By Matt McCoy
If you want to find evidence of what Thad Matta has done for the Ohio State basketball program, just drive by the Schottenstein Center. The Buckeyes host number one Indiana on Sunday, and as early as Wednesday, the tents started popping up as students line up to get the best seats in the Nuthouse for the nationally televised showdown. The scene was similar days prior to the Buckeye/Michigan match-up last month.
Certainly the change made in the 2010-11 season to move the student section courtside helped create these big game campouts, but it's more than that. Even if the same system were in place a decade ago, you would never have seen the same enthusiasm.
Matta has elevated the program on the court with five Big Ten championships and two Final Fours and in turn has elevated it off the court. Buckeye basketball games, like Sunday--are a happening. The next goal is to pack the place for every game.
I'm not sure whether former Buckeye assistant and current Illinois coach John Groce has done the Buckeyes a favor or not. We'll find out Sunday.
The No. 1 Hoosiers will be in a bad mood when they face the Buckeyes after blowing a 14 point second half lead and losing to the Illini at the buzzer 74-72. If you haven't seen the winning play, I have it posted below. The Hoosiers allowed an inexcusable uncontested lay-up off an inbounds pass. The Illini's Tyler Griffey was initially being guarded by Christian Watford but got caught in a switch and no one picked up Griffey. It looks to me like Tyler Zeller should have taken Griffey away. After the game The Indianapolis Star reports that Indiana coach Tom Crean would not say who was at fault.
"It was a broken play for them,'' Crean said in the Star. "We weren't going to (take a timeout) and let them set up and win the game on a lob. They were out of timeouts, we had two; I wouldn't change that for a second. We just didn't communicate well. We didn't communicate a switch there at the end.''
It's funny--people always talk about whether a coach should take a timeout in a late game situation on offense. We heard it this week following Ohio State's loss to Michigan---But if you've followed Thad Matta, most of his late game timeouts are for defense. Endings like this are the reason why.
Another thrilling finish
It's been a rough year for the Ohio State women's basketball team but Jim Foster's group won Thursday in double-overtime over Wisconsin thanks to another improbable finish.
Down by four in the closing seconds, Taylor Hill was fouled shooting a 3-pointer. After making the first two to make it 52-50, she intentionally missed the last one, hoping for an offensive rebound basket to tie the game. The prayer was answered when Ameryst Alston wrestled the ball away and made a circus shot in the lane at the buzzer. It's pretty amazing. If you haven't seen it, check it out.
Drop and give me 10!
Over on our sister station, AM 1230, Fox Sports Radio, Urban Meyer joined the Dan Patrick show to put the wraps on Ohio State's highly touted recruiting class. The interview is posted below, including Patrick asking Meyer about his non-use of the word Michigan. Meyer will only refer to the Maize and Blue as "our rival" or "the team up north."
Patrick asked Meyer if he's ever slipped up and used the M-word.
"Oh yeah, and I've got to do push-ups (when I say Michigan)," Meyer said over Patrick's laughter. "That's something we have around here. You pop right down and do 10 push-ups."
Meyer didn't talk about it on the Patrick interview but Ohio State did have one glitch in the class. Punter Johnny Townsend, who had committed to the Buckeyes in June, had a last minute change of heart. Townsend signed with Florida, leaving the Buckeyes without a full time punter. I guess the solution is...never have to punt.