Too bad these teams didn't play in February. The Buckeyes might have won a game then. Or at least made it interesting.
Monday night? In the national championship game? Won't be interesting at all. Won't be interesting until Florida coach Billy Donovan is wearing a net around his neck and asked if he gives a s--- about the Kentucky job.
|Al Horford had a double-double on a bum ankle when Florida flattened Ohio State by 26. (US Presswire)|
And you know what happened at this time last year. Florida won the national championship, and that was no fluke.
Likewise, the Gators' 86-60 punk-job of Ohio State on Dec. 23 wasn't a fluke. Not in the larger sense, the larger sense being that Florida is a much better team than Ohio State. That was proved in December and it'll be proved again Monday, when the Buckeyes are confronted with a team that is bigger, quicker and better off the bench.
Am I saying Florida will win by another 26 points? Of course not. But I am saying I'd be more surprised by any sort of Ohio State victory than I would by a Florida blowout.
Ohio State has issues. Its superstar center, Greg Oden, can't stay out of foul trouble. Its black hole of a wing, Daequan Cook, can't stay out of Thad Matta's doghouse. Ivan Harris can't stay on the floor against a Florida team that presents no player he can defend. Ron Lewis can't hit a shot in Atlanta, and even if he can hit a shot in Atlanta, he won't Monday night if he's guarded by Florida stopper Corey Brewer.
Lewis can ask UCLA All-American Arron Afflalo about that. In Florida's Final Four rout Saturday night, Afflalo got his points -- late, when the outcome was decided -- but he didn't score for the first 34 minutes. By the time he did score, the scoreboard operator at the Georgia Dome was so shocked that he gave Afflalo's 3-pointer to Florida. UCLA's booing fans got his attention, so as it turned out Florida didn't lead 61-42. It was actually 58-45.
Whatever. This game was over after 10 minutes. The same probably won't happen Monday to the Buckeyes -- freshman point guard Michael Conley Jr. is too good for that -- but eventually a similar fate will strike Ohio State.
Sounds like Ohio State needn't bother showing up, right? Well, that would be symmetry. The Ohio State football team didn't bother showing up at the Fiesta Bowl in January, losing to Florida by the football equivalent of 86-60 in the BCS National Championship Game.
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Now it will happen again, but unlike the shameful football game in January, Ohio State's basketball team doesn't have to be guilty of lethargy to get crushed by this Florida steamroller. Close enough to taste the first repeat national championships since Duke in 1991 and '92, the Gators played Saturday night with the kind of hunger they showed last season and even earlier this season, when they were crushing everyone in their path.
Ohio State happened to get in the way on Dec. 23, and Florida made the Buckeyes look like another Southern (Florida beat Southern 83-27), Chattanooga (93-44) or Jacksonville (90-61).
Back then it was Ohio State's bad luck to run into the Gators when the Gators were starving. Something happened to Florida in February. Maybe they got stuffed, even satisfied, by winning a national-best 17 consecutive games. Whatever it was, Florida lost three times in four-game span in February, all by at least 10 points. Too bad Ohio State couldn't have played the Gators then.
I'm aware Oden was recovering from wrist surgery on Dec. 23. That game was his fifth since coming back from the surgery, and it showed. He had seven points and six rebounds. I'm also aware Oden had two early fouls and never got into the flow of that game, and that he has matured as a player to the point where, when the same thing happened in the Final Four against Georgetown, Oden still produced 13 points and nine rebounds against future NBA center Roy Hibbert.
I've not forgotten any of that. But have you forgotten that one of Florida's future NBA big men, Al Horford, was playing in that Dec. 23 game with a sprained ankle that had kept him out of two games and was supposed to keep him out of that one as well? Horford did play, and he played well -- 11 points, 11 rebounds -- but if you think the grotesquely explosive Horford was 100 percent that day, you're grotesquely mistaken.
For Ohio State, here's the worst thing about that Dec. 23 game: The Buckeyes quit. As the second half turned from bad to worse, Ohio State quit taking good shots, which are normally Matta's hallmark, and quit competing on the boards. The Buckeyes couldn't play with Florida, they knew it and they just wanted to get the hell out of there.
Three months later, I'm supposed to believe the outcome will be considerably different?
Get the hell out of here.