Ohio State legend Special K thinks the Buckeyes are still a work in progress. - USA TODAY Sports
We caught up with Buckeyes legend Clark Kellogg to talk Ohio State, Big Ten basketball, and more.
Clark Kellogg is a name that needs little introduction when it comes to Ohio State sports. The former Big Ten Most Valuable Player is synonymous with the Buckeyes basketball program and is a tremendous ambassador for both the program and the university, as CBS' lead national college hoops analyst and also in serving on the Advisory Board for the Capital One Cup. In this edition of 5 minutes in the Holy Land, we chat about his involvement with the cup (and what it's all about), where Ohio State stands after their 56-53 victory over arch rival Michigan, the state of Buckeye basketball, and much more.
Tell us a little bit about what your involvement with the Capital One Cup is and what you guys set out to do each year.
I serve on the Advisory Board of the Capital One Cup.This is year three of the cup which rewards the best Division One athletic programs for their cumulative on field performance across 39 total men's and women's sports (and actually every sport counts).
We just released the fall standings, after the fall sports' seasons concluded, and we've got Indiana, North Dakota State, and Alabama on top in the men's side, and North Carolina and Penn State tied on the women's side. And obviously we've got winter sports and spring sports that will ultimately determine who comes out on top. And that particular men's and women's program will receive a combined $400,000 in post graduate scholarships.
I'm excited to one combine excellence on the field with achievement in the classroom and valuing education. To be able to promote the Capital One Cup, to be associated with it, I think it's a preeminent award in college sports from a total athletic program standpoint. I'm looking forward to see who prevails this year. The last two years we've had Florida and Stanford win back-to-back cups on the men's and women's side respectively.
Is there a key for a program like Ohio State's to winning the cup? What does it take to be in the mix each year?
Obviously there's a premium placed on winning championships, but you earn points based on your finish in all of the sports. To me, it embodies the contribution that every sport makes to winning the cup. You have to have sustained excellence, and over a period time, to be in the running to win the cup. I like the fact that it's inclusive of the 39 sports across men's and women's program. And there's actually a men's program winner and a women's program winner. That to me makes it very fair and balanced across the board.
For all the talk of Ohio State having an uneven start, they've at least shown flashes against their best opponents of being able to play with teams of that caliber. Particularly given Ohio State's 56-53 victory over then Michigan, how well positioned are the Buckeyes moving into the meat and potatoes of Big Ten play?
Well, I'll tell you, the Big Ten is in my mind, perhaps the toughest conference in the country. Even though you have both Nebraska and Penn State both without a conference win as we speak. Northwestern, Iowa, and Illinois are all sitting at 1-3, all capable of beating just about anyone in the league. The other teams, Ohio State, Minnesota, Indiana, all quality teams. You've got Michigan State and then you've got Wisconsin, somewhat surprising sitting on top of the league at 4-0.
I think Ohio State is a work in progress. I still look at the Buckeyes' team as a team that could finish in the top 4, maybe higher if things go right and break right for them, but I think it's going to be tough to overtake Indiana, Michigan, or Minnesota. And clearly Wisconsin and Michigan State, along with Ohio State and Illinois, are going to be battling for a top four finish.
The narrative really all season for the Buckeye has been "who will be the team's second scorer?" We know Deshaun Thomas can score the ball, but especially given recent results, do you think Ohio State actually needs a defined number two guy or can someone different step up each night to fill that role?
Well, I think it's ideal to have that designated guy. Someone to be confident on his own to be your second scorer, your second double digit scorer. But you also can survive if you have somebody, or a number of players, share that role, depending on how well you play in the other areas. This team is built on defense,. Its defense has given it a chance to be where it is right now. If the offense can improve and they can establish a consistent second scorer, perhaps even a third scorer that can be a double digit performer, then that bodes extremely well because I think defensively Ohio State has a chance to be strong all season long. It's the offense that's going to determine how good this team becomes, in my mind.
At some point, defense will only carry you so far when it comes to the kind of competition you're going to face in the conference the rest of the way and ultimately in post season play. So the offense just has to continue to improve and they're going to need a couple of guys to be consistent point producers in addition to Deshaun Thomas to operate at their optimal level.
John Beilein's got arguably his best team at Michigan, but they're also a young bunch. We've obviously seen how hard it is to win in the Big Ten on the road. Do you think they've got the edge against the Buckeyes when the two teams rematch in early February, this time in Ann Arbor?
Well I think you always have to know that home court is huge in college basketball. I think it's worth a couple of three pointers in most cases. At some places, maybe even more than that. Clearly when you're playing at home, you have a bit of an advantage. The fact that Ohio State beat Michigan over a week ago will certainly resonate with the players when they regroup to meet Ohio State again, but it all comes down to performance after that. What motivates you motivates you, but then it's about execution and performance.
Michigan had a little bit of an off day but a lot of that was due to the defense Ohio State played. I thought the Buckeyes jumped on the defense hard and aggressively for the first 12 minutes of that game, and really that 12 minute period gave them a cushion that they were able to hold on to and get the win. I'm sure things will be a little different in terms of how Michigan comes out to start the game and after 40 minutes, we'll see if the result is any different.
We saw Trey Burke take that contested shot against Aaron Craft and you mentioned Ohio State being stout defensively, and Craft is a key component in making happen. I know a lot of fans were clamoring maybe for more playing time for Shannon Scott when Craft wasn't scoring the ball even though his play defensively may have been more than offsetting that.
Do you have any thoughts on whether or not there's a special sauce in terms of whether you can maybe not necessarily be an impact player on the offensive side of the ball but more than make up for that with leadership, intangibles, and on the defense end of things?
Well I think clearly you look at a players' strengths, and that's what Craft provides. He 's a guy who's going to be extremely impactful defensively every time he steps between the lines. And I think you have to look at he and Shannon Scott as two-in-one.
The fact that both of them are excellent defenders and can apply pressure and also can initiate and run offense for the Buckeyes. Neither one has been a consistent jump shooter or scorer but both have shown the ability to get to the basket and help their teammates get shots. I think you look at those two guys together and you've got a pretty potent point guard tandem and then on occasion, Thad will play them together. And when you talk about defensive pressure and handling the ball and making plays, you get an awful lot with those two on the floor. You do lose a bit in terms of perimeter shooting, but they more than make up for it in terms of the things they do defensively and running the offense.
So I think you look at the fact that together, as a pair of point guards, they can impact winning in a great way and that's what coaches and fans look for... Well that's what coaches look at, and that's what fans have to be able to look at too.
How would you assess the Ohio State basketball program under Thad Matta, in this his ninth year stewarding the program?
Well Thad Matta's had a terrific eight years. He's put Ohio State basketball where it's one of the top 5, top 7 programs in the country based on what he's been able to do: multiple Big Ten titles, a couple of trips to the Final Four, and continuing to recruit at a high level. Not only are his kids playing well on the court, they're doing well off the court.
So to me as an alumnus, I couldn't be happier or prouder of what Thad has been able to do and what the program has been able to do. I think it's in great hands, I really do. Thad and his staff, the resources are there, the quality of the kids, students players that Thad is bringing in. All of that gives you a chance to win Big Ten championships consistently, and if you do that, and you're in the hunt for those, that means you're playing in the tournament with a chance to make deep runs in March.
So all systems go from my standpoint. I think he's done a fantastic job there.
In closing, which teams from the Big Ten are best equipped to be there when everything's said and done in March? Is there anyone in particular that jumps out in your mind?
Well I think you start with Indiana and Michigan. In part, because they have the ability to score the ball from multiple positions. Again, I think as you get into the tournament and advance, most of the teams that advance are going to be good defensively. What separates teams, I think, is the ability to score the basketball from multiple positions and in different ways.
Indiana has a low post scorer in Cody Zeller, who's also able to go outside a little bit, and multiple options around him. Michigan has something similar to that, though younger in terms of experience. You can also never discount a Wisconsin team, and you never discount a Tom Izzo-led Michigan State team. I think he and Bo Ryan are two of the elite coaches in college basketball and sometimes they're a bit underrated.
But I think Indiana, Michigan, and Minnesota right now as we speak look like the teams that are built for a deep tournament run. With Wisconsin and Michigan State being the other teams that might have a chance to go far. Ohio State and Illinois, to me, are still works in progress, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them have good postseasons as well.