Thursday night in Chicago, "The Basketball Tournament," the summer time $2 million dollar winner take all extravaganza reaches the quarterfinals. For the third year in a row, "Carmen's Crew" (formerly the Scarlet and Gray) has made a deep run. The team, primarily made up of Thad Matta era basketball Buckeyes made it to the TBT Final Four in 2017 and the Elite Eight last year. They'll try to advance further this time around. Carmen's Crew won the Columbus regional two weeks ago and now face Eberlein Drive, the tournament runner-up a year ago, in the quarters. The team, which this year includes Aaron Craft, David Lighty, Jon Diebler, Will Buford, LaQuinton Ross and Evan Ravenell on the player roster, and Jared Sullinger, Dallas Lauderdale and Evan Turner on the coaching staff, got together with their college coach on Wednesday night, Jon Diebler posted a picture on Twitter, of the group hanging out in Chicago with Matta.
As you look at the picture, you can't help but remember a damn fun era of Ohio State hoops, filled with memorable moments. From buzzer beating shots, to relentless defense, to dead-eye shooting, virtually every guy is remembered by Buckeye basketball fans for something spectacular. On top of that, this group of Thad's boys were some of the best representatives of Ohio State University off of the court as well. Here's hoping they find a way to win three games in Chicago and walk away with the $2 million jackpot, but no matter what happens--thanks for these memories guys.
The 4-year Buckeye point guard will always be fondly remembered for his hustle and "in your face" defense, but he came through with one of the biggest shots of the Matta era. In the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Craft rose up and drilled the game winning 3-pointer against Iowa State, sending the Buckeyes to the Sweet 16.
It was deja vu for the Buckeyes in that 2013 NCAA tournament. In their very next game, in the regional semifinals against Arizona, there they were, locked up in a tie game in the closing seconds. Craft had the ball once again, but this time, instead of shooting it, he passed it, to LaQuinton Ross, who rose up and nailed the biggest shot of his Buckeye career, advancing OSU into the Elite Eight.
In my years of covering Ohio State basketball, I don't think I've ever felt better for an individual player, than I did for Will Buford in the regular season finale of the 2012 season. In 2011, No. 1 Ohio State lost 62-60 to Kentucky in heartbreaking fashion in the NCAA regional semifinals. Buford struggled that night, going just 2-16 from the floor. The misses included a potential game winning 3-pointer at the buzzer that bounced off the rim. I remember going into the locker room following that game and seeing Buford, slumped over at his locker, with his face buried in a towel. I remember the next year, hearing from Buford and his teammates about the Buckeye "fans" who sent horrible social media messages his way in the wake of the loss. He came back for his senior season and Ohio State closed the regular season at Michigan State, needing a win to share the Big 10 title. In the second half, Buford caught fire, shooting the Buckeyes back into a game in which they trailed early by double-digits. Then, with the game tied at 70 in the closing seconds, Buford rose up and nailed a contested top of the key jumper to win a conference title for Ohio State for a third straight year. That Ohio State team would go on to make the Final Four and Buford ended his career No. 3 on the Buckeyes all-time scoring list.
The Big Ten's all-time leader in 3-point shooting had several big nights in his career, but none bigger than in Ohio State's final road game in the 2011 season. Diebler hit anything and everything that night, scoring 30 points. All 30 came via 3-pointers. The 10 three's were a Big 10 and Ohio State single game record.
This guy did everything at Ohio State and finished as one of the most beloved basketball Buckeyes of all-time. Like Craft, Lighty was a relentless defender. Unlike Craft, at 6'5, Lighty was asked by Matta to defend virtually every position--even centers at times. He put an exclamation point on his "do everything" style in a February home game vs. Illinois during his senior year in 2011. Lighty was all over the floor, finishing with 21 points, with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 6 steals. In one spectacular stretch of the second half, Lightly scored 13 points with 3 steals in just over three and a half minutes. After the game, Matta made this following declaration--that David Lighty deserved a statue. I'm not sure Coach Matta was wrong.
The two time all-american, now the coach of Carmen's Crew, dominated in his two years at Ohio State. The moments were many, including leading the Buckeyes to the Final Four with a win over Syracuse in 2012. Earlier that season, Ohio State hosted one of its biggest regular season games in memory. No. 3 Duke came into town for the Big 10/ACC challenge. Sullinger was unstoppable inside as Ohio State buried the Dookies 85-63.
Turner, a 9-year NBA veteran, is helping coach Carmen's Crew this weekend. He was college basketball's player of the year in 2010 and made his most memorable Buckeye shot at the Big 10 Tournament. Top seed Ohio State was about to be upset in the quarterfinals by rival Michigan--until Turner delivered a shot Buckeye fans will never forget. OSU would go on to win the tournament with Turner named MVP.