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2006-2007 Ohio State nearly won a national title, but the 2010-2011 team was actually better

The 2010-11 Buckeyes fell in the Sweet 16, but statistics show they were a superior team to the Greg Oden and Mike Conley-led 2006-07 squad.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The 2006-07 and 2010-11 Ohio State men's basketball teams are generally regarded as the two best teams of the Thad Matta era. (The 2011-12 squad, which gets lost in the shuffle because it lost eight games, gets discounted a bit. But that's an article for another time.) Both the 2006-07 and 2010-11 squads claimed the Big Ten's regular season and tournament trophies.

The 2006-07 team's foundation was the 'Thad Five' -- one of the more prominent recruiting classes in recent college basketball lore -- that consisted of four freshmen (Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook, David Lighty) who immediately impacted the team in varying ways. (JUCO forward Othello Hunter was the fifth member of the class.) The newcomers were supplemented by veterans Jamar Butler, Ron Lewis, and Ivan Harris. What separates the 2006-07 squad from the 2010-11 team is the former fulfilled its immense promise in the postseason by reaching the national title game, falling to a historically great Florida team.

Four years later, Matta had himself another dominant squad that again relied on a mix of freshmen (Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas) and talented upperclassmen, the latter of which included three seniors (Lighty, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale) and junior William Buford. Ohio State won its first 24 games, with 17 of those victories by double digits. Unfortunately, this team fell short of Final Four glory, suffering a heart-breaking loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

So, regardless of their respective showings in the NCAA Tournament, which team was better? In order to find an answer, I used a wide range of statistics that depicted the two teams' overall season showings as well as their performance on offense and defense.

Overall


Record

Pythagorean Rating

Simple Rating

Strength of Schedule

Scoring Margin

2006-07

35-4

.9553 / 2nd

21.54 / 4th

9.03 / 13th

12.5 / 11th

2010-11

34-3

.9663 / 1st

25.84 / 1st

8.38 / 23rd

17.5 / 2nd

Stat notes: Team statistic listed first, national ranking listed second; Pythagorean Rating=Ken Pomeroy’s all-encompassing rankings measure; Simple Rating=Sports-Reference.com's rating that factors in average point differential and strength of schedule; SOS=Sports-Reference's strength of schedule measure.

Takeaways: With the exception of strength of schedule, the 2010-11 Buckeyes were the superior group across the board. The 2010-11 team's Pythagorean rating of .9663 trails only 2004-05 Illinois (which lost in the national title game to North Carolina) as the highest for any Big Ten team since the advent of Pomeroy's rankings in 2002.

Also, the 2010-11 team's Simple Rating score of 25.84 is the second-highest of any team since the 2007-08 season. The 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats, who won 38 straight games to begin their season before falling to Wisconsin in the Final Four, posted an SRS of 28.72.

Offense


Adjusted Offense

Field Goal %

3-point %

Effective Field Goal %

Assists Per Game

2006-07

119.6 / 3rd

47.2 / 41st

36.2 / 114th

53.8 / 39th

14.9 / 67th

2010-11

123.3 / 1st

49.4 / 2nd

42.3 / 1st

56.3 / 3rd

15.9 / 19th

Stat notes: Adjusted Offense=opponent-adjusted points scored per 100 possessions; Effective Field Goal %=shooting measure that accounts for a 3-point shot having more value than a 2-point shot.

Takeaways: The key distinction between the two teams offensively was that the 2010-11 squad was a sublime shooting outfit that featured a trio of elite 3-point snipers in Diebler (50 percent), Buford (44 percent), and Lighty (43 percent). Factor in Sullinger's paint dominance (55 percent on 2-pointers) and you have the recipe for an offensive juggernaut; the Buckeyes scored at least 90 points on seven occasions and racked up at least 80 points in 16 different contests.

The 2010-11 team also owned a Division I-best offensive rating (an estimate of points produced per 100 possessions) of 120. For comparison's sake -- and this is best digested with a grain or two of salt -- but the 73-win Golden State Warriors posted an NBA-best unadjusted offensive rating of 115.2 during the regular season, the highest offensive rating for an NBA squad since the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns notched an offensive rating of 116.1.

Defense


Adjusted Defense

Opponents' Field Goal %

Opponents' 3-pt %

Opponents' Effective Field Goal %

Rebounding Margin

2006-07

91.6 / 11th

40.4 / 28th

33.6 / N/A

40.4 / 30th

2.9 / 77th

2010-11

92.1 / 16th

42.4 / 132nd

34.0 / 162nd

48.3 / 144th

4.9 / 26th

Stat note: Adjusted Defense=Opponent-adjusted points surrendered per 100 possessions.

Takeaways: The 2006-07 Buckeyes did not dominate defensively in the same transcendent manner in which the 2010-11 team scored the basketball, but they were a damn good defensive outfit. Anchored by the mammoth Oden (a legit 7-footer with just over a 7'4 wingspan), the 2006-07 team held opponents to 60 points or fewer on 21 occasions. And while the 2010-11 team bested its counterpart in rebounding margin, the 2006-07 Buckeyes won the other four categories.

Conclusion

By counting categories, the 2010-11 Buckeyes win in a rout 10-5. An experienced, unselfish squad like the 2010-11 team showcased just how far an absurdly-efficient, sweet-shooting offense can carry a team. Unfortunately, the team also serves as an example as to how one bad shooting night can undo even a great team in the NCAA Tournament, which is what happened to Ohio State when it shot 33 percent from the field in a 62-60 defeat to Kentucky in the 2011 Sweet 16.

Such cruel fate is commonplace in the NCAA Tournament; remember, the 2006-07 team received a last-second 3-pointer by Lewis to force overtime in its second round game vs. Xavier and not only trailed Tennessee by 17 at halftime of its Sweet 16 matchup with the Volunteers, but needed Oden's rejection at the buzzer to swat away a potential game-winning shot.

In any case, the numbers clearly indicate that the 2010-11 Buckeyes are the top team of the Matta era.