I still don't know if this column will be a weekly feature or not, but we are back for the third edition of Monday Morning Point Guard. 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:
* Speaking before his team headed to Purdue, you could sense the exasperation of OSU coach Jim O'Brien.
He had tried everything -- shaking up the lineup, changing defenses on almost every possession to confuse the opponent, even suspending leading scorer Tony Stockman from the Iowa game for exhibiting a poor attitude in practice.
And yet, there his team stood at 9-10 overall and 1-5 in Big Ten play headed into a game at No. 22 Purdue.
"We just need a win, period," O‘Brien told reporters just before boarding the bus to the airport and the trip to West Lafayette. "The teams we are going to be playing, if we're able to win some of these games, they will probably end up being quality wins. That's what comes with being in the conference. We need to get some confidence. We need to feel we can win when the game gets tight. We need to start to feel a little bit better about the way things have been going."
O'Brien's Buckeyes had lost six of their last seven and were a double-digit underdog as they headed to Purdue. But, somehow, they found some magic at Mackey Arena. OSU jumped on Purdue for a 16-3 lead and held off a mad Purdue charge late to pull off a stunning 65-59 win.
Also speaking prior to that game, team captain Velimir Radinovic outlined his team's best hope of pulling off just such a victory.
"We have to defend a little bit tougher, make open shots and take care of the ball. We're getting real good looks and we're just not shooting a very high percentage. Obie has said it many times: `If you're not scoring enough points and you're not guarding, you're not going to win any games.' We just have to be a lot more efficient on offense."
The Buckeyes followed Radinovic's recipe to a `T'. For the sixth time this year, OSU cracked the 50 percent mark in shooting at 51.1 percent (24 of 47). OSU has won all six of the games where it has shot 50 percent or better.
OSU also held Purdue to just 36.2 percent (17 of 47) from the floor, including 27.3 percent (6 of 22) in the second half.
And, for good measure, OSU had been averaging 18 turnovers through its first six Big Ten games. Against Purdue, the Buckeyes committed just 12 turnovers. All good signs, no doubt.
* It was good to see some first-year players get a chance to make meaningful contributions in the win. Ivan Harris had five points, including his first career three-pointer. And Ricardo Billings chimed in with seven points, including a huge three-pointer that trimmed a late Purdue four-point lead down to one.
Billings is like Brian Brown in the regard that he can get the ball to any point in the floor he'd like to get a shot. But the key is staying under control and finishing, which he is managing to do about half the time right now. Keep an eye on this kid, he could be one to watch over the next couple of years.
* Ranked teams took a bath Saturday and Sunday, mostly at the hands of unranked teams. Ranked teams were 8-9 in such games over the weekend, including OSU's win over Purdue. This is why college basketball is so much fun because you never really know what to expect when that ball goes in the air.
By the way, did anybody else get a tingle seeing Samuel L. Jackson pumping March Madness on CBS during the Super Bowl? It's coming. The conference tournaments are just 5-½ weeks away.
Ohio State This Week
* The Buckeyes (10-10, 2-5) host Northwestern (8-10, 2-4) at 8 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN-Plus. OSU has won nine straight in the series dating to a 1998 loss in Evanston. The Buckeyes have also won 24 in a row at home against NU, dating to a 1977 defeat. The Buckeyes cruised to a 73-62 win at home last year and eked out a 52-48 win in Evanston. Radinovic had double-doubles in both games with 12 points and 10 rebounds in the home win and 14 points and 12 boards in the road win. NU opened Big Ten play with wins over Iowa and Illinois, then dropped three straight before a 61-47 win over Minnesota Saturday.
* OSU then hosts Michigan State (10-8, 5-2) at noon Saturday in an ESPN game. The Spartans are 16-3 against OSU dating to a 1992 win by the Buckeyes. That string includes a 2-2 record against OSU in Value City Arena. MSU won both regular season meetings with OSU last year (66-55 in East Lansing and 72-58 in Columbus), but OSU gained revenge with a 55-54 win in the Big Ten tournament -- the famed Charles Bass banked free throw game. MSU's Chris Hill tallied 36 points against OSU in those three games.
Big Ten Notable Games This Week
* Illinois at Indiana, Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN) -- Illini took two of three meetings with IU last year, but the Hoosiers won in their Assembly Hall. Pivotal game to stay on pace with Wisconsin for lead.
* Iowa at Michigan State, Wednesday, 8 p.m. (ESPN-Plus) -- Another must-win for the Spartans, while the Hawkeyes can play with nothing to lose.
* Wisconsin at Northwestern, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN-Plus) -- NU claimed Illinois in Welsh-Ryan. Could Badgers' nice run end here?
* Iowa at Indiana, Saturday, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN-Plus) -- Always emotional when Steve Alford comes home.
* Illinois at Minnesota, Sunday, 1 p.m. (CBS) -- Minnesota is trying to go the distance … without a Big Ten win. Dan Monson rumors picking up steam.
National Games To Watch This Week
* Syracuse at Connecticut, tonight, 7 p.m. (ESPN) -- A great Big East rivalry pit's the defending national champs against the conference‘s best.
* St. Joseph's at Villanova, tonight, 8 p.m. (ESPN2) -- This may be St. Joe's biggest remaining hurdle in its bid to go undefeated during the regular season. A great Philly Big Five match-up.
* Missouri at Kansas, tonight, 9 p.m. (ESPN) -- Jayhawks must rebound from weekend loss to Iowa State. Meanwhile, Mizzou, a winner over Kansas State Saturday, hasn't won back-to-back games since opening the year 3-0.
* Cincinnati at Xavier, Tuesday, 7 p.m. (ESPN2) -- Always throw out the records for the Crosstown Shootout (those records are, by the way, UC 15-2 and Xavier 10-9). What was that about the records? You know UC will be ready after its first home loss ever to Charlotte.
* Kentucky at Florida, Tuesday, 9 p.m. (ESPN) -- A great SEC showdown in Gainesville.
* Duke at North Carolina, Thursday, 9 p.m. (ESPN2) -- The game ESPN used to launch ESPN2 almost 10 years ago returns to The Deuce. Dookies put their perfect 7-0 ACC mark on the line. Roy Williams gets his first crack at Coach K as the UNC coach.
* North Carolina at Wake Forest, Saturday, 1 p.m. (CBS) -- Talk about tough turnarounds. Just 38 hours after playing hated Duke, the Tar Heels go 40 minutes up the road to Winston-Salem to play always tough Wake. Losses in both games would drop UNC to 3-5 in ACC play.
* Arizona at Stanford, Saturday, 3 p.m. (ABC) -- The Cardinal put their unbeaten mark on the line in a top-10 match-up with the Wildcats. Always entertaining when these two get together to decide the Pac-10 title.
* Texas Tech at Kansas, Saturday, 4 p.m. (ESPN) -- The General takes his team into Lawrence.
* Oklahoma at Texas, Sunday, 1 p.m. (CBS) -- These teams had several wars a year ago over the Big 12 title (may not be seen in Big Ten region because of Illinois-Minnesota).
My National Top 16
Duke remains in the top spot. Mississippi State and Oklahoma State come in and North Carolina and Texas Tech fall out. My list: Duke, Stanford, St. Joseph's, Pittsburgh, UConn, Louisville, Arizona, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Wake Forest, Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Kansas.