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OSU men’s basketball provides welcome distraction for Buckeye fans

Cody Cousino / Photo editor

Schedule makers sure didn’t do the Ohio State media contingent any favors this weekend. About 12 hours after the OSU men’s basketball team ended its season-opener in Columbus, the Buckeye football team kicked off on the road against Purdue, leaving media members who cover both sports with a sleepless night to make the four-hour trip to West Lafayette, Ind.

As a lifelong Columbus resident, I can tell you that trips like this wouldn’t have happened just a few years ago, as most media members would have opted to get a good night of sleep in West Lafayette, but a recent increase in interest in the OSU basketball program has led to an increase in demand for Buckeye basketball coverage.

And thanks to the OSU football team’s loss to a then-4-5 Purdue team on Saturday, that demand is only going to grow.

Unlike two years ago, when the Buckeyes’ loss to the Boilermakers was just a minor setback in what eventually became a Rose Bowl championship season, this year’s loss in West Lafayette essentially eliminated any hopes that this OSU squad had at making it to a BCS bowl game. But even had the Buckeyes taken care of business against Purdue, it might not have even mattered, as earlier in the week, the OSU football program was slapped with a “failure to monitor” charge by the NCAA — the second highest offense a program can receive for having committed violations.

The charge could potentially result in a bowl ban, among other punishments, from the NCAA.

But thankfully for Buckeye fans, a welcomed distraction from the year-long woes of the football program has arrived, as Thad Matta’s OSU basketball team’s season is officially underway.

The Buckeyes’ hoops squad is the No. 3-ranked team in the nation and features three players in William Buford, Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft, who have been named to preseason National Player of the Year watch lists. At the Big Ten basketball media day in October, OSU was predicted to win its third consecutive conference title.

Unlike in past seasons, where the months of November and December were filled with the Buckeyes playing the Miami Universities of the world, this year’s pre-Big Ten schedule will see OSU take on big name and nationally-ranked opponents such as Florida, Duke and Kansas.

Matta’s been building an elite program at OSU ever since he took over eight years ago, as he’s filled the Schottenstein Center with all-Americans, Big Ten championship banners and multiple National Player of the Year candidates. But the first two months of basketball season have always belonged to the football team.

The only time that the Buckeye football team hasn’t wound up in a BCS bowl game while Matta has been at OSU was in 2004, his first season with the Buckeyes. At that point, the OSU basketball program had already received a postseason ban due to violations committed by Matta’s predecessor, Jim O’Brien.

For the first time since Matta’s arrival in Columbus, his team has a brighter outlook than its football counterpart, and it’s not even close.

Football-crazed Columbus will never become a full-time hoops town, especially in the final months of the calendar year, but for at least this season, Buckeye basketball will outshine a football team that has continually let down this city, both on and off the field. 

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