Chris Holtmann, Tom Izzo Give Credit to Thad Matta For Ohio State Basketball Resurgence

By James Grega on January 9, 2018 at 8:35 am
Thad Matta

Ohio State's win over No. 1 Michigan State on Sunday in Columbus had many Buckeye fans reminiscing. 

The 80-64 win was the first time an unranked Buckeye team had defeated the No. 1 team in the country since Thad Matta did it his first year at Ohio State, when the Scarlet and Gray topped Illinois in the final game of the 2004-05 regular season. 

After falling to the Buckeyes, Spartan head coach Tom Izzo – who had his fair share of battles against Matta – said that while Chris Holtmann deserves credit for his role in turning the Ohio State program in a positive direction, Matta didn't exactly leave the cupboard bare in Columbus. 

"He's got some juniors and seniors that are damn good," Izzo said Sunday after the loss. "Chris has done a good job with them. (Keita) Bates-Diop is an effective, effective player.

"Then you add those two injuries," Izzo continued, talking about injuries to Bates-Diop and Jae'Sean Tate in Matta's final two seasons. "If you really look back on the number of teams, they were right in and just couldn't get over the hump. I thought he did a great job and I think Chris, (Thad) left him something nice to work with. I think (Holtmann) has done a good job of carrying that."

Izzo also dropped a not-so-subtle comment concerning Ohio State's dismissal of JaQuan Lyle, saying it was an addition by subtraction move by Matta before his own removal from the program. 

"I think Thad did the right thing getting rid of who he got rid of," Izzo said. "Sometimes, when you get caught with kids leaving early and the way things go, you take kids that maybe you shouldn't take. I have done that too. When that happens, it destroys a lot of things."

While Lyle is gone, Ohio State's victory over Michigan State was orchestrated by a number of Matta recruits, including Bates-Diop and Tate, who Holtmann has repeatedly praised throughout the season. 

Holtmann said following the victory over Michigan State that he planned on giving Matta a call to thank him for his role in building the Ohio State basketball program. 

"I will probably call him this week because I think Thad and his coaching staff – I want to be very clear on this and I want to make sure this is said, spoken and tweeted – Thad and his coaching staff deserve a ton of credit for recruiting a young man like Keita Bates-Diop and Jae'Sean Tate and Kam Williams, who is really coming into his own," Holtmann said. "Coach Matta and his staff deserve a ton of credit for recruiting those kind of people. They have embraced a new coaching staff and have done it the right way."

In the years that Matta was at the helm of the Ohio State program, the Buckeyes accomplished everything there was to accomplish, outside of a national title. Matta's teams appeared in a pair of Final Fours, won a number of Big Ten titles and even had a national player of the year in Evan Turner. 

Even though Ohio State collected a big win Sunday night, there is no denying the Buckeyes have a long way to go before they get back to the place Matta once had the Scarlet and Gray. Despite the steps it will take to get there, Izzo said he has no doubt Ohio State will get back to the upper tier of the Big Ten before too long.

"Ohio State, are you kidding me? We have proven you can have a good football team and a good basketball team, and so has Ohio State," Izzo said. "They have been a good basketball program. I don't see any reason why they can't build on that even more. You have a great administration and great support."

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