Jeremy Birmingham/Landof10
Ohio State star Kelsey Mitchell

Billy Davis and big shoes, McGuff leads Buckeyes to Sweet 16, Ohio State icers accomplish rare feat and more

Jeremy Birmingham

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Today is Monday, March 20, and it’s time to Wake Up Sloopy.


Billy Davis and the challenge of replacing Luke Fickell

Replacing a departed assistant coach is part of the deal these days in college football. Whether the program you root for is successful — which leads to promotions and bigger jobs — or not — which leads to firings — it really doesn’t matter. Coaches come and go.

That said, it’s still pretty difficult to imagine that when you watch Ohio State this fall, you won’t see Luke Fickell on the sideline for the Buckeyes. The longtime Ohio State assistant and former Buckeyes defensive tackle has moved on to a new head-coaching job, and with his departure Urban Meyer is losing one of the longest-tenured assistant coaches he’s ever had.

Fortunately for Meyer, he’s replacing Fickell with one of his longest-standing friends in Billy Davis. It’s good to have friends who have almost a quarter century of NFL coaching experience. Coupling Davis with Greg Schiano means the Buckeyes have a newer-faced defensive staff but certainly not one that is lacking in any way. Schiano doesn’t expect any changes, either.

From Tony Gerdeman of theozone-net: 

Now with Fickell off to his own program at Cincinnati and Davis taking over for him, you might think some of that dynamic has changed, but you’d be wrong.

“None. No different,” Schiano said. “Really it wasn’t Luke and I bouncing ideas, it was all four of us, always. You’re talking about Larry Johnson, the best defensive line coach in America. He’s turned down coordinator jobs right and left. This is a special place. People come here and stay here for a reason. Kerry Coombs is one of the elite recruiters, one of the elite coaches. Look at what these guys have done. He chooses to be here and stay here. Billy (Davis) is an experienced coach.”

Davis and Meyer have been close for a long time. Heck, Davis was the best man in Meyer’s wedding. The questions about whether or not that kind of friendship interferes with coaching efficiency haven’t really started yet — but if the Buckeyes struggle defensively expect to hear the dissenters loud and clear.

Kelsey Mitchell leads Buckeyes past UK and into Sweet 16

Ohio State is moving on to the Sweet 16.

A No. 5 seed in the NCAA women’s tournament, the Buckeyes — led by 19 first-half points by All-American junior Kelsey Mitchell — knocked off No. 4 Kentucky at Lexington’s Memorial Coliseum on Sunday. The Buckeyes outpaced the Wildcats 46-31 in the first half and withstood a Kentucky third-quarter comeback to wipe out Big Blue Nation, 82-68.

While Mitchell’s first-half effort helped pave the way for Ohio State, it was actually former Kentucky guard Linnae Harper who may have been the game’s most pivotal player.

From Graham Hays of ESPN.com:

Harper finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 steals in 27 minutes. Ohio State outscored Kentucky by 14 points when she was on the court. The teams were even on the scoreboard when she wasn’t. She was both spectacular and subtle. Ohio State wouldn’t have won without her. Kentucky might have won with her. But she wasn’t going to talk about her own journey or her last game for Kentucky, a second-round NCAA tournament upset loss to Dayton in 2015.

That was left to others.

“She’s a team-first player, so I knew she was going to be everything about trying to win this game for the team,” Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said. “But it’s naive to think there’s not going to be some emotion tied to it, coming back to the program where you transferred from and playing them on their home court. So I was watching her in practice the day before, and she looked great. She was locked in, she was focused. She was just on point with everything we were doing. So I was like, ‘I’m not going to say a word to her. She’s ready.'”

Next weekend, Mitchell and Harper and the rest of the Buckeyes will return to Lexington to play in their second straight Sweet 16.

Hockey town?

It was a big day on the ice in Columbus on Sunday — and I don’t mean the leftover slippery stuff on the streets from last weekend’s polar vortex. The Columbus Blue Jackets reached the 100-point mark and earned a berth in the NHL playoffs. That’s pretty cool, but the Ohio State Buckeyes also made some noise.

Ohio State won’t have an easy road from here. The Buckeyes will face No. 1 seed Minnesota-Duluth on Friday in the West Regional in Fargo, N.D.

From Aubrey Snyder of elevenwarriors.com:

This is the first NCAA appearance for the Bucks under the leadership of head coach Steve Rohlik, though both coach and program have separate tourney experience. Ohio State has made six previous trips to the big dance (1998, 1999, 2003-05, and 2009).

Rohlik skated in three NCAA tournaments as a player at Wisconsin, the most notable of which came in 1990 when the Badgers won it all. He also has two appearances as an assistant coach. Rohlik was part of Scott Sandelin’s bench crew at Minnesota-Duluth for their tourney journeys in 2004 and 2009.

Coincidentally, Ohio State is set to open the 2017 NCAA tournament against the regional’s No. 1 seed … Minnesota-Duluth. The Bulldogs are the NCHC’s regularseason runners-up and the conference’s tourney champs.

The Buckeyes are one of three Big Ten schools to make the cut, joining Minnesota and Penn State in the 16-team NCAA Tournament.

B1G Happenings

Michigan rides a German to the Sweet 16

• Nebraska hopes — again — that its secondary will be a problem for Big Ten offenses next season

• Wisconsin knocks off the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, opens as underdog to Florida for some reason

• A Michigan quarterback who played at Houston complains about officials because whining is chic

• Illinois won’t lose key basketball commitment after sudden coaching change