As it turned out, Sunday, January 14, was no day to celebrate.
My plans were to see some interesting boys basketball matchups at Loramie’s MLK Classic.
Those plans were changed by minus 10 degree wind chill and frozen pipes…putting heat lamps in a crawl space designed for people who weigh 30 pounds less than I do – who are thirty years younger than I am!
A day you never get back, although nothing burst, or lost.
But a day of validation for the Tri-Village (D-III, 12-1) and Russia boys (D-IV, 13-0 ), the area’s two best in their respective divisions, with wins over a pair of opponents representing a different look than the steady January diet of conference basketball.
Josh Sagester’s Patriots beat a struggling Marion Local team (of late), 52-40; while Russia opened some eyes with an impressive, if not dominate win over previously unbeaten Antwerp, 66-36, the Raiders’ 13th win of the year without a loss.
And if Antwerp is the best team in Paulding County, as some claim, could that mean that Spencer Cordonnier’s Raiders only have 87 more counties now to worry about? Because, the main anticipation left for Russia between now and the end of their season is the question of how far they can go in the post-season, along with the prospect of a rematch with a team like Richmond Heights, the team that knocked them out of last spring’s OHSAA Final Four.
Because, if you’re not paying attention, Richmond Heights is a much different Division IV team than you’re accustomed to watching, currently sitting a 5-8 for the season, but playing mostly Division I schools from all points in Ohio (St. Ignatius, Pickerington Central, Reynoldsburg and Garfield Heights)…because they can. Meaning, of course, that Richmond Heights really doesn’t play conference basketball, as such, but a ‘barn-storming’ schedule about which coach Quentin Rogers said at last spring’s tournament, “It prepares us for the kind of teams we face here.”
So, if Richmond Heights shows up again in March looking liking the Milwaukee Bucks – Gulliver against the Lilliputians – we’re supposed to respect that, given that no one suspects anyone for being at Richmond for reasons outside of basketball.
Richmond Heights plays in the Chagrin Valley Conference, a collection of 22 member schools, but if you look at the Spartans’ schedule they don’t play any of the teams (Trinity, Fairview, Independence, Cardinal, Crestwood, et. al.) from that league. They play Lakewood St. Ed, Akron St.Vincent-St.Mary, Brush High School, and Akron Buchtel.
Now before anyone claims that you can only play who you play…and that you can’t blame anyone for playing the best competition possible…consider, too, that about 60% of OHSAA basketball is comprised of rural Division III and IV schools. And read between the lines. If the Division IV state tournament comes down to a Russia or Tri-Village matched up against a team who has the horses to play St. Ignatius, and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary, how can you come to any other conclusion than this is far from representing what Division IV basketball is for everyone else in Ohio.
And while you gnash your teeth over the issue of publics playing the privates, understand…that Richmond Heights is a public school! Just with private priorities.
Think about that, while they play a video of Jerry Lucas, reminding you to…respect the game!
Since their losses to Indiana and Wisconsin last week, and Michigan yesterday, we’ve received reader pros and cons, regarding what someone called “the reality” of Ohio State basketball.
“Another losing streak like last year? No more Oaklands and New Orleans,” a reader from Wheelersburg sent.
He added: “And why is Ohio State playing New Orleans, anyway?” Last weekend the 7-9 New Orleans Privateers beat Belhaven (your guess is as good as mine) by 14 points.
The answer: Dollars and cents. Non-conference schools get $90,000 to play the Buckeyes at Value City Arena. It’s why they’re called the Privateers.
The Buckeyes are now 12-5 and I really don’t dwell on their ups and downs, outside of the same observations of those who write.
Where is the impact of their recruiting? Ohio’s Mr. Basketball, Devin Royal, has barely played, but scored 7 points yesterday. And 6’10” center, Austin Parks, considered a prize get from St. Marys, plays even less after recovering from pre-season injury.
What is the impact of transfers like Evan Mahaffey and Dale Bonner? They burn minutes, but Mahaffey (from Penn State) is averaging 3.5 points, and Bonner, from Baylor averages about 5 points per game…and they need scoring. They average 65 points a game against Big Ten opponents.
For that matter, who can explain the recent swoon of Roddy Gayle, who after 30 points against West Virginia, has shot poorly in scoring 9 points in losses to Indiana and Wisconsin, and scored 12 against Michigan?
For the fact of bench depth…where is it? Everyone in college basketball is allowed to have the popular walk-on, but seven of the Buckeyes fifteen roster players are averaging 1.7 points per game, cumulatively.
The points are coming from Thornton (16), Battle (15) and Gayle (14), but good teams like Indiana and Wisconsin simply shut projected scorers down…every night. More reality, Michigan had lost five straight prior to Monday’s win.
In the meantime Holtmann talks about them being a young team, and to be patient. But as Bruce Hooley points out, the reason they’re young rests on Holtmann, himself. He’s been there now for seven seasons, and yes, there comes a point where recruiting and development of personnel comes down to one man.
As it should be when you coach at Ohio State and make $4 million a year – when suddenly you’re 2-4 in the Big Ten, and you’ve lost three in a row.
The realities of college basketball.
Cross the Olentangy River and there’s plenty of questions over the sudden state of concern with Ohio State football – and highlighted by schools willing to pull the trigger in the manner that Alabama did to get the red-hot property, and Washington coach, Kalen DeBoer. Just three days after Nick Saban announced his retirement, Alabama was not hesitant to go get their man. No questions asked!
And no questions asked, or concerns, about the new upwardly mobile culture of college football. Just eight years ago DeBoer was the offensive coordinator at Eastern Michigan.
But there are plenty of questions now about reality in Columbus, and how competitive the Buckeyes were on a national scale this past season, given a weak conference schedule and their weak performance against Missouri.
And, of course, questions over both talent, and coaching.
The starting quarterback is already out and gone, and that was cut-and-dry.
The offensive line under-performed all year and that’s not so cut-and-dry.
And if talent, itself, is not being questioned, after Sunday’s meltdown by the Dallas Cowboys, the culture of contemporary football, itself, is being questioned. The Cowboys were manhandled, and frankly looked as inept as Ohio State’s running game on an all-too-regular basis. Dallas did not look physical, in a league that constantly tests your manhood, leading former coach Rex Ryan to say on Monday, “There’s no excuse for getting your a– handed to you in football.”
Of course, college and pro football alike put rosters together based on athletic attributes of size and skill…but how about sheer intimidation? Apparently, there really aren’t many like Dick Butkus, anymore.
A number of Buckeyes who are draft eligible have said they’re coming back – TreVeyon Henderson, Emeka Egbuka, Jack Sawyer, Tyleik Williams and Denzel Burke. And a number of notables have transferred in – from Kansas State (Will Howard), Alabama (Seth McLauthlin), and Ole Miss (Quinshon Judkins).
So, if the sum really is greater than the parts – at what point do you question a head coach’s ability to change culture, irregardless of the parts?
Or, at what point do you look for the next shiniest ornament on the coaching tree, as Alabama did?
And I’m not advocating, or even suggesting in Ohio State’s case, because how many Kalen DeBoers are out there, anyway, if Alabama thinks he’s the answer?
Because…two years ago, weren’t people saying the same about Ryan Day?