One of the criticisms facing Thad Matta during this time of turmoil is his failure to retain Ohio talent. While only a fool would expect Ohio State to compete against Duke and Kansas in recruiting, No. 16 Wisconsin rolls into Columbus Thursday night featuring four Ohioan contributors.
That contingent is led by Badgers senior forward Nigel Hayes, a product of Toledo Whitmer High School.
Matta didn't offer Hayes until just before his senior season in 2012. Matta said Wednesday he "recruited the heck" out of the Whitmer star. Let Hayes tell it, and Matta didn't really believe he could be the stretch power forward he craved.
Hayes ended up in Madison, Wisconsin. The most outspoken member of "college basketball's most political locker room," has let people know over the years he's more than content with his decision.
He added historical context ahead of tonight's Big Ten tilt.
“Freshman year [if] you asked me this, probably double fist clench, you know, high blood pressure talking about how I thought I was good enough to go there and I’m mad,” Hayes said.
“Now — everything happens for a reason — I’m where I’m at.”
Again, Matta offered Hayes, so it remains unclear what prevented Hayes heading to Columbus, if that's what he wanted.
Senior Badger forward Vitto Brown, a former three-star prospect from Bowling Green, Ohio, echoed sentiments similar to those of his front court mate's:
“I feel like, in retrospect and at the time when I was getting recruited, this was the best place for me,” Brown said. “ Obviously we've had some accomplishments that have helped further that point. I don't really hold it against [Ohio State]. It’s kind of a ‘your loss’ thing, and we move on from there.”
The two can say what they will. Everyone knows they'll both savor one last chance to put the screws to the local team in front of a home-state crowd.
The fun starts at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN.