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Buckeyes bouncing high

SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Dec. 22, 2005

Out in Columbus, Ohio, Buckeye fans already have great expectations for next season. That's when the Thad Five (a cute takeoff on Michigan's great recruiting class known as the Fab Five with Chris Webber and company) comes in. Ohio State has commitments from seven-foot center Greg Oden, already considered a lock for the NBA down the line, as well as guards Mike Conley, David Lighty and Daequan Cook, plus forward Othello Hunter.

Hold on, Buckeye fans. Let's not look too far ahead because this year's Ohio State squad is pretty good. Thad Matta has already shown he can flat-out coach. Go ask Phil Martelli, whose St. Joe's team lost at home to the Buckeyes. Go check with Iowa State coach Wayne Morgan, whose team fell to the Buckeyes in Des Moines last weekend. Ohio State won the game on the foul line, hitting 16-of-20 compared to seven-of-13 for the Cyclones in a 70-67 win. That win gave the Buckeyes their first 7-0 start since 1990-91, when Jim Jackson led Ohio State to a 17-0 run.

This Ohio State team has its share of unsung heroes. Senior guard Je'Kel Foster has come on strong, scoring 28 against Iowa State and 24 vs. St. Joe's. Ron Lewis, a transfer from Bowling Green, has provided a spark from the bench. Matta has a lot of experience with three fifth-year seniors J.J. Sullinger, Matt Sylvester and Terence Dials. That experience has paid off early as the Buckeyes resume also includes a 13-point win over a Virginia Tech team that almost won at Duke.

Ohio State closes out December with three straight home games. The New Year's Eve game against LSU will be the toughest test before Big Ten play begins. The top teams in the Big Ten -- Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa -- should watch out because Ohio State and Wisconsin are better than expected. Then add Minnesota with Vincent Grier back in the lineup and the conference is going to be very tough. Fans in Columbus know that next season will be special. This campaign could fall into that category, too.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.

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