks but who cares.   The fact that he can be counted on to score this late in the season as well as bringing the nasty attitude on defense is a beautiful thing.  Buford has continued to improve and now is the second leading scorer behind Turner, his defense has improved as well and as long as he can resist trying windmill dunks (although this would have been sweet) he will be good down the stretch.  Also gotta love the fact that he is around another year after shooting down rumors last week.  Not to be forgotten is Lighty – who in addition to being a great floor leader and defender is now seemingly able to slash to the rim at will and most of the time the drives end with emphatic dunks.  Even Diebler – who I felt only showed up in blowouts (still does really) and had yet to make a meaningful shot when it mattered silenced my criticism with a very important three against Penn State at home which gave the team enough space to close out a too close for comfort game at home.  Not a game winner or anything (and they were his only three points of the game) but he finally was able to deliver when it mattered.  He still seems to be inconsistent but when he does shoot well the team gets the sniper part of the offense that can really make a difference in the conference tourney and big dance.

Currently at 20-6 on an 8 game tear which has included a beatdown of the Hoosiers in Assembly Hall which produced an interesting moment between Matta and Crean as well as the Valentines Massacre of the Illini on Sunday – only two ranked opponents remain and Purdue (#4) comes to Cbus today and we go to East Lansing on Friday to play Sparty (#11) that now has Kalin Lucas back.

On the other side of the gender pool the Lady Bucks have been on a tear similar to the last few seasons under Foster.  They started the season out going 20-1 with the only loss being to #12 Duke on the road.  Then similar to last year mid-January rolled around and next thing you know they start to fade (or teams start figuring them out).  This season that means since the end of January they dropped two of three with Foster, scoring leader Jantel Lavender and point guard Samatha Prahalis all saying that they get taken out of their game in the second half and need to figure out how to get back in flow.  After that they bounced back with four straight wins and clinched the Big Ten Championship for the sixth straight season.

Without a doubt this year’s team currently ranked #8 in the country will do well in the conference tournament, but as for the big dance it is tough to say – last year they were a sweet sixteen exit after looking equally as awesome during the season.   This year Prahalis and Lavender are a year older, but hopefully the surge over the last four games can continue through the conference tourney and beyond.

There is also something else that is new and unique this season – in other basketball related news it seems as though we have a little Buckeye version of “Love and Basketball” going on.  It was reported in the Lantern this week that the Buckeye all world Evan Turner is currently seeing no other than Lady Bucks starting point guard Samantha Prahalis.    All I can say is that if it works out and they end up together that tOSU should lock up their offspring to scholies now.

Also – with this being the final season of the storied career of one Mr. Mark “The Shark” Titus, the creator of Club Trillion – I really want to say that he will be a player that will be truly missed by yours truly.  Not because of what he brings to the court but definitely his perception of what the view is like from the bench.  I am a huge fan of his blog and have to say that there will always be great basketball players to come play at Ohio State but only once in a great while, and probably never, will there be a player like Titus who came to Ohio State and made it great to be a Buckeye fan in a whole new way.  I will miss his ramblings about his fued with the Villian, his wet jump shot, his torn labia, and overall his dry witty sarcastic view on things.  I proudly consider myself a member of the Trillion Man March.  If you are able to go he is having a party on Feb 27th the weekend of his final game of his Ohio State career – I would totally go if I was local.

So that is a basic catch up of where the teams are at as of today, with the regular season coming to an end I am getting the March Madness bug already.  Not sure if either team can match the high that the Rose Bowl win brought but I am hopeful that the ides of March bring conference glory to both.