Expectations remain high for Buckeyes

The Buckeyes’ season came crashing down last March when William Buford’s desperation three-pointer failed to drop in a 62-60 East Regional loss to Kentucky at Newark, N.J.

Not 20 minutes later, amidst the doom and gloom of OSU’s somber lockerroom, fab freshman Jared Sullinger stunned reporters, vowing a return for his sophomore season.

Though Sullinger was a projected top NBA draft selection, the Buckeyes’ 6-9, 270-pound man among boys thrilled Scarlet & Gray supporters by staying the course.

This prompted a majority to anoint Thad Matta’s 2011-12 club preseason national champions. And who’s to say Sullinger and the Bucks won’t dance their way to New Orleans and fulfill those expectations?

However, prior to Sunday’s dramatic comeback road win at Michigan State, OSU had displayed little evidence as a title contender.

The Bucks rode a six-game win streak into their Feb. 11 home game vs. Sparty before a totally miserable performance resulted in a 58-48 loss. More of the same soon followed.

Matta’s troops struggled again at the offensive end during a 56-51 reversal to Michigan at Ann Arbor. After avenging an earlier loss with a 83-67 conquest of Illinois, Wisconsin’s Badgers entered the Schott and handed OSU a 63-60 setback in front of a deflated full house.

Though they barely survived at both Northwestern and MSU, the Buckeyes finished pre-Big Ten tournament play at 25-6. Their 13-5 conference mark earned them a share of the Big Ten crown with Michigan State and Michigan.

All of which figure to make this week’s tournament at Indianapolis a relatively wide open affair. It stands to reason at least five teams have a legitimate shot to take the checkered flag.

Should Ohio State prevail (more than a real possibility), the Bucks could well earn a No. 2 seed on Selection Sunday. While a Sweet 16 appearance seems favorable, all bets are off afterward.

Sullinger’s regular season work culminated with 490 points, a 16.9 ppg. average to go with 269 rebounds or 9.3 per game. Buford and sophomore Deshaun Thomas each contribute 15.1 ppg.


IT doesn’t seem like much to ask for the Eastern District to re-assess its current method of assigning basketball officials, particularly at the district tournament level.

I was informed a member of the three-man crew who worked last Friday’s Hiland-Shadyside girls’ game at Indian Valley High is a Hiland graduate. If true, that’s almost beyond belief.

Both the district finals, and semifinals for that matter, require a neutral or at the very least, split crew.

Shadyside’s Tina Yates related she was very pleased a pair of ‘area’ officials were assigned the Lady Tigers-Garaway district semifinal. I imagine Hiland’s Dave Schlabach felt the same with a couple familiar faces working at Gnadenhutten last Friday.

No one’s integrity or judgment is being questioned here. In nearly every instance, players determine the outcome of games.

However, there is the never-ending element of perception and we’re reasonably certain district administrators are fully aware of that fact.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Dominic Prezzia experienced a near break-even campaign competing as a 157-pound freshman for the West Virginia University wrestling team.

This past weekend, Prezzia went 2-2 and placed fifth (in his weight class) at the Eastern Wrestling League Championships at Clarion, Pa.

Prezzia, a former OVAC champ and Ohio state runnerup, lost twice via pin against grapplers from Pitt and Edinboro, Pa. The Mountaineers’ plebe also scored a pin and won via 2-0 decision against a Lock Haven, Pa. opponent.

Five WVU wrestlers qualified for the NCAA Championships. As a team, the Mountaineers finished third behind champion Pitt and runnerup Edinboro. Prezzia finished the season with a 17-18 record.

Gibson may be reached at rgibson@timesleaderonline.com