Team preview: Ohio
Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2006-07 college basketball season, exclusively on Insider.
(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)
Although it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure the odds, Ohio coach Tim O'Shea knew it was going to be exceedingly difficult to repeat as MAC Tournament champions. His master's degree in counseling and psychology came in pretty handy when trying to manage the aftermath of Ohio's 2005 MAC Tournament title.
It had been a bumpy first three years for O'Shea as he succeeded an Ohio University Hall of Famer in Larry Hunter. When his third team finished 10-20, the former Rhode Island and Boston College assistant knew there would be pressure to win the following season.
Fortified by three prize recruits, the Bobcats won four games to win the MAC Tournament, lost by five to Florida in the NCAA Tournament, and finished 21-11.
In 2005-06, there were sky-high expectations for a team with two seniors in its top nine. The Bobcats would have to contend with a loaded MAC East Division in which the fifth place team (Buffalo) won 19 games and received votes in both national Top 25 polls at mid-season. Make no mistake, the East was going to be a meat grinder.
It didn't help that O'Shea had a sophomore point guard in Jeremy Fears who couldn't keep his feet on the ground. The postseason success generated plenty of hoopla and counter-productive chatter about the future. When all of the confetti was swept up, the players had to re-focus and to try to defend their title.
Try as he might, Fears (9.6 ppg, 4.2 apg) could not recapture the magic. As his turnovers mounted, O'Shea began giving Antonio Chatman more and more time.
"You can't split it," O'Shea said. "It doesn't work. One guy is your point." So, Chatman (5.1 ppg, 3.0 apg) won, and Fears transferred, first to Iowa State and then Bradley.
"Antonio comes to play every day in practice," O'Shea said. "We were more cohesive and more disciplined with him at point."
The Bobcats survived the "Great Point Guard Controversy" to make a run in the MAC Tournament, falling to eventual champion Kent State, 72-59, in the semifinals and closing at 19-11. In doing so, Ohio's cerebral coach ran his record to 8-4 in MAC Tournament play.