Ohio State clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title last evening with a big time victory over a very determined and upstart Illinois team. Sorry Illini fans, but your bubble may have just burst. And though I hate to say it, Thad Matta has done a fantastic job with this team. I have always thought that Thad was a way overrated coach who rode very talented teams to success. And yes, he has a talented squad. But a top 10 and Big Ten champion team talent wise? That is for heavy debate.
From what I have gathered over the years, there are three major elements to being a successful college coach. First of all recruiting. If you do not get yourself a team with some talent, it will not matter how good of a coach you are. You need a little talent to be successful. Thad has always been exceptional at bringing in great talent. Remember Greg Oden and Mike Conley? They would be seniors this year if they had stayed. Secondly, pre game preparations and getting your team ready to play. Thad has done a great job with this and you can see that his players look ready to go each and every game from both a mental and physical standpoint. Then lastly, in game coaching is a key. This has always been Thad’s major flaw in my eyes. And for the most part, real close games for the Buckeyes this year have gone in their opponents favor. So this is still an element that Thad needs to improve upon if he wants to get to a 2nd Final Four.
To praise Coach Matta a little more though, do not forget that Buckeye’s star and Naismith Award hopeful Evan Turner missed over 4 and a half weeks of play this season. So Thad has strung together a very successful season with his best player missing a good chunk of it. While Turner was out, the Buckeyes lost 3 of 4 Big Ten battles and looked to be all but out of Big Ten title contention. People forget the way that both Michigan State and Purdue were coasting at that time. Neither had suffered the major injuries yet (Lucas and Hummel). Either way, Thad calmed his players and they have really turned on the jets here down the stretch. This team is a definite 2 or 3 seed in the tourney and should play deep into the 2nd weekend of the Madness.
The beautiful thing for the Buckeyes.. not only do they have a great nucleus returning, but boy do they have a talented group coming in. It is a gem of a class led by Jared Sullinger. Jared was shown by ESPN cameras last evening in attendance at the game. Buckeye fans, get used to seeing that face. Sullinger will be an instant impact player next season and really be a force down low. I know that for many of my loyal followers, you remember my post a couple of months ago when I pretty much guaranteed a Final Four bid for the Buckeyes next season.
Now are you starting to believe? Realize that 4 starters on this team are juniors. At least 3 of them will be back next year, and possibly 4, barring whether Turner decides to go pro. Turner’s decision will be a tough one and I would be unsure what to do in his position. He will have a lot of thinking to do after March Madness concludes for his squad. Hopefully he really takes the time to discuss with his family, coaches, and teammates and is not to heavily pushed by anyone. The agents will be coming and I hope they do not pressure Evan to make a quick decision without thinking things through.
Either way, this team will be loaded next season with or without their star, Mr. Turner. Strap in Buckeye fans and get used to rushing the court. More Big Ten titles and possibly bigger things are to come in the near future.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.