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Column: Loving this Ohio State men’s basketball team feels like every college romance

The highs, the lows; the excitement, the heartache; we’ve all been there.

1950s TEENAGE COUPLE... Photo by Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images

I’m not afraid to say it; I’m in love with this Ohio State men’s basketball team. I am also adult enough to recognize that it might not be the healthiest of loves either. In fact, I would venture to say that loving this specific college team is pretty much the sporting equivalent of many college love affairs.

We all had them; we were young, we didn’t know who we are, let alone what love meant. We were spoiled by Disney romance, rom-com happily ever afters, and temporal lobes that hadn’t yet been fully formed.

The highs of these loves were euphoric. The newness, the excitement, the naïveté made us feel like we were invincible, that anything that we wanted to achieve in our lives was possible. Those puppy loves helped create some of the best memories of our collegiate years, but so often, those highs were paired with fumbling attempts to figure out exactly what the hell we were doing, more failures than we would like to admit in retrospect, and regular bouts of crippling frustration and disappointment.

That is the 2020-21 Ohio State men’s basketball team in a nutshell. For five weeks earlier this year, we rode the wave of 10 wins in 11 games as the Buckeyes climbed to as high as No. 4 in the country. Chris Holtmann’s squad took on all comers from the most dominant conference in the country and proved that — despite not having the superstars that many of their B1G brethren did — they could hang with the best teams in the country.

You know that feeling. The romantic, taking “the long walk” across the Oval while the bells play, the giddy conversations about what the bathroom in your future home would look like, and the awkward first meetings with parents that inevitably happen about six months before they should have. You just knew that your new-found love was “the one,” and no facts, nor input from someone not currently drowning in dopamine could convince you otherwise.

Ah, to be young, in love, and have absolutely no idea what the hell you are talking about.

Then, there was the four-game losing streak to end the regular season. It hurt. Expectations came crashing down around you. Everything that you had envisioned for your future during the three and a half weeks of your sizzling, star-crossed romance came to a screeching halt. Right as you think that you are about to take things to the next level, you lose four games in a row “the one” decides to get back with their high school sweetheart after they broke up because they didn’t think that they could do long-distance, but their connection was just so strong that they decided that they owed it to themselves and to each other to give it another shot.

You were so close to everything that your heart had hoped for, only to have it ripped away due to no fault of your own. In three of the four defeats down the stretch, the Buckeyes lost by a combined 14 points. That’s an average of basically 4.5 points per game. We’ve all been there, right? So close, yet so far away.

Drunk on the possibilities of what a new found infatuation could bring; lost in the daydreams of possibilities, only to have the door slammed in our face, over and over and over and over again. Look, it’s happened to the best of us. I got carried away with just how good I thought that this Buckeye team could be back in mid-February. I was already coming up with all of the goofy t-shirts that we could print because it never occurred to me that our future would hold anything other than a lifetime of puppies, rainbows, and happiness.

But, as it always does, reality came calling and sent me back into my metaphorical dorm room, binging on both pints of ice cream and old seasons of “Grey’s Anatomy.” But that’s what college loves are supposed to do, right? You experience the highs and the lows in order to learn both who you are and what you need in a partner.

I thought that I had learned those hard-fought lessons as we entered the Big Ten Tournament. I finally had realistic expectations about who this Buckeye team was and what they were capable of. But like the fool that I am, I let excitement get the best of me... again.

You know what I mean, you’re recently off one heartbreak, and you’ve told yourself that you need to focus on school and not get mixed up with affairs of the heart for the rest of the semester. But then, out of nowhere, you start majorly crushing on someone you see at the commons every Tuesday for lunch, and you eventually work up the guts to talk to them, and eventually it leads to — what you think is — a burgeoning, flirtatious relationship with all of the possibilities that come with that. Who knows where this could lead? Is this my soulmate? Did my last relationship fail only so that I could be ready to seize this love when it presented itself? I don’t know, but it sure is exciting.

Your emotions are running high and you’re a bit out of control, but it feels good — it makes you feel alive. In the first three games of the B1G Tourney, the Buckeyes raced out to double-digit leads, only to have Minnesota, Purdue, and Michigan come roaring back to put a damper on the hot and heavy emotions that we had let ourselves fall victim to yet again.

Despite the fact that Ohio State came out of those three games victorious, they still felt a bit like being friendzoned. Certainly better than the alternative, and we cherish those wins/friendships, but they’re not exactly what we had hoped for; nor were they where we thought things were headed early on.

After the rollercoaster that this season has been, I feel much more prepared to handle the emotions of the NCAA Tournament. As I fill out my bracket for the LGHL March Madness Bracket Challenge, I’m doing so sober, level-headed, and in no way overwhelmed by the exhilaration that I’ve recently experienced.

But then I see stuff like this video and am reminded that this silly team has the cutest little tradition. Following big wins, they hide from Holtmann in the locker room; he comes in playfully expecting to see his players congregated, but, surprise, they aren’t there! Then, all of a sudden, they burst into the room to belatedly celebrate with their coach.

It’s just so darn adorable! How could you not just love this team? I love them so much, I’m thinking about bringing them home to meet my parents over spring break. Do you think that’s too soon?

The thing is, while some college romances work out and stand the test of time — look at my parents, or potentially the person editing this article for me — but even when they don’t, they still provide some of our fondest memories of that part in our life.

I look back now at my major relationships from my time at Ohio State, and I don’t immediately remember the time a girl dumped me, yet we still went to a concert at the Newport the next week for her birthday, and then we got invited to an after party by the lead singer of the one-hit wonder opening act that we’d been making fun of all show, and after talking to other people at said party, I walked back into the living room to see her dancing with the lead singer with her pants off.

No, I don’t think about that, honest. That would be the relationship equivalent of a 15-2 upset in the tournament by the way, so hopefully we don’t have to revisit that one any time soon.

Instead, I think about the excitement of holding hands in public for the first time; the nervousness of thinking that things are going well, but not quite knowing, because you’re both too awkward to straight up ask; the breathless anticipation to watch a movie in a bean bag chair under my lofted bed while eating Catfish Biff’s (rest in peace).

Those are the memories that I am left with more than 15 years after I graduated college. And so it will be following this basketball season. Even if things don’t completely work out with this team and they aren’t cutting down the nets in Lucas Oil Stadium on April 5, I will still remember all of the joys that we’ve shared, because after all, the real romances are the Ws we’ve celebrated along the way.