Thursday, November 11, 2004

Ohio State Preview (per request)

This one goes out to Stats.

Ohio State's all-transfer backcourt struggled at the start of last season and never managed to turn things around. This year, the Buckeyes must replace center Velimir Radinovic and adjust to new coach Thad Matta's system.

Matta claims he'll bring an up-tempo attack similar to the one he employed at Xavier. Long term that's a good idea, but it may just exacerbate matters until Ohio State weathers the sanctions brought down for the previous regime's payments to players and academic malfeasance.

Rick Pitino insisted on pressing full-court for 40 minutes with his first, undermanned Kentucky team. They suffered some terrible losses (150-95 at Kansas with my young self in attendance), but Pitino had the authority to keep player and booster grousing to a minimum. He started turning things around the very next year with Jamal Mashburn.

Matta has neither Pitino's reputation or his skill as a recruiter. The NCAA sanctions are sure to cripple Matta's recruiting efforts whether by limiting scholarships, visits, travel, or a combination of all three. It will be years before Ohio State becomes a college basketball again, and, if Thad Matta attempts to run with more talented teams (even though the talent level is declining throughout the Big 10; Wisconsin signee Joe Krabbenhoft was the highest rated high school senior signed by a Big 10 school this week and he's not even a consensus top 50 recruit) the volume and severity of losses could cripple his tenure there.

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