The Sports Page: CBJ, Crew & OSU Basketball
Columbus Blue Jackets Season Obituary:
“Taps” plays gently outside Nationwide Arena. The proverbial CBJ faithful leave quietly, their heads hung in disbelief and sadness. The Standings link on the Blue Jackets website is no longer in the favorite tab. The “lucky” socks worn during every game are now in the laundry hamper. Simply put, the Columbus Blue Jackets playoff dream was abruptly ended by the alarm clock of reality.* Nine larger than life points separate the Jackets from the final playoff seed. With only eleven games to go, the jump is nearly insurmountable. The losing streak that began last month in Nashville finally ended in Carolina on the 12th but by then Columbus had gone 0-4-3 in a critical seven game playoff push effectively removing themselves from the playoff conversation. In fact the entire month of March has been brutal for the Pride of Nationwide.
*The undying, childlike optimist in me would like to point out that until the Blue Jackets are mathematically eliminated from the field, hope lives on. Then I showed him the Western Conference Standings. He said, “huh,” and started looking for his Chief Wahoo ballcap. Poor kid.
In eleven games this month the Jackets have gone 2-5-4, which is good for eight out of a possible twenty-two points. They have used a variety of methods to lose: shutout, underwhelming performance, marathon shootout loss, three-set shootout loss, and overtime loss. If nothing else the games have not been monotonous. This past week Columbus has lost all three home games it has played, getting outscored 5-0 in the past six home periods by the Red Wings and Devils respectively. Their only two wins this month have been on the road in Carolina and Minnesota which is a shame because losing at home tends to keep people away from the turnstiles. But try not to judge this season only on the last six weeks; look at the body of work as a whole.
The following image comes courtesy of www.sportsclubstats.com. They are a great site and a good resource for the stats-crazed sports fan.
This particular graph adequately reflects how the season progressed for Columbus. About fifty days into the season, the Unionmen had an 89.12% chance to make the postseason according to the mountain of data the site compiles. The staggering descent that started just after the fifty game mark was the swoon that most likely cost the Jackets a playoff berth. However, what interests me about this graph is what happened between days 120 and 140: the team fought back. They kept scrapping, kept going, and did not say ‘die.’ Granted they only topped off at a 28.99% chance of reaching the playoffs but that is up from the previous low point of 3%. I give a push like that a lot of credit, especially considering how many young players are on this club.
There is some talent on this team. Any given point Rick Nash is on the ice there is a chance for a score. Grant Clitsome is a young man full of promise. RJ Umberger has had a splendid year as well. It remains to be seen what will happen with Scottie Upshall and the other players that were acquired for the playoff run that never got off the ground. We will see if some of them are leveraged to other teams for draft picks. So though this season may be over, do not despair. There is a lot of heart on this team. They kept fighting when most thought they would give up. Perhaps they can do it again this next month. (I let my inner optimist write that last sentence; let the boy dream.)
Ohio State Buckeyes in That Basketball Tournament:
So far in the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament (every other official term is trademarked so you’ve got to work with me a bit here, I’ll call it the NDIMB for short), The Ohio State University has proven they were right to be the number one overall seed. They have had little difficulty dispatching UT-San Antonio and George Mason University in the first two rounds of the NDIMB. It certainly has not helped their opponents that the games took place in nearby Cleveland, Ohio effectively giving the Buckeyes a pair of home games. They have outscored their opponents 173-112. On Sunday, OSU connected on 16 three pointers in a 98-66 laugher of a contest against the George Mason Patriots. This game was a superb example of why it is so difficult to beat the Buckeyes: If you guard the perimeter freshman Jared Sullinger will make you pay in the key. If you clog the paint, William Buford, Jon Diebler, or David Lighty are all capable of raining threes from beyond the arc. Lighty, perhaps inspired playing in his hometown, was particularly brilliant finishing with a game high 25 points including a perfect seven of seven on threes.
With time winding down on Sunday, Coach Thad Matta emptied his bench allowing seldom used – and student favorite – Eddie Days a chance to see some action. The senior walk-on even got on the stat sheet, splitting a pair of free throws much to the delight of the Scarlet and Gray-clad crowd. Ohio State finished the night shooting 61% from the field and outperformed George Mason in every noteworthy category. One tip of the hat to the George Mason fans in attendance: with a few minutes to go and the game wildly out of hand, the Patriot faithful stood and gave their boys one last standing ovation. There was no malice in their demeanor, simply gratitude for the amazing ride they had been given over the course of the season. I respect that kind of sportsmanship. Now, Ohio State moves on to Newark. They will square off against the Kentucky Wildcats on Friday in the, um, how can I legally put this, the sugary dozen+four (you know what I mean). Their goal is simple: Keep showing that their number one seed in the NDIMB is no accident.
Columbus Crew Week in Review:
This past offseason for the Columbus Crew was marked by change. The addition of new draft picks (hello Balchan) and the loss of premier players (So long Schelotto) left many pundits wondering how the new team would play together and how long it will take for them to gel as a unit. If Saturday’s game is any indication, it may take a while. Columbus opened the season with a 3-1 loss to DC United in our nation’s capital. The first forty-five minutes were encouraging for the Crew. Neither team found in the net in the first half with defense seemingly everywhere on the field. Columbus had a terrific chance off an Eddie Gavin set piece but United veteran keeper Pat Onstad blasted the ball out of the box, negating the Crew attack. The tie was broken in the 51st minute when DC’s Josh Wolff snuck the sphere past a flailing William Hesmer to give the home team the lead. The score remained at one-nil until the 62nd minute when a foul by Crew defender Sebastian Miranda gave the United a penalty kick. A young man named Charlie Davies stepped up to take the free kick.
There is a story behind this gentleman.
Charlie Davies was supposed to be a big difference maker for the United States’ World Cup 2010 team. In 2009, Davies was a 23-year-old phenom who was in Washington for a qualifying match against Costa Rica. He was involved in a gruesome car accident that resulted in a lacerated bladder, fractured right tibia and femur, a fractured elbow, facial injuries, and bleeding on the brain. He was lucky to be alive. Though he was not able to play for Team USA last year, his months of rehab led to a signing by the DC United with the game against Columbus his first in Major League Soccer. So perhaps it becomes a little easier to be accommodating when one hears that he scored the aforementioned penalty kick and followed up with another goal in the 77th minute. Robbie Rogers netted a goal for the Crew off a penalty kick in the 78th minute but that would be all the scoring in the game. Losing is never easy, but when you consider the struggle your opponent went through just to get on the field, it does put things in perspective a bit. The Crew will be back in action on Saturday when they return to Ohio to face off against the New York Red Bulls at Crew Stadium.
Corey Barnes is a third year at The Ohio State University studying business. He hails from Cleveland, Ohio and has a profound understanding of sports suffering and mediocrity. In addition to this column, he also writes sports things at buckeyenerd.tumblr.com and can be followed on The Twitter @Corey_Barnes.
Blue Jackets game photos from bluejackets.nhl.com.
Ohio State Buckeyes Basketball photos from ohiostatebuckeyes.com.
Columbus Crew game photos from thecrew.com.