The last season was a discordant and difficult one for Ohio State basketball. A very young roster full of highly regarded freshman failed to gel, and the Buckeyes struggled through the gauntlet of Big Ten play.
When the dust settled, the Buckeyes missed the NCAA Tournament, and perhaps even worse, four members of Ohio State’s heralded 2015 recruiting classes decided to transfer. Suddenly, the Buckeyes had gaping roster holes to fill, especially at backup point guard, but little time in a recruiting cycle to fill them.
To top it off, longtime top assistant coach Jeff Boals took the head coaching job at Stony Brook.
But nobody was brooding at Big Ten Media Day. Coach Thad Matta, along with team leaders Jae’Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop, were optimistic. And there’s still plenty of reason to be. “I think that we've got a pretty good vibe right now in our program, just in terms of the mindset, the energy in practice, the cohesiveness that we're competing every day”, Matta said from his podium remarks.
“Last year, whenever you lose five seniors and you lose the best guard in college basketball, that's a hard adjustment when you go into practice. We were more along the lines of trying to feel our guys out, get an understanding of what they can do and how they can do it and who plays well together, where this year the mindset is just a heck of a lot different in terms of just do it or you won't play.” This is a much more experienced squad, and now, the expectations and mindset will be totally different.
Here’s some of the highlights we took away from the event:
- I asked Matta if he was planning on redshirting any of the four players in the 2016 recruiting class, but he said it’s too early to make that decision. “In my mind today I think all of them can contribute in one way or another”, he said, adding that he “ I really, really like what the new guys have brought.”
- The player that I thought might have the best chance of redshirting is Andre Wesson, a three-star wing. Matta added that he’s working to get himself in better shape, but praised his floor stretching ability, as well as his high basketball IQ, noting that Wesson took three charges in his high school championship game.
- One under-the-radar player that drew a lot of praise from the players, along with Thad Matta, is JUCO transfer PG C.J. Jackson. Jackson’s ability to hit open shots, play within Ohio State’s offense, and share the basketball were noted by all three. Tate also noted that he’s the best NBA2K player on the team. Don’t be surprised if Jackson ends up being an important rotational player this season.
- I also asked Matta if the program had reevaluated their recruiting after the 2015 transfers. Matta said that while they are always analyzing recruiting, “One thing that I've found in recruiting, however long I've been recruiting, 20, 25 years, whatever it is, I've never had two recruits go the same way in terms of the process of the recruiting”, which might limit the ability to draw sweeping conclusions from what happened.
- Matta also added that “You look at the top 50 greatest NBA players of all time. One guy transferred out of the top 50. And I think that there's a commitment level. You know who that was?” (I guessed Larry Bird, which he said was the correct answer). I’m not 100% sure I buy his justification here, but there you go.
- Many fans, including myself, criticized the Big Ten for moving Media Day and future basketball tournaments to East Coast cities like D.C. and New York. After all, both cities are far away from most schools, and are much more expensive to travel to, especially if you’re young. And to be fair, this event was less attended than other media events I have been to in Chicago. But don’t look for this to change in the future, as Jim Delany added that 20% of the Big Ten’s alumni base lives in this area, and they expect that future events, including, I assume, future basketball tournaments, will be held along the East Coast.
- I asked Jim Delany if the Big Ten would consider protecting certain rivalry games (like say, Ohio State-Michigan), so they would occur twice every year. He said that those conversations have happened, but there hasn’t been a “groundswell” to support changing the rules. There are competitive reasons, after all, to not want to play Michigan or Indiana twice a year. Don’t expect that, or the number of Big Ten conference games, to change in the near future.
- Jae’Sean Tate has a very cute puppy. You all need to know this.
You can watch our interviews below, where we discuss Marc Loving, the best places to get pizza on campus, which freshman are looking strong, and more:
Live with Keita Bates-DiopPosted by Land-Grant Holy Land - For Ohio State fans on Thursday, October 13, 2016
Live with Jae'Sean TatePosted by Land-Grant Holy Land - For Ohio State fans on Thursday, October 13, 2016
Live with Ohio State Coach Thad MattaPosted by Land-Grant Holy Land - For Ohio State fans on Thursday, October 13, 2016