4. Talent/cognitive ability
5. Work ethic
He delivered this message to the Ohio State football coaches clinic Friday.
If you didn’t have the pleasure of watching Will Smith, who was tragically and senselessly killed in New Orleans on Saturday night, play for Ohio State, he was the most dominant defensive lineman I have seen in Scarlet and Gray.
He wasn’t quite the physical marvel Joey Bosa is, but he was even more disruptive.
While Sports Illustrated put Craig Krenzel on the cover after the Buckeyes won the national championship over Miami in January 2003, Austin Murphy focused on the defensive line’s role in ending the Buckeyes’ three-decade national title drought and gave Smith the first quote in his cover story.
If you listened closely, you could hear it calling out: Pop my cork–you’ve earned it!
Someone had left a bottle of Moet in the ice bucket in Room 6414 of the Princess Resort in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Even as the hundreds of Ohio State fans at the hotel — and the rest of the red-clad horde that had descended by the tens of thousands on the Valley of the Sun for the Fiesta Bowl — swung into full party mode, neither Will Smith nor Darrion Scott seemed much interested in champagne.
‘It hurts to move,’ Smith said.
So is UConn’s dominance bad for women’s basketball?
Depends what you mean by that.
ESPN brought this up during halftime of an NCAA tournament game broadcast Saturday, and the analysts disputed the idea the Huskies’ being so good has hurt the quality of basketball being played.
I seriously doubt that’s what Dan Shaughnessy meant by his comment that got Geno Auriemma and then the ESPN analysts talking.
UConn Women beat Miss St. 98-38 in NCAA tourney. Hate to punish them for being great, but they are killing women’s game. Watch? No thanks
— Dan Shaughnessy (@Dan_Shaughnessy) March 26, 2016
Of course this is the trouble with framing a debate around a tweet (something I try to avoid), but it also doesn’t really matter what he meant.
I’m not here to say if he was right or wrong. I don’t really care. While not exactly a new concept, it’s still an opinion that’s fair to express and a discussion worth having.
Does the dominance of Auriemma’s teams lessen the quality of the game overall? I can’t imagine anyone would argue it does. Is there any sensible way to make that case? Maybe, but I can’t think of one. Obviously there is no shortage of college teams out there trying to build a title contender.
Ohio State would not have fired its all-time winningest coach three years ago if it didn’t have eyes on a higher prize than winning the Big Ten (which shouldn’t be taken for granted by any means).
Plenty of teams are shooting for UConn, and many more are out there looking to jump from whatever level of competitiveness they currently occupy to the next one.
Now, is the Huskies’ seeming invisibility bad for the growth of the popularity of the game? Probably so.
I certainly can’t blame anyone who looks at their scores and figures there’s no point in investing much time in watching the women’s tournament. There’s a lot of competition for the entertainment dollar these days, and every little bit hurts when it comes to trying to get noticed.
It’s one thing to wonder if a team like last year’s Kentucky men’s squad can go undefeated but another to be pretty certain UConn will. (Especially since we’ve seen multiple women’s teams — and not just Connecticut — go undefeated in recent years while no men’s team has done so in decades.)
In his response to Shaughnessy’s Tweet, Auriemma made reference to Tiger Woods dominating golf at the turn of the century, a worthwhile analogy no matter which side of this debate you fall on.
“When Tiger was winning every major, nobody said he was bad for golf. Actually, he did a lot for golf. He made everybody have to be a better golfer. And they did. And now there’s a lot more great golfers because of Tiger.”
I’m not sure if Tiger made golf significantly more popular (maybe he did, but I’m pretty sure it was already very popular), but he probably made it appeal to a broader audience.
Although I remember a time when he seemed to be unbeatable — at least in majors — he wasn’t inspiring people to turn off their TV sets. There was a reason to watch, whether it was to see someone do something that had never been done before or to root for him to get knocked off his perch.
Woods also set a new example of how to play the game at an elite level, and a new crop of talented players came along to challenge him eventually.
If anyone has done that for women’s basketball, it was probably Tennessee. The Lady Vols were the first dominant program of the tournament era, which started in the early 1980s. They set a standard for people who might not have thought about getting into the game before to aspire to.
It’s probably not a stretch to say Tennessee begat Connecticut. The Volunteers were deep into their run before the Huskies really got going.
With multiple historic winning streaks and now more national titles, the Huskies appear to have passed Tennessee as the best program of all time.
The thing about UConn is Auriemma’s teams aren’t great because he simply recruits better players than everyone else.
He certainly does recruit great players — and all of his great teams have been built around a transcendent one for her time period — but the Huskies’ dominance (as opposed to just winning a lot) is more a product of the culture he has put in place. “Culture” has become a cliche in sports, seemingly more so lately than I can recall in the past, but it’s really hard to miss the fact something different is going on when you watch Connecticut play.
I got to see it first-hand in November when the Huskies visited Ohio State. While coach Kevin McGuff has his Buckeyes on the upswing, they were thoroughly crushed 100-56 by Connecticut at Value City Arena.
It was striking because while Ohio State played competitive games on the road against South Carolina and Notre Dame —the second- and third-ranked teams in the country — the Buckeyes were knocked out early by Auriemma’s club in front of a big, friendly home crowd.
The results pretty much confirmed what most probably already at least suspected: This season there is UConn and everyone else.
The striking thing about UConn was that despite their status as the three-time defending champions, even though Auriemma had multiple players who were the best recruits coming out of their states as high school seniors, the Huskies played really, really hard. There were no letups. They were relentless on the defensive end and efficient on offense.
No matter who he put in the game, they played like they were at an open gym with one roster spot available. It was their first game of the season, but the defending champions played like there was no tomorrow.
Afterward, Auriemma was asked what makes his team so good at going on those knockout runs.
“I wish I had the definite answer to that — I really don’t,” he said before basically explaining it in full.
“I think it might have something to do with the intensity level that we bring that generally doesn’t waiver. So we’re not a spurt team. We don’t spurt and then stop and then try to pick up another spurt later and then stop. We play. And then when we have an opportunity to get one, it fuels us. And we just keep going. And we still back up a little bit. There were times we did some stuff that we’re not proud of, but we’re not one of these teams that when we get up a little bit we relax. I don’t have those kinds of players. We don’t practice like that and I don’t coach like that.”
So to me the idea Auriemma isn’t just building practically unbeatable teams because he plucks the top three or four players from the top of the recruiting lists every year is a good thing for the game. (For what it’s worth, he doesn’t dominate recruiting the way John Calipari and Nick Saban do.)
But another part of Auriemma’s response to Shaughnessy also shows the downside of dominance.
“Nobody’s putting a gun to your head to watch. So don’t watch. And don’t write about it. Spend your time on things that you think are important. If you don’t think this is important, don’t pay any attention to it. The fact that you have to comment on it, says something about you, doesn’t it? We are where we are. We are what we are. You know? We do what we do. We do what we do.”
I see where Auriemma is coming from, but to me more people watching and talking about women’s basketball is important for the growth of the sport, so one shouldn’t totally dismiss those who might lose interest because they already know who’s going to win.
It’s worth noting Woods lost more often than UConn does even when he was at the top of his game. There is only one “major” every year in college basketball, and a little more than a week from now, Huskies will have won six of the last eight with four undefeated seasons mixed in there. Last year, they beat Notre Dame by 10 points in the final. The year before that, it was a 21-point win over the Fighting Irish, and in 2013 they slipped by Louisville by 33 to claim the title.
That isn’t good for ratings. Lately it appears to be just one more thing that gets people talking about the wrong things.
On the other hand, it isn’t deterring anyone at Ohio State, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Maryland, etc. from trying to change the narrative next year, either.
While Michigan football practices in Florida, a Michigan high school football player became an Ohio State verbal commit.
The former is a new development, but the latter isn’t as rare as one might expect.
Three-star athlete prospect Antjuan Simmons of Ann Arbor Pioneer High School could be the fifth player from the Great Lakes State to sign with the Buckeyes since Urban Meyer took over as head coach of the Buckeyes in late 2011. Continue reading Ohio State, Meyer mine Michigan again for football talent
So much can happen on the first Wednesday of every February, keeping up can be hard, so here’s a look at some of the things that went down in the Big Ten.
From the weekend:
Luke Kuechly’s high school coach knew early on he could be a special player, but the rest of the world needed more time to catch on.
The Super Bowl’s representation of Ohioans is not limited to those players who played for Ohio State.
Maybe the highest-profile player from the Buckeye State did not even have an offer to be a Buckeye.
That would be Luke Kuechly, whose coach told me last week he knew early on he had a potential pro at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati.
He was a two-star recruit heading into his senior year and ended up a three-star after picking Boston College over Jim Harbaugh-coached Stanford among others. Continue reading Cincinnati native Luke Kuechly has risen from 2-star recruit to NFL star