Big Ten Basketball Media Day: Thad Matta Presser Notes

By Kyle Rowland on October 25, 2012 at 10:30a

Thad Matta enters his 9th season at Ohio State

With the stretch run of the Big Ten football season approaching, attention is also turning to the hardwood. Practice began two weeks ago and games begin on November 9. Ohio State will play Marquette that night in Charleston, S.C., in the Carrier Classic. The game will played aboard the USS Yorktown. 

The Buckeyes, coming off a Final Four appearance a season ago, lost Jared Sullinger and William Buford. But that hasn’t changed expectations in Columbus.

Head coach Thad Matta is entering his ninth season at the helm of the Buckeyes. In eight seasons, Matta has turned Ohio State into the gold standard of the Big Ten and one of the top programs in the country. Two Final Fours, five regular-season conference championships, three Big Ten tournament titles and six NCAA Tournament appearances tend to attract top recruits.

And Matta has had no shortage.

Eight players have been drafted under Matta, seven of which have been first-round picks. Matta has also coached three All-Americans, including 2010 national player of the year Evan Turner.

Point guard Aaron Craft and talented forward Deshaun Thomas are among a crop of Buckeyes who hope to add to that impressive list. The duo return to a team that is ranked fourth in the Coaches Poll and were picked to finish third in a deep Big Ten by the conference media.

Craft and Thomas were each named to the Big Ten’s preseason all-conference team.

Three of the top five teams in the country are from the Big Ten, including No. 1 Indiana. Michigan is fifth in the initial poll and was tabbed to finish second in the league.

At Big Ten media day in Chicago on Thursday, Matta said the key to the Big Ten’s success has been great programs and great coaches. He also commented on how difficult it is to win on the road, calling it one of the toughest tasks in college basketball. In his eight seasons, Matta said the level of players has increased.

Through two weeks of practice, Matta said he is very pleased with his team’s off-season work and likes their demeanor. The outlook is high despite losing two starts off a Final Four team, and Matta said his team is aware of the challenge that lies ahead.

Matta specifically mentioned the team’s three big men – Amir Williams, Evan Ravenel and Trey McDonald – when talking about players who have improved. LaQuinton Ross is a guy Matta said is learning the “meat and potatoes” of Ohio State’s system.

Thomas is a popular preseason All-American pick after his showing in last season’s postseason tournaments. Matta said Thomas has a great understanding of the game. He knows how to affect the game shooting, rebounding and on defense. Matta also said Thomas’ body has changed again. He is slimmer.

Ohio State’s bench – or lack thereof – is a popular topic at the start of each season. Matta is known for not substituting a great deal. But that could change this season. He said he believes the Buckeyes will have more depth and interchangeable pieces than in years past. Ohio State has speed and athleticism all over the court, and Matta wants to play as fast as possible.

The Buckeyes have one freshman this year: Italian sharpshooter Amadeo Della Valle. Matta likes what he sees so far, saying Della Valle understands the game as well as anyone he’s ever coached.

Matta said Craft was the most college-ready freshman he’s ever had.


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bhsiba99's picture

Looking forward to BB season.  Seems like it will be a lot more up-tempo (spread offense :) ) than in the past and should make for some exciting games.

Unky Buck's picture

I love how we are going up against such a good opponent to start the year. It's getting me more pumped up for the season.
I'm also hoping that my prediction that this season could be even better than the last 2 comes true. Still a lot of uncertainty and only time will tell if it is, but this is the time for the 2011 recruiting class to shine. If they play to their potential, that prediction will come true...

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

BME_Buckeye's picture


Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.


WC Buckeye's picture

I love this guy. We are so lucky to have him coaching our basketball Buckeyes.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

Buckpocalypse's picture

I just hope he gets a title before he steps away from coaching.  Its really the only thing missing from his resume and gives legitmacy to conversations like hall of fame etc.

pcon258's picture

Knock Gene Smith for his handling of Tatgate all you want, but the man knows how to schedule games. Kansas this year, duke last year, orgeon for football, virginia tech (not sure if that was him); he has definitely gotten some good OOC games. 

tennbuckeye19's picture

FYI: We play Duke again this year in the B1G/ACC Challenge.

BuckeyeBoyer85's picture

Stupid that we are 4th in the country yet 3rd in the B1G. Another reason to hate scUM

Wayne Woodrow Hayes

EvanstonBuckeye's picture

Have never understood the criticism of Matta, except that we're spoiled. This team will definitely be different w/o Sully in the middle, and if they can shoot consistently, should give teams fits. I'm perfectly fine with 3rd in the B1G, or wherever they have us. The tougher the conference competition, the better we'll be in March.
Recruiting is cyclical and Matta has had two absolute monster classes that he turned into Final Four teams. Kentucky is on a run for the ages, recruiting-wise, but we all know that could end messily any time.

yrro's picture

Probably about two weeks after Calipari leaves for the NBA.

setman's picture

And 2 weeks and 1 day before the Charles Robinson article on Kentucky basketball under Calipari comes out.

Earle's picture

Could you possibly be suggesting that Coach Cal is not doing everything on the up and up?

Have you tried Not Your Father's Root Beer?  It tastes just like the real thing, but it packs a punch (5.9%ABV).  It's a little sweet for me though.  Two is my limit.

WC Buckeye's picture

8-O this is my shocked look...

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

zbd's picture

The bench should finally get some playing time. I'd feel better if the recruiting picture was better. I can't understand how a final four team with two graduating starters didn't recruit some top players.

d5k's picture

Only Buford graduated so he only had 1 scholarship to play with before the transfers and Sullinger going pro.  But he has plenty of room in next year's class which already has 2 solid 4 star commitments in Williams and Loving.  And there's only 1 senior on the current team plus maybe Deshaun Thomas could go pro (but only if he has a great season which is a good thing to hope for).  We obviously have a solid roster for this year and there's little reason to think we won't reload in the future.  Last year's class is probably being underrated because certain guys didn't get on the court as much as some expected.  I expect Amir Williams, Ross and Scott to all step up big this year and for Thompson to continue to be a tremendous defender and athlete on the court.

bassplayer7770's picture

I haven't been able to follow Buckeye basketball much in the past, but, now that I have DirecTV, I look forward to watching Buckeye basketball.  This should be a pretty exciting season.

Ashtabula's picture

I have never really understood the criticism for not using his bench.  You find your best players and then make sure they are conditioned enough to play the entire game.  With TV timeouts and all, any decent athlete should be able to play 40 minutes.  At the college level, I think you should only sub for special situations such as needing a three pointer, pressing to come from behind, or putting your best free throw shooter/ball handlers in a game to hang on to a win.

tennbuckeye19's picture

I totally agree.
If he believes the 5-7 (or however many) guys he is playing are capable of playing big minutes and give OSU the best chance to win, that's all that matters. I have never understood the critique really. Is he supposed to play guys that he doesn't trust? Is he supposed to play his bench just for the sake of playing his bench? The guy's record speaks for itself. He can do whatever he wants with his personnel as far as I'm concerned.
OSU is extremely lucky to have a quality coach like Matta and I wouldn't trade him for anyone.

btalbert25's picture

Exactly, the team did make it to the final four last year without a lot of depth.  I think this team is really lucky to have him for sure.  He took Xavier to an Elite 8, something that program had never done and they had some pretty good players and teams of the years.  That means Pete Gillian and Skip Prosser, guys though to be great coaches, never took an X team beyond the Sweet 16. Here he's taken a team to the title game and another to the final four.  He's had the number 1 overall draft pick, a player of the year, and a fine player like Sullinger who just may be a big surprise pick for this years draft.  Matta is really good.  I know X fans who said why would he want to go to Ohio State, X is a better basketball program, and at the time they were absolutely right.  He's taken Ohio State basketball from the basement to the penthouse. 

Unky Buck's picture

I think that's a fair argument. I have never thought about it like that. Definitely something to think about. I think the counter argument against that, though, and why I tend to argue for playing the bench players, is that when you have an injury, have guys getting in foul trouble consistently, or have a few guys leaving the team at the end of the season, you don't have any players with experience in any of those cases. I like knowing that we have guys that will be ready to step in when called upon. So yeah, to me, getting a rotation of about 8 or 9 guys in there, and not just in mop up time when the game is out of hand, is pivotal to future success. Matta has been exceptional in bucking this trend, but it can catch up to him at any point.

Rock over London; Rock on Chicago. Timex: It takes a lickin' but keeps on tickin'

d5k's picture

Its a myth. He plays exactly the number of players that he can rely on to play good defense without being a liability on offense. He played a ton of guys in the Oden Conley year. Turner year we had like 7 scholarships. Then the next year we had extremely reliable guards and craft sully and thomas were the only freshmen good enough to play. The others transferred a year later except Smith who improved enough to play. Then you had the freshmen last year who showed some flashes but not enough to supplant the big 4 starters. If any of them could make a three or if Ross played good d it may have been a bigger rotation. Also couldnt play 2 bigs due to sully pick n roll d issues.

d5k's picture

It really depends on the dropoff when you bring in the next guy or if you can play matchups. But theres no valid criticism of Matta not putting undeveloped freshmen in for his senior and stud sophomores. But he will likely shut those critics up this year playing 8 guys with a lot of different styles of lineups.

Buckeye_Mafia's picture

In Matta We Trust!!
We are very spoiled with the coaches we currently have at tOSU...Be be awesome to have Meyer and Matta as head coadhes for another 5+ years...

"At critical moments throughout the season, we learned about the character of this football team.  This was a team of true character, of true resilience." -- President Barack Obama

osubuckeye4life's picture

It's sad that football season is over only a month from now (seems like the season just started). 
However, I'm very interested to see what the basketball team looks like without Willy B. and Sully.
Very pumped for the season!