NCAA Basketball Tournament - Gonzaga v Ohio State

Ohio State one step closer to meeting lofty expectations

Leave a comment

BOSTON – So Ohio State is going to be one of the final eight teams standing entering the weekend.

That shouldn’t shock you, but you may overlook the fact that this is unchartered territory for this current roster of Buckeye players.

Yeah, Thad Matta’s Buckeyes were a national runner-up in 2007, but since then the talent level  of all subsequent teams has not severely dipped, but Ohio State has been unable to reach a regional final even though they’ve clearly been good enough to do just that.

With last night’s victory over Cincinnati, finally, the Buckeyes have a chance to meet the expectations of harsh critics, and exceed expectations from those who have written off this team for lacking a killer instinct.

“Coach Matta has been through two Sweet 16s where the train kind of stopped,” said Jared Sullinger after the game “We wanted to make sure that this train was going to keep rolling. I mean, it’s tremendous to be in a situation like this, and it’s a blessing, but at the same time we can’t lose sight of focus.”

Sullinger is spot on. Any sort of revelry after beaing Cincinnati may have suggested this team was satisfied, but clearly there should be bigger goals to seek to attain in this 2012 NCAA Tournament. Goals that would validate players like Sullinger and William Buford and even Aaron Craft as true Ohio State Buckeye stars.

“I think as you get to this stage, a lot of it, just the emotion of continuing to advance really centralizes your guys’ thinking and focuses their thinking,” said Matta. “I couldn’t be happier for this team.”

This Buckeye progam has been very successful under Matta.

He would like to say that it’s been built with the help of that football team in Columbus, but Matta has turned the basketball program into its own, self-sustaining entity within the Ohio State athletic department. One that will continue to grow and likely one day solidify itself as one of the country’s top and consistent basketball programs.

He just hasn’t won a National Championship yet.

But now that he’s knocking on the door for the first time in five seasons, he may get a real chance to take this program to the next level.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

Leave a comment

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

Leave a comment

North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)