- .. _.
-- IAl A AMw
Thursday, November 11, 1999 - Tipoff
Experts are o'boisterous
over Buckeyes, O'Brien
Newly heralded coach downplays team chances
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"It's magnificent. We're very for-
tunate," said Ohio State coach Jim
O'Brien. "It turned out in a real short
period of time ... people have
Is this heavy praise for last sea-
son's barely believable Buckeyes,
who cruised to the Final Four despite
preseason pontifications to the con-
Is it about Ohio State's all-Big Ten
backcourt, which has demanded the
national spotlight that for years had
been absent in Columbus?
Not a chance. O'Brien is quite out-
spoken on the new Value City Arena.
But when it comes to talking up his
team, the recent seven-year contract
signee puts up the humble front.
"It's funny," says O'Brien. "People
kid around - I think - about get-
ting back to the Final Four again. I
don't think that people totally appre-
ciate just how hard that is."
But even the softspoken O'Brien
may not have the eloquence to down-
"I don't think people
totally appreciate just
how hard that is."
- Jim O'Brien,
on returning to the Final Four
play the Scarlet and Gray this sea-
Guard Scoonie Penn resisted the
temptations of the NBA to return for
a senior season, and has been
rewarded with first team preseason
all-America status by many experts.
Add to that the Buckeyes' leading
points scorer and second-team all-
American Michael Redd, and you get
a sense of the expectations.
"Any time you return guys like
Scoonie or somebody like Michael
Redd, you have to think that you
have a half-way decent chance, any-
way," O'Brien said.
And even with the best backcourt
in a Big Ten dominated by guards,
the Bucks still have more to brag
True to the unofficial state slogan
(round on the ends and HI in the
middle), Ohio State also benefits
from the return of a rare Big Ten big
man - senior center Ken Johnson.
Johnson set the school record'last
year for most blocks in a season at an
even 100, and averaged 4.2 per game
in the NCAA Tournament. Of partic-
ular interest tosMichigan, Johnson
Iblocked three shots in each of the
their last three meetings.
But can Johnson stay in the game
long enough be a factor? And if not,
does Ohio State's bench go deep
"It's only natural that there's
going to be a level of'expectation,"
O'Brien said. "The only thing that's
a little bit crazy is - to what level?"
- David Den Herder
were a Cinderella
team last season,
Final Four before
Q an all-day lift ticket
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1 most meals
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Coach: Jim O'Brien (third season)
Last season: 12-4 Big Ten (2nd),
Key returners: Sr. G Scoonie Penn,
Jr. G Michael Redd, Sr. C Ken Johnson
SLosses: F Jason Singleton, F
C C" Jon Sanderson (19.1 percent of
Nonconference tests: at Kansas
Make or break: How will the
Buckeyes react to being everyone's tar-
get this season and hold off the high
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