While the Ohio State Buckeyes live in the moment as their NCAA tournament journey has taken them here for a Sweet 16 meeting Friday night with Tennessee, junior David Lighty allowed himself a brief escape yesterday to ponder a big "what if."
ST. LOUIS - While the Ohio State Buckeyes live in the moment as their NCAA tournament journey has taken them here for a Sweet 16 meeting tonight with Tennessee, junior David Lighty allowed himself a brief escape yesterday to ponder a big "what if."
What if the Buckeyes arrived here with all of the players that should be or could be part of this team - all the guys who over the last three years have left Columbus early to play in the NBA.
That would mean Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Jr., Daequan Cook, Kosta Foufos, and B.J. Mullens would be in the Buckeyes' locker room huddle, along with Lighty, Evan Turner, William Buford, Jon Diebler, and Dallas Lauderdale.
"That just wouldn't be fair," Lighty said. "If those guys stayed and that was our team in the NCAA tournament - that wouldn't be fair. That would look like an NBA team out there."
It would mean the Buckeyes would have three seven-footers - Oden, Mullens, and Koufos. At point guard, they would have the option of playing Conley, who led the Big Ten in assists his only season at Ohio State, or Turner, this season's Big Ten player of the year. Cook, Buford, and Diebler would make them deep at the guards, with Lighty and Lauderdale playing comfortable roles.
"Wow - that would be an incredible lineup," Lighty said. "You just have to laugh thinking about it."
OSU head coach Thad Matta said that because of the early departures for the NBA, the Buckeyes have just had to quickly reload most years.
"We just keep going," Matta said. "If you sit around when you lose one and pout and try to think about is he ready, is he not ready - it's irrelevant. You've got to get the next core of guys ready."
REPEAT PERFORMANCE: Ohio State and Tennessee met in the Sweet 16 three years ago in San Antonio, with the Buckeyes winning 85-84. The Buckeyes were led by Ron Lewis, who scored 25 points in the game. Junior David Lighty, who missed most of last season because of injury, is the only Buckeye remaining from that 2006-07 team that made it to the NCAA championship game before losing to Florida.
SPARTAN PERSPECTIVE: Michigan State leader Kalin Lucas, a two-time first-team all-Big Ten choice, ruptured his Achilles tendon in last weekend's win over Maryland and will not play when the Spartans take on Northern Iowa in tonight's second game of the Midwest regional. His teammates are trying to keep him a part of things as they move on.
"He's with us spiritually, and he wanted to be here so he pushed his surgery back so he could support us for the whole run," Durrell Summers said. "He's here helping guys."
"It's huge to lose him, because he's such a great distributor and he adds a lot to our team," Raymar Morgan said. "But without him, the show still must go on, and we've still got to play the game. We're prepared, and I think the guys are ready to step up."
MINUS LUCAS: Michigan State will face Northern Iowa in the other regional semifinal here, and Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson said yesterday that despite the loss of Lucas with an injury last weekend, he expects the Spartans to be as potent as always.
"The one thing I do know is that they aren't going to play any differently, in terms of how hard they play," Jacobson said. "When Lucas has been out of basketball games, they looked like the exact same team. It's a program thing, with Michigan State."