Thad Matta was in Chicago today for Big Ten men's basketball media days and talked about a variety of topics related to his team, expected to be a contender for the Big Ten championship.
Matta likes his team, especially the way they're shooting and scoring in practice, but admitted to a nervous anticipation of the coming season. And while Matta doesn't believe the new hand-check rules will alter Aaron Craft's game too much, he is focused on Ohio State's ability to take care of the basketball and said the team needs to do a good job of that.
Most importantly, Matta said everyone on the team made strides. Even Amir? WOOOOO
Full transcript of Thad Matta's remarks:
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Coach Thad Matta.
COACH MATTA: Obviously exciting time, getting ready to get started in what's going to be hopefully another not only great Big Ten season but great college basketball season, and I think we're all kind of in the same mode of anticipation, nervous anticipation of how our guys are going to play.
But that's what we're up against right now.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. I had a question about Aaron Craft and the way he defends. How will the new rules impact the way he is on the ball or will it at all?
COACH MATTA: From what I've seen thus far, I don't think it's going to affect him. I think if they stay with what they're saying, it's going to affect the bad defenders, because they can't move their feet as well. And I say that in the most complimentary way to Aaron because I think the thing he does better than anybody in the country is moves his feet.
He's got the ability laterally to really move.
He's got great lower body strength. So I don't really see that being an issue for him in terms of he's not a guy that grabs and holds, because he's always there with his feet. So I think he should be in pretty good shape.
Q. What's the dynamic of your offense this year? Obviously you're losing a guy who shot the ball a lot and scored a lot last year in Deshaun.
COACH MATTA: I think you're exactly right. Deshaun Thomas had the ability to make difficult shots, and we gave Deshaun a lot of opportunities to score. The thing that I've seen to this point so far is everybody on the team has made drastic improvements offensively. And that's exciting for me.
I think the dynamics of our offense will be very unselfish play. Ball movement, a lot of body movement. We've got length. We've got size. We've got different guys that can post. I think both Amir Williams and Trey McDonald have been a lot more productive down low, which obviously adds strength to our offense.
Q. Twice in the last two years, players after games, talking to your players, have mentioned Jeff Boals, your assistant. Could you talk about what he brings to the Ohio State program, please?
COACH MATTA: I think Jeff is a terrific coach. He's a guy that has great passion for the university, has great passion for the kids, and that's something that I look at as I'm putting a staff together. His knowledge of the game. He's a lot like myself, have been a lot of different places and have had the opportunity to learn from a lot of different people.
But he's a tireless worker. He's one of those guys that truly enjoys every phase of college coaching on a daily basis. Guys like me sometimes get real tired of certain things. It never fazes him. And I think that's kind of the beauty.
And the other thing I've always said, Jeff's a very intelligent person. I like intelligent people. And he was a biology major from OU, and just a great family man as well.
Q. What are the first couple of things coming into this season that you are looking to establish with your team and the personnel involved?
COACH MATTA: First and foremost, trying to figure out how the game's going to be played. I say that coming off a deal we had last Saturday where I didn't know what to tell them in terms of how it's going to be. I think that's going to be an issue for everybody across -- but once that's figured out, I think our defense has got to be our staple. We've got to rebound the basketball.
I think with our ability to score in transition, getting stops is something that's important. We can't score when we're taking the ball out of the net.
And then I think the other thing with the group that we have, a very hopefully intellectual offensive team, I'm hoping with this team the ability to take care of the basketball is a huge priority and we do a great job with that.
Q. Maybe assess the way you feel the Big Ten will shape out this year. I know it's very early, but how do you see it turning out?
COACH MATTA: Well, somebody asked me the other day, they said, “What do you think this year?” And I said, “Honestly, being in the league nine years, I don't think it's going to be any different than it has been in the past, just in terms of the grind.” And I've said this about the Big Ten. I think the Big Ten's about having the ability to get knocked down and getting back up and fighting again. Because it's such a great league. You've got great players. Great coaches. Great fans. There's going to be challenges.
You look at teams that can get on a roll. Teams that can stay healthy. You gotta look at how the schedule plays out, who plays who, those types of things. But I think you're looking at a lot like it's been the last couple of years in terms of it has the potential to come down to the wire the last -- I know for sure two years, because we've been involved, and both of them have come down basically to the last shot to determine -- an 18-game season for 12 different teams, the title is determined on the last second of it. How fitting is that for a great league?
Q. John Groce was an assistant for you. Are you surprised by anything he's done as a head coach? Was there anything that stuck out when he was an assistant that you thought he could coach this well at this level?
COACH MATTA: No, I think -- I've been fortunate to have a lot of coaches go on and become head coaches and are doing very well right now.
But John had all the characteristics that I felt -- not that I'm the judge of it, but the things that he would do on a daily basis. And I always say to myself, if he gets the opportunity, I think he's going to be a heck of a head coach.
And obviously that's what he's done. I mean from OU to now Illinois, I couldn't be happier for him and the job he's doing. And you know this about John: He's going to grind it out and find ways to keep the Illinois basketball where it's been.
Q. How do you think the new rules are going to affect the game, short term and long term?
COACH MATTA: I don't know yet. Honestly, I don't want to avoid the question. I've gotta see it -- I've gotta see it for a couple of weeks. And I want to see it across the board, if that makes sense. And then I think the coaches that I've spoken with, we have to take -- if it's going to be this way -- now some guys are saying our exhibition game wasn't that way, it was just like it always is. Others are saying, oh my.
So for all of us, I think we're looking at saying, okay, we've got about a two-, three-week window where we have to look at this and analyze. It may be subtle changes, it may be big changes that we have to make just in terms both offensively and defensively to adjust and as all coaches try to do gain an advantage.
Q. You got a lot of questions on Media Day in Columbus about who is going to make shots for you guys. After the last three weeks of practice and the scrimmage you had last Saturday, how are your percentages and what's your impression of how your guys are going to shoot?
COACH MATTA: It's always -- in practice it's that double edge, because when the percentages are high, I'm mad at the defense. When the percentages aren't, I'm mad at the guy shooting.
So I like the way we're shooting the ball, just in terms of percentage-wise of where we've been in the past going back, looking, analyzing numbers. Now obviously you guys do it when the lights are on.
But I think guys have appeared to this point to have a different demeanor, different approach in terms of how important shooting is to me and the welfare of this team's success.
Q. If these rules kind of stay as they are, how can that possibly affect recruiting moving forward as far as what kind of players you need to win?
COACH MATTA: I haven't thought about that one. I'll go back to Tom's question, I need a couple of weeks to figure this out. I didn't even -- I gotta see it through. And like I say, we're going to adjust to it. And we want everything that's best for the game. And if the higher powers above believe this is going to help the game, I'm all for it. I'd love to score 90 points a game on average. If that was the case, then I'm going to need some offensive firepower I guess in recruiting.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Coach.