Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
“Ohio State athletics is really just centered around the football program.”
“Who cares that basketball season is over – when does spring football start?”
“How many more weeks until the Buckeyes kick off in the fall?”
For as long as I can remember, questions and comments like these were all that I heard when it came to OSU athletics.
The mindset was always about football as king, and any success that the basketball team or any other program was just idle entertainment as we patiently waited for September to roll around and those beloved football weekends to return. It’s time for us to take a step back and change the way we think about our Buckeyes.
Based on the frustration that still lingers inside me (and many other Buckeye fans) following the disappointing 70-66 loss to Wichita State Saturday night, the evidence to support the idea that OSU is no longer “just a football school” grows more and more each day.
Sure, the loss to a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament with a chance to make a second-straight Final Four appearance makes us wonder if this was ever really the year OSU could have won a national championship, but look at the continued success OSU coach Thad Matta is having with the program. The team finished with a 29-8 overall record, won the Big Ten Tournament title and came within a few missed free throws by Michigan of at least a share of the regular season Big Ten title for the fourth year in a row. If it were not for an extremely bad half of basketball and a ghastly 31 percent shooting performance, we would all be considering making the eight-hour drive to Atlanta to watch the team play in its second Final Four in as many years.
The job that Matta was able to do with his team this year is the best coaching effort of his career. With only one consistent scorer in junior forward Deshaun Thomas and essentially no offense coming from the post while playing in the best conference in the country, Matta was able to mold his team into a national title contender.
The Buckeyes are the only team in the nation to have made it to the Sweet 16 in four consecutive seasons, and certainly demand the respect of Buckeye Nation. Matta has been able to recruit big-time players like Thomas, Jared Sullinger, Mike Conley Jr., Greg Oden, Jon Diebler and Aaron Craft, who have all helped to solidify OSU as a top-10 team year after year.
Yes, football is king. It has been that way as long as I can remember. The money, television ratings and publicity the sport provides OSU is staggering. I am not denying that. Every Saturday there’s a home game during the fall, Ohio Stadium is filled to the brim with screaming fans showing their support for the football team.
But I think it’s time we started doing the same for basketball.
I understand that it is difficult to pack the Schottenstein Center on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when there are only about 2,400 tickets available to students and the basketball team has more than twice as many home games as football.
That still should not prevent Buckeye fans from watching the basketball team on television or at least understanding that the program is elite.
Matta was close to taking OSU to back-to-back Final Fours. Urban Meyer led the football team to a 12-0 season in 2012. Mark Osiecki and the men’s hockey team were two wins away from capturing the CCHA Tournament championship. The softball and baseball teams are off to great starts this spring.
No matter how you look at it, it’s a great time to be a part of Buckeye Nation. Fans just have to take the time to realize it.