The Mailbox | Shocking NCAA loss to Oral Roberts a tough pill to swallow

Ray Stein
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State fans young and old could hardly believe their eyes seeing the Buckeyes unceremoniously ushered out of the NCAA Tournament by Oral Roberts.

Editor: What a disappointment our first-round NCAA Tournament game was. I wonder if our team was exhausted from playing so hard in the Big Ten tournament or they underestimated their opponent. I imagine a little of both.

I was not aware that Oral Roberts had the top scorer in the country and their team was the free-throw champs, as well. I tuned in a little underwhelmed, as our team seemed throughout.

It seemed a few extra days of rest would have benefited our team much more than pushing our team to win one tournament at the expense of losing out so early in the big one.

Jackie Albert, Columbus

Jackie: That’s the fine line, isn’t it? If conferences are going to play postseason tournaments — and they are, because money — then teams are going to expend energy to try to win those games and build momentum. It makes for a delicate dance for coaches, and Chris Holtmann’s not the first to smack his head on that low beam. 

Editor: A lot of things bothered me about the Buckeyes’ game against Oral Roberts. 

First was how they played, of course. They did things they hadn’t done all year, like playing terrible defense on the perimeter and lousy foul shooting. I thought I was watching one of Thad Matta’s teams.

But I’m also angry at the NCAA. Ohio State may have been overrated as a (No.) 2 seed, but how could the committee watch Oral Roberts and give them a 15? They’re clearly better than that! I think Ohio State got a bad draw.

J.J. McCoy, via email

J.J.: You know that Oral Roberts finished fourth in the Summit League, right, behind three teams from the Dakotas? The truth is, there has never been less separation of talent among the 68 teams in the tournament than now. If a power team doesn’t come to play — and OSU did not — it gets shown the door.

Ray: Is it my imagination or is there a definite pattern of being embarrassed in the biggest games of the season by OSU teams?

First, Alabama absolutely crushes the football team in the national championship game. Now a No. 15 Oral Roberts beats the No. 2 Ohio State in basketball. Pathetic!

What I hear from so many Buckeye fans is OSU has the best athletic program in the country. Sure doesn’t seem like it to me. Far, far from it. Oh, and the Big Ten being the best basketball conference in the country seems to be coming up short, as well.

Mickey Geslak, Galena

Mickey: I suppose it was inevitable that you would ring the doorbell as soon as the deed was complete. Ohio State lost. It now must suffer the sling and arrows. But did you just equate a first-round NCAA game with a national championship football game? And is Oral Roberts to basketball what Alabama is to football?

Editor: I am appalled at the kneeling of the five members of the OSU basketball team during the national anthem of (Friday’s) game! I am both disappointed and embarrassed!

What has happened to our great country? It is obvious they have forgotten the meaning of respect, dignity and the love of country while getting a free education!

Polly Mitchen, via email

Polly: I am too old to travel this road again. Please, educate yourself on why players make this stand.

Ray: Somewhere in heaven, a televangelist is smiling.

Thad Woodman, Westerville

Thad: Say what you will about Oral Roberts, but they played with a lot more Swaggart. 

rstein@dispatch.com 

Ray: I just finished watching the Bucks lose. I took away two things from this game. 

One, young Mr. Washington never saw a shot he didn’t like. And, two, when will we ever get a big man to play inside so that we can play with teams that are physically bigger than us?

Fausto J. Garofalo Jr., Columbus 

Ray: Regarding the Buckeyes' upset loss to Oral Roberts in the NCAA Tournament: I didn’t see this stat in The Dispatch but I thought I heard on Channel 6 news that the Bucks hit 9 of 18 free throws. Are you kidding me? 

When I played basketball in high school, our coach drilled it into us that there was no excuse for missing a free throw. You're standing right in front of the basket at a perfectly manageable distance, with no one guarding you. Missing was unacceptable! 

In fact, at the end of each practice, we weren't allowed to shower up until we sank 10 in a row. 50% from the foul line?  Pathetic! 

Mike Adamkosky, Columbus 

Ray: It is one thing to lose a tournament game, but quite another to lose and look bad doing it. The Buckeyes not only looked, "Not up to it" vs. Oral Roberts, but at times looked inept. Why did this happen? 

I think the one pervading reason was the absence of Kyle Young incurring two concussions. When we look at the record down the regular season stretch, we see that Young missed three straight games. OSU lost the last 4 games of the regular season starting with Michigan on Feb. 21, when Kyle suffered his first injury. 

Then Young caught a Trevion Williams elbow in the second half of the Purdue game (Big Ten tournament) and was pulled. His absence was obvious as he had limited Williams to four points on 2-of-7 shooting, but after the Young exit Williams scored 22 points. Young's offensive prowess was felt as he scorched the nets for 18 points. 

One can look for any number of reasons for losses. The Oral Roberts loss was particularly painful because the Bucks just looked down — little overall effort, the usual dismal three-point defense, poor free throw shooting, and last, but not least: 16 turnovers (Oral Roberts had six). 

To sum it up, I believe that it is more than coincidence that the downward spiral in losses occurred at the same time as the Kyle Young absences. He was the glue that held OSU together. I also think that the concussion concept is vastly overdone. After all, it is an opinion. 

Don Denton, Westerville  

Editor: I enjoyed Rob Oller’s well-spoken tribute to Joe Tait (Wham, bam, thank you: Tait led us to happy place). Tait was the best Cleveland baseball play-by-play man in my 60 odd years of listening to Tribe games. 

His opening tag line of “It’s a beautiful night for a ball game” was sometimes a bit contrived on cold, drizzly April nights at Municipal Stadium but he convinced his listeners that even crummy Cleveland weather was better when the Tribe was playing. 

My favorite Tait call was for an easy popup with two outs: “Spikes pops one up to the left side of the infield. If that ball comes down it will be three outs. It does.” The man had a way with words. 

Lou Jannazo, via email 

Ray: Any chance Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes could give the Blue Jackets a crash course in tenacity, guts and never-say-die attitude? 

Brent D. Rosenthal, Westerville 

Editor: Congratulations to the Buckeyes for a great effort in the Big Ten tournament. They gave their all. 

But why wasn’t Kyle Young wearing some head protector in the Purdue game? In the absence of Kyle, why are CJ Walker and Seth Towns not starting? 

Rick Marsh, via email 

Editor: Has anyone ever wondered how Graham High School (enrollment approximately 600) in St. Paris (population approximately 2,100) could win 19 straight state team wrestling championships? 

Is it at all possible that this is all homegrown talent? If families are moving to St. Paris so the kids can attend Graham, where is the breadwinner working? 

Jim Woods, Columbus 

Editor: Every morning I look forward to sitting down with a cup of coffee and my print edition of The Dispatch, I start by reading the Sports page and then I read the rest of the paper concluding with “Pickles” and the weather. 

My problem is that the coverage of the Cleveland Indians is pathetic and makes me so angry that I feel like I should cancel the paper rather that suffer the angst every morning. The rest of the paper, I rate outstanding to very good and important to me. 

The few instances in which the Indians are mentioned deal with things like the team name or management cover-ups. What the true baseball fan wants to know is: how is spring training going, who is going to open at shortstop, is anybody hitting, do we have anyone who can close? 

The Akron Beacon Journal, part of your empire, has a baseball person, Ryan Lewis who includes in his title, like you do you title, that he is Ryan Lewis, the phrase USA TODAY NEWORK. He does report of the Indians baseball activities. Why do these articles not appear in The Dispatch? 

Most Ohio baseball fans root for either the Indians or the Reds. The Reds baseball coverage is the Cincinnati Enquirer which is part of the USA TODAY NEWORK. Yet those articles also do not appear in the Dispatch. Why? 

I am beginning to believe The Dispatch by policy hates my Cleveland ballclub and the Reds. I am on the border of saying use it or lose it. Start your baseball coverage or losing a subscriber. 

Fred Vierow, Worthington 

Editor: Many moons ago in the early days of Jack Nicklaus’s career, the winner’s share of purse money was typically $25,000 — $50,000 if he happened to win two weeks in a row.

Lee Westwood played in back-to-back tournaments recently and somehow fared slightly better than Jack, as he scooped up a mere $2,650,000 in purse money. Oh, and did I mention he did not win a single thing? 

Ray, it looks like the landscape has changed over time. 

Rick Higgins, Columbus