Monday Morning Point Guard: Lectures Help Buckeyes

The win over Minnesota -- prompted by a tongue lashing from some former OSU stars -- could be a turning point for this year's team. But with Indiana looming Tuesday night (7 p.m., ESPN), can they sustain the good feelings? Check out our new basketball feature, patterned after Sunday Morning Quarterback.

Welcome to Monday Morning Point Guard!

I don't know if this column will be a weekly feature or not, but it is patterned after my Sunday Morning Quarterback series. Hopefully, I'll have a quick read on the OSU basketball scene as well as what's happening in the Big Ten and the nation at large.

Without any further adieu, let's get right to it:

* If the Ohio State's men's basketball team is able to resurrect its season, the Buckeyes may look back to this past Thursday as the turning point in this (up till now) maddening season.

It was on that day that former Buckeye stars Clark Kellogg and Ron Stokes got a chance to talk to the team. Head coach Jim O'Brien admits he has used just about everything in his bag of tricks to motivate his team.

After Saturday's 73-62 win over Minnesota -- OSU's first win in Big Ten play -- O'Brien revealed he had some help in the form of Kellogg and Stokes addressing the troops.

"I got fired up listening to them," O'Brien said. "(The players) learned a lot about Ohio State. What we're trying to get our guys to appreciate is that a lot of guys played here before this group. And those players have an awful lot of pride in what they've done.

"They have a passion that still connects them to this university. We had a lot of phone calls from former players to come in and talk to people.

"Ronnie Stokes is an unbelievable friend of this program and Clark Kellogg asked to come in the other day. Otis Winston wants to come in. Rick Smith also called and wants to come in."

As the losses have mounted, O'Brien said his office phone has been ringing off the hook.

"We've had calls from guys overseas like Scoonie (Penn), Michael (Redd) here in the states, Boban (Savovic), Brian Brown, Brent Darby," O'Brien said. "Nobody is really happy with where we are right now. That speaks volumes."

O'Brien discussed the tenor of Kellogg and Stokes' appearance before the squad.

"They pointed out there is a little bit of an obligation when you come here to play basketball," O'Brien said. "When they were done, I wished I could put on a pair of sneakers. I was ready to go. Clark was loud and very forceful in his message. They've heard more than enough from me. He talked about the responsibility here and not going through the motions.

"Ronnie was a bit more subdued. He said there is a lot of pride in wearing the Ohio State uniform and you can't take anything for granted. That's what we've been preaching all along. Ronnie made a very valid point -- if you let these opportunities pass you by, you can't get these days back. They are gone forever. The problem with young kids is they think this is their world. But before too long, it's done.

"You want to understand when you're done that you have no regrets because if you do you will be kicking yourselves in the rear end for the rest of your lives. You have to go after it now."

OSU certainly responded as it led most of the way and cruised to the win over Minnesota. Indiana comes next Tuesday night (7 p.m., ESPN) and it should, once again, be an interesting litmus test for where this team's psyche and abilities lie.

For one day, though, everybody connected to the program was feeling good about themselves.

"Our locker room today was as upbeat as it's been in a while," O'Brien said after the win.

* O'Brien regretted that senior forward Shun Jenkins did not play in the win over Minnesota. Instead, freshman Ivan Harris got all of the minutes (22) afforded to backup players inside.

"That was the one disappointing thing to me because if there was ever a guy that deserved to play it would be him," O'Brien said. "Shun Jenkins is a team guy. He's tough as nails and he gets on the glass."

With his team struggling to score, O'Brien went with the talented Harris. But he had just three points and one rebound.

"If you could combine Shun Jenkins and Ivan Harris, you would have a superstar player," O'Brien joked.

O'Brien was then reminded that Jenkins had a career-high 22 points in last year's home win over Indiana.

"I guess that means I have to play him Tuesday night," O'Brien said.

Ohio State This Week

* The Buckeyes (9-7, 1-2) host Indiana (8-6, 2-1) at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN. The Hoosiers opened Big Ten play with a 79-45 loss at Wisconsin before stealing a win at Michigan last Sunday and defeating Northwestern Saturday. Last year, OSU split its games with IU, winning 81-69 in Columbus and falling 69-51 in Bloomington.

* OSU then visits Iowa (9-5, 2-2) Saturday at 8 p.m. on ESPN-Plus. It's been an up-and-down year for the Hawkeyes, who are 3-3 in their last six games. Iowa visits Iowa State Wednesday night in nonconference action. A year ago, OSU was 2-1 against Iowa. The Buckeyes won 83-72 in Iowa City, lost 71-64 in Columbus and nipped the Hawkeyes 66-64 in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament in Chicago. Velimir Radinovic averaged 13 points in those three games.

Big Ten Notable Games This Week

* Michigan at Wisconsin, 8 p.m., Wednesday -- Best game on an otherwise bland night.

* Illinois at Wisconsin, 2:30 p.m., Saturday (ESPN-Plus regional syndication) -- Arguably league's top two teams collide in Madison.

* Michigan State at Purdue, 2 p.m., Sunday (CBS) -- Should be a grind-'em-out war.

National Games To Watch This Week

* Pittsburgh at Connecticut, 7 p.m., Monday (ESPN) -- UConn coming off tough loss at North Carolina.

* Oklahoma at Texas Tech, 9 p.m., Monday (ESPN) -- Red Raiders can stamp themselves as Big 12 front runners with win over reeling OU.

* Georgia Tech at Wake Forest, 9 p.m., Tuesday -- Two of ACC's best early season success stories.

* Cincinnati at Louisville, 7 p.m., Wednesday (ESPN) -- Two top-10 powers vie for Conference USA lead.

* Duke at Maryland, 9 p.m., Wednesday (ESPN) -- Always a great game when these two meet.

* Pittsburgh at Syracuse, 8 p.m., Saturday (ESPN) -- Another tough road game for the Panthers.

My National Top 16

Duke takes over the top spot after UConn's loss. My list: Duke, UConn, Stanford, St. Joseph's, Cincinnati, Wake Forest, Louisville, Kentucky, Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas, Florida, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh, Texas, Gonzaga.

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