Ohio State basketball: On Michigan and the decade of dominance

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

After a would-be throttling turned into a nail-biting finish, Ohio State prevailed against their hated rivals, and handed the Wolverines their first loss in the process. But what Thad Matta's crew did on Sunday was just a little bit of history repeating.

With eight minutes to go in the first half of Ohio State's Sunday tilt against Michigan, Shannon Scott scored his only points to put the Buckeyes 20 points clear of their biggest rival, and on pace to run the then #2 Wolverines out of Value City Arena with not only their first loss, but their tails permanently embedded between their legs. The first half ended with a bit of a Michigan run and a 12-point halftime lead for the Buckeyes, and a 20 minute performance that has yet to be rivaled by this year's Ohio State team.

Now we all know how the rest of the game went. Let's be honest, Michigan is a very talented basketball team, there's no denying that. And in the gym of their biggest rival with a shot at their first #1 ranking in over two decades on the line, it was clear that, even despite the huge deficit the Buckeyes had created, there was no chance the first half was going to show the Michigan team that had, to that point, gone without a loss. Trey Burke was going to make his presence felt. Tim Hardaway, Jr. was going to get points. Michigan was going to come back.

But their comeback was not enough. Aaron Craft played his best first half of the year, quarterbacking an offensive juggernaut, while contributing more than enough in the second half. Craft yielded the show to Deshaun Thomas, who backed up a 22 point performance at Purdue with 20 more on Sunday (earning him B1G Player of the Week honors). And when the clock finally hit 00:00, the score reflected what the first half predicated: a Buckeye win, and a Michigan loss.

It's by no means the first time, and it probably won't be the last, either.

With Sunday's win, Thad Matta improved to 17-3 against his team's biggest rival. Michigan basketball hasn't won in Columbus since 2003. Whether the Wolverines are low on the Big Ten totem pole, going against the Thad Five, or high up in the national rankings against a re-building Buckeye squad, Matta's teams are still beating that school up north 85% of the time. That's incredibly impressive, even for a coach of Matta's stature and reputation, and must be a thorn in the craw of every Michigan fan. But as we all know, the basketball Buckeyes aren't the only ones doing it.

Urban Meyer is 1-0 against Michigan at Ohio State. Technically, I guess, he's 1-1 against them, if we're counting the Lloyd Carr swan song game that was the 2008 Capital One Bowl. But for our purposes, we'll only include his Buckeye win this year, in Ohio Stadium, en route to a perfect 2012 season.

Jim Tressel went 9-1* against Michigan. His lone loss was during the 2003 season in the 100th meeting between the teams, in a game held in Ann Arbor. But other than that, Michigan football, under two different coaches, couldn't beat the Buckeyes, especially when everything was on the line.

*yes, I know the record books only reflect an 8-1 record, but we'll go ahead and include the 2010 win because Eff Michigan, that's why.

For more than a decade, the tables have been completely turned from what Ohio State so often experienced when John Cooper was helming the football Buckeyes. Then, it was almost assumed that a Michigan squad would come in (or the Buckeyes would go there) and lose a game they should have won. Now, that is simply not the case.

The three coaches listed above have a combined 27-4 record against the team that each seeks to beat more than any other. Matta, Meyer and Tressel before them are beating Michigan at an 87% clip. While Michigan Basketball hasn't won in Columbus since 2003, Michigan football is even more futile, their last win in the 614 coming in 2000, or when the average price for a gallon of gas was $1.70, and the number one song in the country was this little ditty by Jay-Z's wife and friends.

The Ten Year War might have been as classic a time period in Ohio State athletic history, but that time period featured too many Michigan wins for any real Buckeye fan to stomach. But it was a classic time period featuring classic battles between two of the great rivals in sports. But for as much fun as that era was, our current era, this Decade of Dominance, is much more fun.

There is a lot to be said for a rivalry that is consistently great, and back and forth. But do you think for 10 seconds that Buckeye fans were happy when Michigan went 10-2-1 against John Cooper, including (co-)winning the 1997 National Championship? Or when Michigan won a basketball title in 1989, and went to consecutive championship games with the Fab Five in 1992 or 1993? Of course not.

The shoe is on the proper foot now, to the point that beating Michigan is back to being expected. Sure, the Wolverines may go to the Final Four in basketball this year and, hell, they might even compete for a national championship. But with Matta in control in Columbus, they will probably have to go through the Buckeyes to do it, at least one more time. And if history is any indicator, I like the Buckeyes' chances.

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