Offense first. Whether you like calling it a "Matta offense" the Buckeye coach works with basic sets. How else explain why Northwestern consistently played us tough except that Carmody knew what to expect and had his ever changing roster ready to face Matta? For the first 2/3 of the season just concluded the OSU offense was basically Thomas left, Thomas right and hope for rain (old baseball joke). This wasn't because everyone else on the roster was totally inept. Nor was it because no one else had learned the playbook yet - Craft and Smith were juniors; Thompson, Williams, Scott and Ravenel were in their second year at OSU. The problem was that Matta was trying to play square ball with round pegs. Eventually some of the pegs started fitting better but if the offense improved it was not because Matta started utilizing individual strengths, it was because players became a bit better at what Matta wanted them to do. I neither remember nor care what sets Matta ran seven years ago, my short-term memory tells me that for the last several years the OSU offense has had some common traits. This is not necessarily a criticism of Matta as an offensive coach, anymore than saying that Syracuse plays zone defense is a criticism of Beiheim. If our offense was so potentially variable why was WSU so ready for us with just two days preparation? Our offense shot 31% for the game against a defense that had been letting teams shoot 40%. The shots we took weren't that bad, there were a lot of open looks and they were shots our coach did not mind (we attempted 10 threes in the first half and even more after intermission - we were not being steered away from threes). WSU gambled that OSU would not make those shots and they were right, we didn't. We went down missing those shots because in a Matta offense that's what gets taken.
(BTW, drive-n-dish and drive-n-kick are already parts of a Matta offense and have been. Whether it will work better next year than it did this year will depend on whether we set better interior screens, and whether we hit mid-range jumpers any better)
Defensively we finished the year ranked 40th in field goal percentage defense - not great - and 102nd in 3 point percentage defense - not good. These final numbers do not reflect whether we improved. For that we can look at stats from our final games: WSU made 40% of its threes, better than the percentage we gave up on the year, better than the percentage they had shot on the year. AZ shot 44% overall, 33% on 3s, both slightly worse than they had averaged on the year. ISU made 48% of 25 3s - needless to say we made them look very good. Iona and WIS struggled (though anyone who saw the Badgers very next game should question whether what happened in the B1G title games was good defense by us or really atrocious offense by WIS), MSU made 43% of its threes. In fact, looking at the latter part of the season we pretty much alternated good games defensively and bad. On the whole Kenpom likes us, to the tune of ranking us #9 defensively, but anyone who watched us in consecutive games at any point in the season including the end knows that by and large we were unable to string together consecutive 40 minute defensive successes. We were 87th in rebound margin because too often we were not in position to get missed shots. Our defense was premised on creating turnovers and in that we did very very well but when we didn't create a turnover we did not do particularly well in preventing opponents from scoring. We did not hold a single Big Dance opponent to under 70, including the woeful Iona Gaels. We blew double digit second half leads against both ISU and AZ. The idea that we became a rock solid defensive unit is more myth than fact.
Can we become better next year? Of course. And I agree that it should not be hard to improve on Thomas' defensive contributions. But unless someone else contributes in the middle or Williams greatly improves (which he hasn't done in his first two years) our interior defense will be weaker without Ravenel. There is no human way a team can be the best defensive unit in the country with what can reasonably be expected from our centers. And if we want to go small - which was one of the things that helped us towards the end of the year - it is not clear that Q can do what Thomas did. #1 defense in the country? We're all entitled to dream big and dreams sometimes do come true. But dreaming big and downvoting someone who calls a dream a dream is just nasty. Try to be nicer than that DSK.