Bucknotes 6/30

Dave Biddle is back with another edition of the opinion column Bucknotes. Today, he takes a look at the OSU men's basketball coaching situation as well as some thoughts on just how many breaks the OSU football team has gotten over the past couple of years, plus more.

I must admit I was excited about the idea of Bob Knight becoming the next basketball coach at Ohio State. I thought it would be the best thing for the program and truly believed that Knight would be on his best behavior, not wanting to embarrass his alma mater, or the legacy of Fred Taylor.

But, for whatever reason, it isn't going to happen. Knight was obviously told by OSU last week that he was not being considered for the position and the Buckeyes were moving on.

Yes, the first reaction was one of disappointment. It seemed like Knight's homecoming was a sure thing. He was the only coach out there that could again make OSU basketball relevant on a national scale. Furthermore, during the 2006-07 season, he would likely pass Dean Smith's record for most career NCAA wins, bringing a ton of positive publicity to the university.

However, let's look beyond all of that. Is it possible that OSU made the right decision here?

Yes, now that the Knight buzz has worn off, it is easier to see why he wasn't hired. Think long-term here. Most everyone knows that Knight, 63, would be a good short-term solution, but he probably only has 5-7 years remaining before he retires. Not a good long-term fix.

And what if OSU did hire Knight and he didn't want to retire after those 5-7 years were up? What then? Ohio State would find itself in a "JoePa" situation. You can't really "force" a legend to retire and Knight's ego might be telling him he could coach until he's 80.

There were other factors as well - I'm sure Knight's history of behavioral problems far outweighed the issue of his age - but the point is that I can kind of understand where OSU was coming from. Kind of.

I don't think anyone would be upset with the way the search is going if OSU was targeting better candidates. They started off the right way - showing interest in Marquette's Tom Crean and Xavier's Thad Matta - but for whatever reason, both of those men are backing away from consideration. Crean didn't come right out and say he wasn't a candidate at OSU - he gave the usual politically correct statement that he was happy at MU - but Matta did.

If Crean and Matta are really out, that leaves a string of "B list" candidates: Former OSU player/NBA assistant Jim Cleamons (who also has brief experience as a head coach in college and the NBA), Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, Rutgers coach Gary Waters, Rice coach Willis Wilson and Penn coach Fran Dunphy (I never believed former NBA coach George Karl was a serious candidate in OSU's eyes).

Apparently Andy Geiger wants a coach with a good academic background. He knows the NCAA is planning to crack down on programs that do not graduate its players, so he is erring on the side of caution here. No word if he is planning interviews with every coach in the Ivy League or not.

In fairness, chances are good that Geiger is considering one or two candidates that no one is thinking of. Surely he has a couple tricks up his sleeve. Hopefully he has a couple tricks up his sleeve, because just the name "Fran Dunphy" makes you yawn.

If not, if the above list of five coaches is really what it's down to, give me either Cleamons or Waters. Maybe Stallings. The problem is none of those guys are going to be able to fill the Schottenstein Center - unless the Bucks are a top-10 team. If OSU is in the top 10, it doesn't matter who is the coach. The fans will show up. If not, you better have another reason for the fans to come out. Knight would have packed the house every night, no matter the team's record.


OK, back to some football talk.

During OSU's impressive 25-2 run the last two seasons, it has won 14 games by less than 10 points. That's no secret. Every national sportswriter seems to point out that statistic when talking about the Buckeyes. The underlying theme is obvious: Ohio State got lucky to win so many games the last two years. All the breaks went their way.

But it's not that simple. I counter by saying a lot of the breaks have gone against OSU in those games, or they wouldn't have been so close in the first place.

Remember that rushing "touchdown" that Craig Krenzel scored at Illinois in 2002 that was not counted? (He was called down at the one, even though the ball crossed the goal line.) That game was headed for blowout city early on, but instead it was later decided in overtime. Or how about the 2004 Fiesta Bowl? Yes, the Bucks won by just seven over Kansas State (35-28), but it could have been a blowout if the Buckeyes didn't "button things up" after twice leading by 21.

On the other side, sure, there are games when the Buckeyes "escaped." Cincinnati '02, both games against Purdue, the triple-overtime thriller over N.C. State. But it's too simple to say OSU has gotten lucky to win so many close games in a two-year period. The truth is the Buckeyes had most of those games under control.

Jim Tressel is never going to be the type of coach to embarrass another team. The days of rolling up 70 points are over (like against Rice and Pitt in '96). As soon as Tressel gets a comfortable lead, that's it. He calls the dogs off. Just look at last year's Indiana game. That could have easily have been a 50-point win for the Bucks. Instead, it was 35-6.

Ohio State receiver Santonio Holmes is first cousins with Jacksonville Jaguars running back Fred Taylor. Speed apparently runs in the family. Hopefully Holmes can stay healthy, something his rich cousin has a problem doing.

Most everyone knows OSU is the largest school in the Big Ten, but did you ever wonder where the other schools fit in terms of enrollment? Well, here you go:
1. Ohio State (54,989)
2. Minnesota (45,361)
3. Michigan State (43,159)
4. Wisconsin (41,219)
5. Penn State (40,571)
6. Indiana (38,903)
7. Purdue (37,871)
8. Michigan (37,179)
9. Illinois (36,738)
10. Iowa (28,705)
11. Northwestern (8,500)

In addition to being the largest, Ohio State is also the "newest" of the Big Ten schools. It was established in 1870 as Ohio A&M.

The oldest school in the conference is Michigan (1817), followed by Indiana (1820).

There are six current Big Ten members that were charter members of the conference: Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin.

There you go. There's your Big Ten history lesson for the day.

Don't look now, but OSU has the makings of a deep offensive line this year.

The probable starters are: Rob Sims (LT), Doug Datish (LG), Nick Mangold (C), Mike Kne (RG), Kirk Barton/Tim Schafer (RT). That's a solid group and you already have a top backup depending on who loses the battle at right guard.

The other top backups will be: T.J. Downing (T/G), Andree Tyree (G), R.J. Coleman (G), Steve Winner (T) and true freshmen Ben Person, Steve Rehring, Kyle Mitchum and Jon Skinner (two of which are sure to redshirt).

If you're worried about backup center, Datish can slide in there, while Tyree and Winner can also play center.

As for Mangold, he's just one of the best players in the country. Look for him on All-American lists this year. Mangold has always been technically sound and very quick on his feet, but he's also added a lot of strength since arriving on campus two years ago. He was 270 pounds as a freshman, now he's a solid 295 and getting stronger.

This is still not going to be a great offensive line by any means - there are still too many question marks among the younger guys - but the depth is finally almost where it needs to be and the possibilities are there for a quality O-line. Sims is one of the best in the Big Ten, Kne - the only senior in the group - is solid, but the jury is still out on the other guys. If a couple of them can step up and have strong seasons, look out.

E-mail Dave at: sports@madison-press.com

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