Ohio State Buckeyes Appear Poised to Take Over No. 1 Ranking

January 14, 2011 – 7:00 am by Eric Schmoldt

It’s been a good couple days — OK, a good season, but the last couple days in particular — for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

They took care of business at Michigan on Wednesday night to remain unbeaten on the season. They watched as Duke, the only team ranked ahead of them, fell from those unbeaten ranks. And then one night later, they saw the Purdue Boilermakers lose at Minnesota, leaving Ohio State as the last remaining Big Ten team without a conference loss.

Take care of Penn State this weekend and the Buckeyes are probably looking at the No. 1 ranking. And why not? Throughout the non-conference slate they proved they could blow teams out and now, in the early goings of conference play, Ohio State is showing it can win the tight battles.

Ohio State coach Thad Matta joined ESPN Radio with The Scott Van Pelt Show to discuss his team showing its ability to win close games, the unusual makeup of his team, what it would mean at this juncture to be the No. 1 team in the land, freshman phenom Jared Sullinger and what things the Buckeyes need to improve.

His team’s response to win close games after so many blowouts early on:

“Very encouraging. I think that in all these games we were down at the half. … We’ve had some opportunities at the free throw line to kind of extend it and haven’t been able to do that, but our guys have found ways to win basketball games. It’s a very competitive group of guys, which I love.”

Combining experience with young talent:

“It’s funny, it’s the oddest makeup of a team. You’ve got three seniors, one junior, no sophomores and six freshmen. It’s a little bit unique in that regard. I give our upperclassmen a ton of credit for bringing the young guys along. … It is a good blend when you’ve got four guys that have started before and played in big games and big environments.”

His thoughts on potentially being No. 1:

“I’ve always said, in regards to the rankings, I want to be there at the end. I know this, with the way college basketball is … the parity in college basketball today is incredible. … Our thing has just been, ‘Hey, let’s be better today than we were yesterday.'”

On the breakout of Jared Sullinger as a true freshman:

“He’s got tremendous size and skill for his size. People don’t realize that he is 6-foot-9 at 265 pounds. Probably the biggest thing is he’s got a great understanding, for as young as he is, how to play the game of basketball. … He knows what he’s good at and knows how to utilize his skills.”

What the Buckeyes need to get better at:

“There’s probably not enough time to name all the things I want to be better at. I’m still looking for consistency for 40 minutes. We’ve shown in stretches we can play very, very good basketball. But a lot of that probably has to do with our opponents and who were playing. … We always say ‘Give me consistency over greatness.'”

Listen to Thad Matta on ESPN Radio here

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