Go watch Jared Sullinger play ball. Seriously, go do it. Then, the next time he plays, watch him again because the kid’s a freak. His game makes for must-watch television every time he steps on the hardwood. Forget about the idea that he’s the best freshman in the country because, really, he’s the best player in the NCAA. He plays like Zach Randolph except ten feet above the rim.And if the freshman alone doesn’t instill trepidation in the hearts of any other program in the country by himself, the rest of his team ought to because they are loaded like a baked potato.In early November, a worry surfaced that no team in the NCAA possessed any legitimate star power; that there were no NBA talent-riddled rosters like a North Carolina of 2009 or a Florida of 2007.Unfortunately for the rest of the country, Ohio State recently disabused that perception; just ask JaJuan Johnson and the Purdue Boilermakers, whom the Buckeyes torched by 23 points on Tuesday. And the Buckeyes’ recent dominance is a bad omen for the rest of the Big Ten.If Purdue, which was really Ohio State’s only preseason competition, can’t compete for the Big Ten title, then what other program has a shot?Well, it’s not Illinois. Demetri McCamey has improved every season during his time in Champaign, but the collection of B-talent around him isn’t enough to worry Thad Matta’s Buckeyes.Allegedly, Brandon Paul was going to complement McCamey well and put the Illini back on the college basketball map after swiftly disappearing from it after 2005’s run to the title game. But McCamey has only played okay, Paul has yet to live up to the expectations and the once-hyped Illini only linger towards the bottom of the polls.In Illinois’ tilt with the top ranked Buckeyes down in Champaign last week, they had no answer for Sullinger when the big man took over.It’s not going to be Michigan State, either. Izzo’s squad sits sixth in the conference with debilitating losses to Illinois, Purdue and an improved, though still inferior, Penn State.The Spartans have Kalin Lucas back and have seen nice contributions from senior guard Durrell Summers and junior forward Draymond Green, but they simply don’t have the firepower to hang around with the top teams in the country, a list headlined by Ohio State.It’s not gong to be Minnesota. Tubby Smith may have the Gophers playing the best basketball to come out of the Land of 10,000 Lakes in a long time, which shows what coaching, and subsequently, what a coach’s recruiting can do for any program (unless your Isaiah Thomas), but they are still a ways off from hanging banners any time soon. Minnesota had a shot at Ohio State earlier this month in Columbus and actually made them sweat for a while. They too, however, came up short when a three-pointer that would have sent the game to overtime rattled off the front iron as time expired.Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe, the Gophers’ leading rebounder, actually matches up with Sullinger. Mbakwe held the freshman-phenom to 15 points and 12 boards back on January 9th, but when Sullinger’s production went down, David Lighty went up for the Buckeyes as he scored 19 big points. There’s one ranked Big Ten team left that might have a shot to take down the Buckeyes; one team, which shoots almost 40 percent from behind the arc, has the size to match up with the strength of the Buckeyes and the reputation to pull off big wins on big stages.That’s right, it’s Northwestern.Only kidding, it’s not Northwestern. The team that can catch Ohio State is Wisconsin.The x-factor in college basketball remains three-point shooting. On any given night the Badgers can shoot the lights out and, as Ohio State is a longer team, staying outside the arc might be the way Bo Ryan will want to attack the Buckeyes.The Badgers have players in Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz and Tim Jarmusz with the type of size that can give Ohio State’s William Buford and David Lighty a tough time. But the three will have to step up and execute on the defensive end to keep Buford and Lighty off of the score sheet.Jon Leuer is going to pose a problem for Sullinger as well, as Sullinger hasn’t often matched up with an athletic big man that can shoot the outside jumper. And if Leuer gets in foul trouble, Nankivil can put another body on the big man as well.On paper, the Badgers almost match up well against the nation’s top team. But that’s only on paper. It always comes down to execution.Luckily for Wisconsin, the first of the two games remaining with the Buckeyes takes place at the Kohl Center where the Badgers are notorious for holding serve.The rest of the conference schedule, less two games against Purdue, is really favorable for the Badgers. Ohio State, however, has trips to Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin yet before them.It’s quite possible the Buckeyes are a runaway train to Big Ten glory, but if any team can be the cow on the tracks, it has to be Wisconsin.
Ahead of their crunch double header against Egypt in the Brazil 2014 qualifying play-offs, ‘Ghana’ sends a word of caution to the PharaohsDear brother Egypt,I write you this letter with mixed feelings and I believe you are quite conscious of what has prompted it.You do know how much I loathe to have to contest anything with you due to the mutual affection and respect we share, but it seems on this rare occasion we have been forced into each other’s path to Brazil 2014. We have always been intimate, of course, ever since the day my founding father Kwame Nkrumah married the beautiful Fathia on the recommendation of then Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser and begot three beautiful offspring, two of whom are active players in modern-day Ghanaian politics.That said, we have had our occasional grudges in the past. You rubbished the ‘host and win’ mantra I adopted during CAN 2008 by winning the title on my territory, only for me to exact cold revenge the very next year at the Fifa Under-20 World Cup you hosted, by becoming the first African side to claim the ultimate prize at that level. Your own team didn’t reach too far on that occasion as I rightly recall.Level peggings, then, eh? Well, not exactly.The fact that you beat me in the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations finale to secure your seventh and most recent continental title means we still have one more score to settle, and that I intend to do in some style on October 13 and on the weekend of November 15-19. Forget the 3-0 thumping I dished out to you last January ahead of the 2013 Afcon; that was just a warning of what I am capable of.Besides, let’s face it: you currently aren’t the force you have always been, having missed successive Afcons. What you once were, I now am, and I’d prove that when we meet. Don’t think I would be intimidated by whatever atmosphere you’d have to offer when I visit, for my own Baba Yara Stadium itself is a veritable fortress.And, to think of it…You taught my people the worth of having a local coach on the evidence of what magic Hassan Shehata worked while in charge of your national side and, just when we took a leaf from your workbook by appointing locale Kwasi Appiah as coach, you switched to our old ways by hiring an expatriate, American Bob Bradley – the very man whose USA team fell flat before our Black Stars at the last World Cup – and so maybe you could take some tutoring from us in that regard as we prepare to show you just how much we’ve learnt. There isn’t much else I can say for now. I would do the remainder of the talking on the pitch when the fixtures are due. All that remains is to count the days left till the first leg, and then the contents of this letter would seem ever so real to you.Until then, read this thrice a day, pray your hearts out, and ponder on the words of Exodus 14:13.We’re coming for you.Sporting regards,Kofi Ghana.