Andy Gottesman / Multimedia editor
As the Ohio State men’s basketball team prepares to head to Indianapolis for this weekend’s annual Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeyes say they are hopeful their history of success will help them combat the unpredictability that comes along with potentially playing three games in three days against three opponents.
A history of success
Since arriving at OSU in 2004, coach Thad Matta has been no stranger to success in the Big Ten Tournament, having coached his team to the championship game of the tournament in four of the past five years. In that span, Matta’s teams have won two Big Ten Tournament titles, including last season’s 90-61 win against Minnesota.
“I don’t know what we do differently to get into that spot,” Matta said. “It’s just probably some luck and good fortune, I guess.”
Matta said he wouldn’t necessarily judge his team’s performance based on whether it brings home a second consecutive conference tournament title, but rather the effort that his team demonstrates.
“I just want us to go over there and play better, the best that we possibly can,” Matta said. “When you get into these situations, you learn a lot about your team.”
OSU fifth-year senior forward David Lighty said just improving wasn’t enough for him.
“I’m trying to win,” Lighty said. “Playing good and winning at the same time — it’s great. I think if we keep playing like we’ve been the last five or six games, it’s going to be pretty hard to beat us.”
Fear of the unknown
Receiving a first-round bye as the No. 1 team in the tournament is beneficial for the Buckeyes because they have one fewer team to beat to win the tournament. But, it also leaves OSU unsure of which opponent it is preparing for in the first week leading up to the tournament. Not knowing whom his team will be facing until the day before the tournament, Matta said the team will instead use the four days between the end of the regular season and the tournament to focus on itself.
“We work, quite honestly, a ton on us,” Matta said. “At this stage of this season, we’ve got a practice routine of what we do, what we hit, specific fundamentals we hit, a ton of shooting, and then we get up and down. It’s mainly our stuff.”
Matta said the Buckeyes will watch Thursday’s matchup between their two potential Friday opponents, Minnesota and Northwestern, during the team’s three-hour bus ride from Columbus to Indianapolis.
Buckeyes snubbed for awards?
When the Big Ten regular-season awards were announced Monday, Purdue senior forward JaJuan Johnson was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. On Wednesday, Matta responded to the news that Johnson had been selected for the award over Lighty and OSU freshman point guard Aaron Craft.
“There’s so many great players in this league. Obviously you’re always biased to your own players,” Matta said. “There’s nobody in the world that could tell me that David Lighty’s not the best defender in college basketball. As I sat down and watched the game against Wisconsin, I mean, I’ve never seen anything like that. Like I said, I’m very biased.”
Lighty, who, along with Craft, was selected to the Big Ten’s All-Defensive team, said not winning the award wasn’t a big deal to him.
“My mom takes that to heart more than I do. She gets angry about those types of things,” Lighty said. “I just go out there and play my game. I know I’m effective in the scheme of things when it comes to helping my team win.”