As selection Sunday approaches, there is one team that nobody wants to see in their bracket right now. It’s Ohio State. The Buckeyes capped off the Big Ten regular season championship over the weekend after a beat down against Wisconsin. In the process, they showed everyone around the country that they are the most complete team in college basketball. The Buckeyes have everything that they need to make a deep March run. They have one of the best coaches in the country, they’ve got senior leadership, perimeter scoring, and one of the best players in America in Jared Sullinger. More than likely OSU will head into the tournament as the number one overall seed and will have a great chance to cut the nets down in Houston.
Thad Matta joined 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis with Dan Dakich to talk about how much of an accomplishment it was to capture the Big Ten regular season title, what he thinks of some of the doubters that think there major wins weren’t as strong as others, what Aaron Craft has meant to the success of the team, if he thought Jared Sullinger would be this good so soon, and what he makes of JaJuan Johnson being named Big Ten Player of the Year.
How much of an accomplish it is to capture the Big Ten regular season championship:
“I think it’s funny because you have to turn your mind around when it’s over because to go through a two and a half month stretch, 18 games, nine at home, nine on the road – you played, you coached – that’s hard to do. You look at the ups and downs that you go through and to me that’s a great achievement.”
What he makes of some of the naysayers that doubt how good his team is this year:
“It’s funny and I told somebody this the other day. You may be old enough to remember this song by Rick Nelson where he says I learned my lesson well, you can’t please everyone so you’ve gotta please yourself. I found that in coaching. You’ve got to number one keep your circle tight with your team and you’ve got to enjoy the ride. If you don’t enjoy it you can be miserable. I think that’s the thing, I’ve always wanted our guys, let’s just keep pleasing ourselves and not worry about what anyone else is saying about us.”
How he was able to pry Aaron Craft away from Tennessee:
“The funny thing was I had watched Aaron play so many times because we were watching Jordan, Jared, J.D. and they were all on the same team. As the summer ended I was like ‘wow I like that kid, but I want to watch him play three, four, or five times to high school.’ Well he committed to Tennessee and we get a call one day that he decommitted and I called Jared and said ‘what do you think of this kid.’ He said ‘coach you’ve got to take him. He wins.’ Aaron’s one of those guys you love coaching him because a lot like you when you were at Indiana, when you put that uniform on, you knew what it meant and Aaron definitely has that in him. When he committed to us we told him you’ve gotta work on your shot and you’ve got to shoot the ball better. His percentage has shown he has definitely done that.”
Whether or not he thought Jared Sullinger would be this good so soon.
“I said this when he was coming in last year I thought he was probably going to be the best player productivity wise that we ever brought in here as a freshman. We’ve had some good players come through, but the thing I always loved about Jared is that he always won. The bigger the game was, the better he played. Being around him since he was in fifth or sixth grade and watching him develop, I thought he had a chance to be special. His numbers are incredible and the fact that he’s only lost two college games in his career so far and that is impressive.”
If he thinks Sullinger will be back next season:
“I think he will come back. I’m hoping and I think Jared knows he has some work to do now. When the season ends we can look at all his options but he’s one of those kids that enjoy college and he knows talking with our former players that are in the NBA what it’s all about at the next level. It’s a different world. I definitely have always been this way with guys, I want wants best for them so whatever that is we’ll point them in the right direction.”
Whether or not he thinks Sullinger should’ve been name Big Ten Player of the Year:
“Obviously I coach him and know him and I think he should’ve been. But with that said JaJuan Johnson is a special player. I’ve watched him for four years and just his ability to make difficult shots I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player like that. You always want your players to do well, but I understand why JaJuan got it and happy for him.”