Thad Matta is entering his 11th season at the helm of the Ohio State basketball program, making him the third-longest tenured coach in the Big Ten. He has taken the Buckeyes to the national title game, won or shared five regular season conference titles, five conference tournament titles, and earned a trip to the NCAA tournament in eight of the past nine years. So it was somewhat peculiar that Matta was asked just four questions during his appearance at the podium at Big Ten media day in Chicago last Thursday.
The Ohio State head coach touched on his general feelings about the team after a week of practices and the efforts to make up for the losses of last season's three top scorers in LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., and Aaron Craft.
"I've told people we're going to be a different team," Matta said. "We'll play a little bit different, but I've been very pleased with one week down now in the season with the direction we're heading."
Highly touted freshman D'Angelo Russell drew high praise from Matta, who noted that the 6'4" combo guard has played on big stages at the high school and AAU levels.
"All I can say right now is I'm very pleased with how he's playing in practice, the strides he's making," Matta answered. "He's doing a great job of kind of taking the court over every time he steps on the court."
The addition of senior Anthony Lee, who transferred to Ohio State from Temple for his final season of eligibility, has given the Buckeyes more options when it comes to their big men, and Matta seemed excited about how this was ramping up the intensity in practice.
"The competitive nature in practice has been probably something we haven't had in a while, and Anthony definitely factors into that in terms of what he's bringing to the table," he said. "Those guys now know if they don't come to play, they'll get embarrassed in practice."
Matta also addressed the Big Ten's national championship drought. Despite being seen as one of the premier basketball conferences in the country the past few seasons, Michigan State's victory over Florida to claim the crown was the Big Ten's last, and was all the way back in 2000.
"I don't think that you can judge the conference per se by that we haven't won," he said. "I'm very pleased with where Big Ten basketball is, and yeah, I'd love to see one of us win one, that's for sure."
Though his time was short, it was apparent that Matta is looking forward to the challenge of trying to mesh a group of experienced seniors with a highly-touted group of newcomers. The Buckeyes will open the season against UMass-Lowell on November 14th, the first of five straight home games to tip things off.