College Basketball Nation: Thad Matta

Editor's note: Over the next five weeks, we will reveal the top 50 coaches in college basketball as decided by our ESPN Forecast panel. Today we unveil No. 20: Ohio State's Thad Matta. On Tuesday, we release No. 19.

Last week, we revealed the first 30 coaches in our ESPN Forecast Top 50 rankings -- a list we devised by asking almost 50 ESPN college hoops writers, editors, broadcasters and analysts to vote on coaches' overall current performance in every facet of their job. And it went pretty well! There were some surprise omissions and a few under- and over-ranked names, but, as the person responsible for presenting the list to the reading public, things weren't so crazy as to be awkward. The wisdom of the crowd has thus far proved, well, wise.

If there is one overriding criterion that has defined the rankings, it is recency. Confusing as that has been for some readers, it was also by design. This isn't a legacy list. We're not ranking coaches on their careers. We're ranking these guys based on how well they're performing right now, and how well they've primed their programs for the season(s) to come.

This preamble bears repeating, if only for purposes of clarification. But it's also especially relevant today, in regard to the No. 20-ranked coach on our list: Ohio State's Thad Matta.

To continue reading this story, click here.

Conference play means adjustments

January, 24, 2014
Jan 24

It seems like every team had to make some sort of adjustment in conference play.

No. 17 Ohio State and Illinois were in need of major overhauls after both entered Thursday’s meeting on four-game losing streaks.

No. 1 Arizona and No. 6 Florida had the luxury of needing only a few tweaks.

And then there were teams such as No. 15 Cincinnati and Colorado, which have had to adjust to the loss of injured players.

None breathed a sigh of relief quite like the Buckeyes did, though. Ohio State topped the Fighting Illini 62-55 and can, at least temporarily, change its season’s narrative. Its 15-0 start flipped to "What’s wrong in Columbus?" very quickly as losses piled up and offensive weaknesses were exposed.

There was nothing more symbolic of the Buckeyes' struggle through four games as one sequence early in the second half Thursday.

Amir Williams had a clear path to the rim and a sure dunk that he bounced off the back of the rim. Ohio State controlled the ball and Williams again found himself making his way to the basket when he got his shot altered and the Illini headed the other way.

The Buckeyes didn’t let their losing streak, nor their 29 percent shooting in the first half, create unnecessary pressure. Buckeyes coach Thad Matta figured out ways to get his two leading scorers open shots. Some of them came off Illinois’ 15 turnovers, but many others came in half-court sets.

[+] EnlargeLaQuinton Ross, Rayvonte Rice
AP Photo/Paul VernonLaQuinton Ross and Ohio State were able to find some offensive cohesion in the second half against Illinois, breaking a four-game losing streak.
Leading scorer LaQuinton Ross, who had only four points in the first half, pumped out 14 for the Buckeyes in the second. Lenzelle Smith Jr., who entered the game shooting 16 percent from 3-point range in Big Ten play, went 4-of-8 from behind the arc and scored 10 of his 14 points in the second half.

Smith hit a huge 3-pointer with 1:25 left that gave Ohio State a 58-50 lead, and the Illini never got within one basket the rest of the way.

Just as the Buckeyes got a temporary reprieve from their struggles, it seems like trouble for Illinois is about to hit unfair levels. The Illini still have three games remaining in a five-game stretch that features four ranked opponents.

They left Columbus with many questions on how they can adjust, especially after leading scorer Rayvonte Rice, who averaged 17.4 points per game, was held scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting against Ohio State.

Arizona isn’t searching for much of anything after winning its 19th straight game. Wildcats coach Sean Miller is keeping his rotation tight, using only eight players against the Buffaloes. But eight was obviously enough for Arizona, which never trailed, as Nick Johnson led the Wildcats with 18 points.

The way Arizona is playing, it’s hard to imagine a healthy Spencer Dinwiddie would have made much of a difference.

Dinwiddie was Colorado’s leading scorer before suffering a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 12 in a loss at Washington. Wing Tre'Shaun Fletcher was hurt in the same game, but he's expected to return. Since then, the Buffaloes have been trying to find a viable third scoring threat to help replace Dinwiddie's 14.7 points per game.

It’s unfair to expect too much from freshman Jaron Hopkins, who replaced Dinwiddie in the lineup. He finished with two points on 1-of-5 shooting.

Both Josh Scott and Askia Booker have been consistent double-figure scorers, and they contributed 13 and 11 points, respectively, against the Wildcats. But it was sophomore forward Xavier Johnson who had the kind of breakout performance that could signal readiness for a bigger role.

Johnson scored a game-high 21 points -- just one shy of his career high -- included 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. It was the only game this season in which he logged more than 10 field goal attempts.

No. 15 Cincinnati has had its share of attrition this season with freshman center Jamaree Strickland being declared ineligible, guard Jeremiah Davis III transferring to Ball State and forward Jermaine Lawrence suffering from turf toe that has kept him sidelined the past three games.

But the Bearcats continue to move forward and lead the American Athletic Conference after their 69-51 win over UCF. Sean Kilpatrick led the way with 19 points, but it is their defense -- one that held UCF to just 26 percent from 3-point range -- that keys their victories.

Arguably no ranked team has had to make as many adjustments as Florida this season, with injuries and suspensions forcing coach Billy Donovan to juggle his lineups. The Gators have proven to be a resilient group, as Alabama can attest.

On a night when the Gators shot only 37 percent, they still made 10 3-pointers. Michael Frazier II made five of his attempts beyond the arc for a game-high 18 points as Florida beat the Crimson Tide 68-62 for their third SEC road win.

Shots not falling for Ohio State

January, 17, 2014
Jan 17

MINNEAPOLIS -- After No. 11 Ohio State lost 63-53 to an unranked Minnesota team on the road and suffered its first three-game losing streak since 2009, Thad Matta did what all confused men do.

He stroked his chin.

He shook his head.

He rubbed his temples.

He drifted.

He paused mid-sentence.

"It just … I don’t know," he told reporters Thursday night.

Ohio State’s offense has challenges, challenges that have even perplexed a seasoned coach such as Matta. Those challenges arose the day Deshaun Thomas turned pro.

Thomas was a polarizing figure throughout his collegiate career. Even when the San Antonio Spurs drafted him last summer in the second round, there were still questions about the tweener’s ability to compete at the next level.

He faced the same scrutiny as the No. 2 scorer in the Big Ten last season (19.7 PPG) behind Wooden Award winner Trey Burke. Thomas could be sporadic and frustrating, and his defensive inconsistency drew criticism during his tenure in Columbus, Ohio.

[+] EnlargeMatta
AP Photo/Jim MoneOhio State's lack of consistency on offense has veteran coach Thad Matta flustered.
But he scored -- inside and outside. If Ohio State needed a bucket, Thomas found a way. He was a perplexing matchup for most players at this level. The 6-foot-7 combo forward could exploit smaller wings in the post. He’d also force big men to guard him outside the paint, where they were uncomfortable, due to his range.

On Tuesday, Ohio State -- lacking that elite scoring threat, although LaQuinton Ross was impressive in spurts during his 22-point effort -- needed someone to churn its lumpy offense.

Its defense, usually strong under Matta, was an early anchor. The Buckeyes forced eight turnovers in the first eight minutes of the game. At one point, Minnesota had a 1-to-9 assist-to-turnover ratio. Still, Ohio State only held an 11-10 lead after starting the game by missing 11 of its first 14 shots.

"The shots we felt we were going to get, we got," Matta said. "They, for whatever reason, weren’t going down."

All season, the elephant in the room has been Ohio State’s mediocre offense.

If Ohio State can’t score more consistently and efficiently, how can it win the Big Ten? How can it make a run at the crown? How will it advance in March?

Last season’s squad finished 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy. This season’s team is 70th in the same category.

Ohio State’s effort against the Golden Gophers should be a scary exhibit for the program’s supporters.

Ohio State’s fall from the third-ranked team in America to a 2-3 Big Ten team began modestly. The Buckeyes ran through their first 15 games, a slate that included wins over Marquette and Notre Dame. In hindsight those wins weren't special but probably the greatest accomplishments on their flimsy résumé.

But then Michigan State dominated them until the final minutes, when a furious rally pushed the game into overtime before the Buckeyes lost. Iowa was just too big and deep when they beat the Buckeyes in Columbus on Sunday.

Against the Gophers, Ohio State’s offense was disastrous in a game that Big Ten contenders win.

The Buckeyes had chances to pull away in the first half, but they couldn’t find the rim. They committed a turnover (13 total) on five consecutive possessions during a stretch in the second half.

Lenzelle Smith Jr. (3-for-9) missed a dunk. Amir Williams hit the bottom of the backboard on another attempt. Aaron Craft was left alone on the perimeter to miss 3-pointers. Ross went 3-for-8 after halftime.

That wasn't the only problem. Ohio State is usually an elite defensive squad. Its 18 forced turnovers were proof of that, although Minnesota’s 51 percent shooting percentage proved costly.

The Buckeyes were exposed inside by Elliott Eliason (12 points, 13 rebounds, 2 blocks) in Richard Pitino’s most impressive victory in his first season as head coach.

But Ohio State’s 7-for-22 shooting in the second half ultimately cost it.

The Buckeyes can score, as their 76.0 points per game average suggests, but it’s their inconsistency and limits that create problems. Plus, they’re mishandling the ball (84th in offensive turnover rate, per Ken Pomeroy).

The Buckeyes will continue to struggle against the Big Ten's elite if their offense sputters. And, as Thursday showed, they won’t beat the gritty second-tier teams in the league without some offensive punch.

Ohio State needs quality wins, but they need a go-to guy to help get those wins.

"I think my two years here, this team has always had a security blanket," Ross said. "Last year, it was [Thomas]. The year before that, it was [Jared Sullinger].

It’s clearly different this season.

But they need someone to be consistently assertive and effective -- be it Smith, Ross, or Craft.

On Thursday night in Minneapolis, they all tried to pull Ohio State out of that offensive pit -- and failed.

"We gotta look at reality," Matta said. "As a team, this is where we are. We’ll figure that out on the way home tonight. … People don’t like reality very often."

After Thursday, the reality is that the Buckeyes won’t be Big Ten contenders unless they figure out their offensive flaws. And they need to do that soon.

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Count it as a win for basketball that, after one of the most exciting comebacks, finishes and overtimes this season, both coaches stood at the podium, brows furrowed, voicing their disappointments about their respective teams.

Count it as a win that Tom Izzo wasn’t happy with No. 5 Michigan State’s 72-68 win over No. 3 Ohio State. Or that Thad Matta wasn’t pleased with the 20-3 run his Buckeyes accomplished in the final 10 minutes of regulation, forcing overtime. Or that you couldn’t find a smile on a Spartan or a Buckeye. Count it as a win that nobody who actually took part in the game was happy.

Count all that as a win because it means that Big Ten basketball is back, living up to its billing yet again.

No, it wasn’t always pretty. The basketball was far from perfect.

Ohio State went 4-for-18 from 3-point range. Michigan State was outrebounded 42-28. The Buckeyes started slow and couldn’t find an answer as the Spartans jumped out to a 55-38 lead. But then MSU choked that up -- badly.

[+] EnlargeAdreian Payne
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesAdreian Payne
“I should be happier than I am,” Izzo said. “But I’m a big-picture guy and you shouldn’t have those kind of letdowns no matter what the other team does.”

Both teams’ highs were high and their lows were low, but when it was working and when the teams were on, it was really fun.

It’s extremely early in the season. There’s time for Ohio State to work on switching defenses, and there’s time for the Spartans to get healthy and figure out their rotation.

So much can happen between now and March, but the fact that it’s so good so soon has to mean something, right?

Because on the first full day that college football was over, a day that it would still seem appropriate to be discussing Jameis and Tre, Jimbo and Gus, a night that was just 24 hours removed from crowning the national champion in football, all eyes were on a green-and-white gymnasium in East Lansing -- a gymnasium that possibly held the eventual national champion.

This was just two games into the Big Ten season, making for one heck of an appetizer to the conference slate.

Sure, the nonconference schedule featured matchups with talented teams and some trips to tropical locations, but this is what it’s all about: the bitter, Midwestern cold and the refuge found inside a gymnasium with gritty, hard-nosed basketball.

Big Ten basketball is back, and on Tuesday night, the Spartans and Buckeyes confirmed to everyone that this is the conference to watch.

“You know, it just keeps coming,” Matta said. “We’ll build on the positives from this game and we’ll correct the negatives. We’ll get ready to go again, because it doesn’t get any easier.”

The Buckeyes play No. 20 Iowa, then travel to Minneapolis to play a hungry Golden Gophers team that came dangerously close to knocking off Michigan. Before the season is over, they’ll have road games at Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Penn State and Indiana before closing out the regular season with, you guessed it, Michigan State.

And the Spartans get Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Iowa before the month of January is over.

Week after week, these teams get the chance to pick up marquee wins in tough venues. Week after week there will be reason to be thankful that Big Ten basketball is back. And it’ll leave basketball fans wanting more.

Because even after everyone got five extra minutes of Ohio State and Michigan State last night, most people wished it would’ve gone into double or triple overtime. That’s how good it was.

That’s how much people wanted to watch Aaron Craft on Keith Appling and Gary Harris. That’s how much people wanted to see Adreian Payne -- who didn’t even think he’d play today because of injury -- go to work. That’s how much people wanted to take in Matta and Izzo’s chess match and the ensuing foot stomps and glares.

The coaches can be upset right now because they know the potential of these groups and they know better than anyone how far Tuesday’s product was from that. They see it every single day in practice; the rest of us have to wait until game days to take it in.

But having the coaches this upset at this point means that even the good we saw this week is far from the good we could see in March. And if that’s the case, we’re in for one heck of a ride the next few months.

“Hopefully, by tomorrow I’m going to say, ‘Thirty-some minutes we played damn good,’" Izzo said. “I think I’ll appreciate the win more tomorrow. It ain’t going to be tonight, though. Promise you that.”

Matta, Izzo, Appling and Craft can all be unhappy with what happened Tuesday night. Basketball fans everywhere should plead that the coaches are never truly satisfied, never happy enough with what was put on the court, always wanting their group to get to that next level.

But for everyone else? Just be happy that Big Ten basketball is back.
Thad Matta assembles top-10 squads most years. The only thing missing from his pristine tenure at Ohio State, which faces Notre Dame on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York, is a national title.

In 2013-14, like most seasons, that goal seems attainable. The Buckeyes haven’t played a great nonconference schedule, so they’re still a difficult group to accurately judge right now. We’ll know soon enough, though, as they’ll play Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., on Jan. 7.

The Buckeyes are statistical juggernauts right now. That can’t be ignored, even though their résumé lacks a win against a team that’s currently ranked in the top 25.

The Buckeyes held Marquette to 35 points and have held seven opponents to 60 or less. They’re ranked first in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings.

Louisville was ranked third when it won the national title last season. Kentucky was eighth during its title run in 2012.

The rules have changed, but Ohio State’s ability to constrict offensive flow has not. Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. put a lot of pressure on perimeter players. The Buckeyes are ninth in defensive turnover percentage, per Pomeroy. Former McDonald’s All-American Amir Williams (2.4 BPG) is third in the Big Ten in block percentage.

That’s a dangerous defensive group.

Most of the concerns and questions about Ohio State center on its offense. With Deshaun Thomas gone, scoring by committee is Ohio State’s approach this season, which isn't a bad thing.

Too many teams earn exaggerated praise for scoring in bunches. That doesn’t necessarily suggest that they’re good, though.

Plus, the Buckeyes are a solid offensive team (31st in adjusted offensive efficiency). They’re just anchored by their defense.

Ohio State doesn’t have to win a shootout over the weekend to prove folks wrong, but a victory over the Fighting Irish might be more valuable if Mike Brey’s squad continues to shake its early rust and excel in the ACC.

The Buckeyes don’t need a guy who can score 25 per night to be viewed as a great team. Their defensive approach proves that they are.

They’ve scored 80 or more three times this season, but those tallies came against subpar competition.

Level of competition won't be an issue in the Big Ten. If the Buckeyes continue their defensive prowess, they could end the season at the top of the Big Ten and with a slot in Arlington.
In the weeks leading up to the June 27 NBA draft, we’ll be taking a look at the 20 schools that have produced the best pros in the modern draft era (since 1989, when the draft went from seven to two rounds). Click here to read Eamonn Brennan’s explanation of the series, which will be featured in the Nation blog each morning as we count down the programs from 20 to 1.

Top Five NBA Draftees Since 1989

1. Michael Redd (2000)
2. Mike Conley (2007)
3. Jim Jackson (1992)
4. Evan Turner (2010)
5. Jared Sullinger (2012)

Sixth man: Daequan Cook (2007)

The rest: Jon Diebler, Byron Mullens, Kosta Koufos, Greg Oden, Ken Johnson, Scoonie Penn, Lawrence Funderburke

Why they're ranked where they are: Because this is a solid, albeit not particularly inspiring, list of former NBA draftees? Let's start with that.

If you're young enough to have just started watching professional basketball in the past few years, and have only seen an aging, slightly paunchy Redd chucking 3s for the Phoenix Suns, you might not be aware of just how good of a pro he was for almost all of the aughts. Or maybe you just aren't aware the Milwaukee Bucks exist. (Sorry, Myron.) But they do, and Redd is easily their best player of the past decade-plus. From 2003-04 to 2008-09, he averaged 21.7, 23.0, 25.4, 26.7, 22.7, and 21.2 points per game, respectively; he was one of the purest perimeter scorers in the NBA, an NBA All-Star in 2004 and a member of the U.S. Men's Olympic "Redeem Team" in 2008. Basketball-Reference's Elo Fan Ratings list Redd as the No. 207th-ranked player of all time, ahead of Allan Houston and behind Steve Francis. That sounds about right, and it's not too shabby for a guy drafted 43rd in 2000. Redd was a good pro.

[+] EnlargeMichael Redd
Jonathan Daniel/AllsportMichael Redd filled it up during his three seasons at Ohio State, then averaged 19.6 points in a 12-year NBA career.
Conley currently is a good pro -- an intelligent do-everything-well point guard lynchpin for a very good Memphis Grizzlies team, which was just eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals this week. Conley struggled early in the NBA but has improved dramatically since, making the much-derided $45 million contract extension he signed in 2010 look more like a steal than a boondoggle.

Meanwhile, don't sleep on Jackson, either. The former Buckeyes guard played for 12 mostly bad teams in his 14-year career, so it's easy to forget how productive he was. But a 14-year career is impressive in and of itself, even before you see Jackson's 14.3 points/4.7 rebounds/3.2 assists per-game splits.

Those three guys are good enough to get Ohio State on this list and good enough to bump the Buckeyes above No. 20 Syracuse. But the rest of the list -- with the possible exception of Turner, who is clearly talented but reportedly not the easiest person to play with -- makes it hard to go beyond that.

Why they could be ranked higher: Conley, Redd and Jackson are really a solid group of pros whose careers all began at disparate times; that speaks to at least some consistency with the production of NBA talent even before Thad Matta made the Buckeyes a national title contention stalwart. Redd's heights were high; his averages of 25.4 and 26.7 points in consecutive seasons is no joke, nor is membership on a hyper-talented national team that won a symbolically redemptive gold medal in Beijing. Conley might still be underrated in general; many of the things he gives the Grizzlies (control, smarts, great perimeter defense) don't show up in box scores. Jackson, as we've already laid out, is definitely underrated as a pro.

Really, the thought that OSU could potentially go higher comes down to exactly that: potential. Turner could yet morph into a very good NBA player. Sullinger is just getting started but proved he can rebound in the league as a rookie. Mullens averaged double figures in Charlotte this season. Even Oden, whose NBA career has been such a massive disappointment, is still just 25 years old. If he can get to a team on which he can get healthy this summer (and ifs don't get bigger than this, I realize), there's no reason he couldn't change course on what has thus far been a tragic career arc.

Also, if you're the type of person to award extra points for awesome names, Lawrence Funderburke is a big-time asset.

Why they could be ranked lower: Because, with the exception of Conley, almost all of the players on this list have produced what they've produced on bad teams. Sure, Mullens made a nice little jump this season, but he was playing for the worst franchise in the sport. Oden is less a basketball player than a cautionary tale about the fallibility of irregular human biology. Sullinger has a ton to prove. Turner is trending upward, but he still shot 41.9 percent in his first featured season in Philadelphia.

Cook played a solid bench sharpshooter role for the Oklahoma City Thunder in their emergence in recent years (though he was weirdly buried by mad basketball genius Tom Thibodeau for the Chicago Bulls this season), and he gets some credit for maximizing that all-important one NBA skill. But when Cook is your sixth man, you're not going to be near the top of this list.

What’s ahead? We've already discussed the varying futures on the table for Turner, Sullinger, Mullens, as well as the unlikely-but-still-possible resurrection of Oden, so let's focus on the prospects. Deshaun Thomas is Ohio State's one draft entrant this season, and he isn't particularly highly regarded by NBA scouts. Thomas is seen as a tweener who isn't athletic enough or a good enough shooter to play guard and not big enough to score over taller defenders in the post. I'm more bullish; when you're a born scorer like DT, you find a way to get those buckets.

Looking ahead, the clearest NBA prospect on the Buckeyes' 2013-14 roster is LaQuinton Ross, an immensely gifted 6-foot-8 wing with an NBA body, who can handle and hit 3s, among other skills. Ross blossomed in the NCAA tournament in March, and he'll be expected to take on a larger scoring load next season. Whether he maximizes it is yet to be seen. Likewise, Sam Thompson doesn't get much NBA love, but he's a great defender with good size, and that should hold up if he gets a shot at the league.

Final thoughts: Ohio State always has been, and probably always will be, a football school. Matta has changed that reputation more than any other coach in OSU history; he's spent the better part of the past decade recruiting top talent and fashioning it into tough, defensive-minded teams that challenge for national titles. Redd and Jackson prove that NBA talent at OSU isn't limited to the Matta era.

If Matta keeps moving at his current pace, Ohio State could climb much higher in this list in a decade's time. Right now? It's worthy of inclusion … but only just.
LOS ANGELES -- In a news conference that preceded Thursday's matchup with Ohio State in the Sweet 16 at the Staples Center, Arizona seemed concerned but calm when responding to queries about a Buckeyes squad that’s lost just one game since Valentine’s Day.

Mark Lyons told reporters that his matchup with Aaron Craft is significant, but not as important as his team’s on-court unity on game day. Solomon Hill believes he’s the proper neutralizer for a player with Deshaun Thomas' versatility.

LaQuinton Ross? That’s a different matter.

“I think LaQuinton Ross is a different guy that we have to have guys keyed in on,” Hill said Wednesday of the Buckeyes' forward. “I think he's the big spark off the bench. He's a starter on any other team, and our young guys have to be prepared for him to really put it on the floor and shoot the outside shot.”

[+] EnlargeLaQuinton Ross
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY SportsLaQuinton Ross, a key player off Ohio State's bench, has definitely caught Arizona's eyes.
Ross is one member of an Ohio State supporting cast that’s fueled the Buckeyes’ run to the Sweet 16. The sophomore scored 17 points (shooting 6-for-10) in Sunday’s victory over Iowa State. And he’s not the only meaningful contributor without the surname Craft or Thomas.

Shannon Scott is averaging 1.8 steals per game. Sam Thompson scored 20 points in OSU’s victory over Iona in the second round. Lenzelle Smith Jr. (9.4 points per game) is the team’s No. 3 scorer behind Thomas and Craft. Buckeyes coach Thad Matta might need the length of both Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel when his team encounters an Arizona frontcourt that features four players who are 6-foot-8 or taller.

The Buckeyes didn’t start this impressive rally -- one that includes a Big Ten tournament title -- with two players. And they won’t reach Atlanta with two players, either.

“They’ve been the difference,” Matta said. “The thing that I’ve enjoyed watching come to fruition is just those guys accepting their roles, but then taking great pride in doing their job.”

Ross said the team came together after the Buckeyes suffered a demoralizing 71-49 loss at Wisconsin on Feb. 17. The players gathered to discuss their differences following the defeat. They recognized that they were a fractured unit. Ross said every player, stars and reserves, accepted blame.

“[Wisconsin] was able to pick us apart because we weren’t together,” Ross said.

Since that time, however, the Buckeyes haven’t lost -- rolling off 10 consecutive wins. Why? Because they’re jelling with one of the NCAA tournament field’s best eight-man rotations. Ohio State’s players seem certain of the responsibilities they’re expected to handle each night. This is certainly not a two-man show.

“It’s really important for us to step up and be X factors,” Scott said. “We can’t be out there watching.”


Ohio State’s Craft: The point guard's defensive wizardry has been on full display in the tournament. Iona’s Lamont Jones committed four turnovers with Craft on him. Iowa State’s Korie Lucious recorded five turnovers against Craft’s pressure.

“Aaron Craft is exceptional at what he does,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said.

Arizona’s Lyons: The Xavier transfer scored a combined 50 points in his team’s two NCAA tournament victories over Belmont and Harvard. He’s also shooting 85.3 percent at the free throw line. But his leadership is a critical intangible for this program. His team feeds off him, whether he’s playing well or struggling.


The paint: Arizona’s frontcourt athleticism could be a problem for the Buckeyes. But Thomas, Ravenel and Williams said they’ll play the physical Big Ten style that’s fueled their current winning streak. Ravenel said his team can also take advantage of Arizona’s youth; Grant Jerrett, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley are all freshmen.

“Intimidation is one of the things that can win games in basketball,” Ravenel said.

DAYTON, Ohio -- With less than 5 seconds left in a tie game, perhaps the best pure scorer in the country came off a pair of screens that did exactly what they were designed to do: get him open.

Deshaun Thomas called for the ball -- screamed for it, waved his hands high above the 6-foot-7 inch frame that had made him essentially unguardable for the first 39 minutes and 55 seconds of his team's second-round NCAA tournament thriller -- but the pass never came.

Instead, a 6-foot-2 point guard -- who spent most of the second half turning the ball over and missing key free throws, who was being guarded by the opposing team's tallest player, who hadn't attempted a 3-pointer all afternoon and averages just 29.3 percent from beyond the arc this season -- looked him off.

To say Aaron Craft faced pressure in the final seconds of Ohio State's 78-75 win over Iowa State Sunday is to state the incredibly obvious, but that pressure wouldn't have come solely from Buckeyes fans, who would have surely blamed him for a heartbreaking second-round upset loss. Craft would have had one unhappy teammate, too.

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Frank Victores/USA TODAY SportsAfter a rough second half, Ohio State guard Aaron Craft drained the game-winning shot.
"I don't think I would have been angry," Thomas said. "I think I would have said, 'OK, let's go out and win the overtime, let's win the next five minutes.'"

"Oh, man -- furious," point guard Lenzelle Smith said, laughing. "He would have been furious."

Fortunately for him, and fortunately for the Buckeyes, what looked like another in a series of uncharacteristically bad decisions ended up the best and most important play of Craft's career -- saving Ohio State from becoming just the latest upset victim in a West Region that has already claimed the No. 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7 seeds.

Only Craft can really say what he was feeling in that moment, and he wouldn't quite admit to being nervous. When asked about whether he had "butterflies," he admitted only to "probably a little" before promptly cutting himself off.

But if he was nervous, he had good reason. Craft's second half had been the type of cold-sweat nightmare that keeps players up at night, particularly the stretch between the 5:35 and 3:08 marks, when Craft, in sequence, committed a turnover, missed a layup, missed two consecutive one-and-one front ends and committed yet another turnover. In the meantime, as Iowa State scorched its typical assortment of 3s and free throws, Ohio State's 69-56 lead dwindled to a 72-71 deficit. If 12,000 people gulping in unison makes a sound, it filled UD Arena.

"You just try to move on to the next play," Craft said.

For Craft, the next play was a driving layup and a foul, followed shortly thereafter by a drawn charge that immediately looked questionable (at best) and required a statement from NCAA National Coordinator of Men's Basketball Officiating John Adams just minutes after the game. ("I spoke with the official, and he determined the defender established legal guarding position outside the restricted area prior to the offensive player leaving the floor to start his shot. When asked, the official said he did not see the defender’s foot over the restricted area line. By rule, this is not a reviewable play.")

That pivotal call created the conditions for Craft's indelible March Madness moment. But so did coach Thad Matta with his team's "play-forward" attitude, which takes the get-the-next-play cliché to an almost spiritual level.

"I didn't [think] anything about the play behind [me]," Craft said.

"Good players at this level, you can't let stuff like that affect you," Smith said. "You have to move on. You have to have a short-term memory.

"Aaron, the player that he is, he knew that shot was going in before he shot it, because he told himself it was going in. Then he stepped up and knocked it down."
DAYTON, Ohio -- All season, Iowa State has been confounding opposing defenses with endless floor spacing and perimeter shooting. All season, Ohio State has breaking the wills of opposing perimeter players with endless defensive harassment.

Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. Rear end, meet couch.

On Sunday, when Thad Matta's No. 2-seeded Buckeyes square off with Fred Hoiberg's No. 10-seeded Cyclones, Ohio State will try to decode one of the nation's best offenses, Iowa State will try to maintain its trademark up-tempo scoring against Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott, and the rest of us will get to watch arguably the best strength-on-strength matchup of the NCAA tournament to date.

Iowa State finished its season with the most efficient offense in the Big 12, a style predicated on the versatility of a group of lightning-quick guards and 6-foot-7 freshman forward Georges Niang, who is as at home on the perimeter as he is on the low block. The Cyclones have their coach's blessing to shoot early and often, particularly from deep, and 43.7 percent of their field goal attempts this season have come from 3-point range (the eighth-highest mark in the country), where they averaged 37.2 percent.

The Cyclones ended the 2012-13 season as the eighth-best offense in the country, per's efficiency rankings; they averaged 1.17 points per possession, the same number they put up in Friday's demolition of No. 7 seed Notre Dame.

Put less numerically: Iowa State spreads the floor and hoists a whole mess of 3s, and when the Cyclones (23-11) have it going, they are not only one of the most effective offensive teams in the country but also one of the most ecstatic viewing experiences in the sport.

And Ohio State hasn't seen anyone quite like them.

"Michigan does [play that style] a little bit; they'll move their bigs around in a pick-and-roll," Matta said. "But I can't recall anybody [that plays] that far out."

[+] EnlargeGeorges Niang
Frank Victores/USA TODAY SportsFreshman Georges Niang was a force for Iowa State against Notre Dame, scoring 19 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
As fun as Iowa State has been, and as excited as fans have been to see the most popular player in program history lead them back to relevance with an entertaining style, the Cyclones have to be cringing in advance of a meeting with the Buckeyes. For most of the season, but especially the past month, Matta's team has been ruthless in its destruction of opposing offenses.

The Buckeyes haven't lost since Feb. 17. In that span, they manhandled Minnesota, Michigan State, Illinois and Indiana -- the last of which came on the road, on senior night, against the best offensive team in the country -- before beating Michigan State and Wisconsin en route to the Big Ten tournament title.

In that span, the Buckeyes have allowed just 0.88 points per possession. Only one team -- Michigan State -- managed to score more than a point per possession.

To put that less numerically: Ohio State has been flat stomping people.

"That's a scary team," Hoiberg said Friday night.

Craft rightfully tends to draw most of the national attention, and thus the credit, for Ohio State's defense, and much has been made of the secondary scoring from Craft and winger Sam Thompson during Ohio State's undefeated month. But the Buckeyes (27-7) have also been spurred on by the emergence of sophomore guard Scott as a savvy perimeter defender -- probably the Buckeyes' best all-around defender at Indiana -- and the length and athleticism of Thompson and Lenzelle Smith.

All of which makes them almost ideally suited to match up with the Cyclones, to match up man-to-man out to 25 feet and prevent the kind of penetration that downed a sluggish Notre Dame.

If Ohio State can play the Cyclones to a draw on the defensive end -- probably a conservative expectation, given what the Buckeyes did to Indiana -- then Deshaun Thomas, one of the nation's best pure scorers, should be able to handle matters on the offensive end. The Buckeyes avoid turnovers and score the ball at a top-15 rate nationally; Iowa State's defense doesn't rank in the top 100.

That's why Ohio State is the No. 2 seed and Iowa State the No. 10: The Buckeyes excel on both ends, whereas Iowa State can be one-dimensional.

But boy is that dimension fun to watch, and perhaps never more so than when it meets with the nation's hottest, most perimeter-inclined defense Sunday.

"It's going to be, I think, a fun matchup," Hoiberg said, in typically understated fashion. "And hopefully we're competitive."

News and Notes from Dayton
  • Matta was asked Saturday whether it was fair to judge conferences on their record in the NCAA tournament (as of Saturday, the Big Ten is 8-1). "We're all representing one thing and one thing only, and that's our university now," Matta said. "I want the Big Ten to do as well as it possibly can, but I say that from the standpoint of I know the other coaches from the Big Ten; they're worried about one thing and one thing only, and that's advancing. … Maybe in the end, when we have our spring meetings, we can all high-five each other because we had a great year, but I think for the most part it's CYOA -- or whatever that is."
  • The biggest concern for Temple entering Sunday's matchup with No. 1 seed Indiana is star guard Khalif Wyatt's left thumb injury, which he suffered in the second half of Friday's victory over NC State. Wyatt left the game at the time to have it taped up by a trainer, and it was noticeably tender in the second half, but the senior still finished the game and made the lion's share of key plays as the Wolfpack stormed back in the second half. Wyatt said the thumb was "a little sore" Saturday, but X-rays searching for serious damage came back negative. "It will be fine by [Sunday]," Wyatt said. The good news: Wyatt, whose 19.8 points per game put him atop the Atlantic 10 -- and among the nation's top 20 scorers -- in the regular season, did most of that work with his right hand.
  • Wyatt's clearance means he'll be the biggest defensive assignment of the day for Indiana, a role that is typically fulfilled by Hoosiers star Victor Oladipo. Oladipo wouldn't confirm whether he was going to check Wyatt exclusively Sunday -- "It's up to the coaching staff," he said -- but it's safe to assume the hyperathletic national player of the year candidate will spend much of his afternoon trying to prevent Wyatt from taking over the game. "He knows he's really good," Indiana coach Tom Crean said of Wyatt. "I don't know the young man, but he knows he's really good. You can tell there's no stage too big for him."
  • Wyatt may be able to overcome Oladipo and the Hoosiers defense for his usual scoring output, but a far bigger question looms for the Owls on the defensive end: How does a team that allowed 1.03 points per trip, eighth best in A-10 play, plan to stop the most efficient offense in the country? "How we run our offense will dictate how we play our defense," Owls coach Fran Dunphy said. "If we shoot good shots, then we'll be in pretty good floor balance, because one of the concerns about Indiana is they push the basketball on makes and misses, have a great transition game, and they find each other very, very well."
  • On Saturday, Dunphy admitted that he and Wyatt "didn't hit it off all that great when he was a freshman," that Wyatt was "a pain in the butt sometimes, and he'll be the first to tell you." But the two have long since come together. "He's grown, and that's what happens," Dunphy said. "When you sign on for these guys, it's not perfection. You sign on for the good and for the bad. … But I'm glad it all worked out, and he's going to be graduating from Temple University in May. I couldn't be more proud of him, how he's turned out as a man."
  • One reporter asked Hoiberg which college hoops program he would most like his suddenly resurgent Cyclones to "mirror." Hoiberg's response: "Kentucky. Nah, I'm just kidding. I don't know."
It was going to be a party, and it was going to be epic.

On senior night in Bloomington, Ind., the Indiana Hoosiers would have a little gathering. Seventeen thousand of their closest friends were invited. The agenda was simple. First, the Hoosiers would go out and do what they usually do in Assembly Hall: They would win, and easily so, and in the process would become the first IU team to win the outright Big Ten title since 1993. Then, in the hazy postgame afterglow, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Derek Elston would walk onto the floor with their parents and hug their coaches and give their heartfelt senior farewell toasts, and very few eyes in the building would stay dry. For sheer symbolic weight, the Hoosiers couldn't have planned the night better if they tried.

Which is right about when Ohio State barged in the door, shattered the speaker system, flipped over the beer pong table and -- before anyone knew what was happening -- strutted out the front door, smiling all the way.

The Buckeyes crashed the party. Led by Aaron Craft's all-court performance (15 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals), his pair of crucial, timely late buckets, and a defense that smothered and outmuscled the most efficient scoring group in the country, the Buckeyes won 67-58 in Bloomington, in one of the most brazen road performances by any team in any environment anywhere this season.

[+] EnlargeOhio State's Lenzelle Smith
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesOhio State and its defense crashed Indiana's party on Tuesday.
Ohio State made all the big plays: Craft's banked-in jumper as the shot clock expired with 5:45 to play; Deshaun Thomas's pick-and-pop 3 to put Ohio State up 59-50 at the 4:24 mark; block after block and steal after steal in the second half; Shannon Scott's strip of national player of the year favorite Victor Oladipo; Craft's wrong-footed fadeaway jumper that put the game totally out of reach for Indiana in the final 90 seconds.

And -- if such a thing exists -- Ohio State made all the small plays, too. Its defensive rotations were mechanical in their precision. Its interior strength was too much to handle. The Buckeyes got in passing lanes and slid over on Indiana's drives and hurried the nation's best offense into forced attempts, eight steals, seven blocks and 12 total turnovers. Everything was challenged. Everything was difficult.

IU fans will no doubt question the officiating, which in part allowed Ohio State its physical edge on the defensive end, particularly late in the game. And Hoosiers die-hards might also (rightfully) question why IU played ineffective reserve role players such as Maurice Creek and Jeremy Hollowell extended minutes deep into the second half. But such complaints vary in their validity, and anyway, they miss the point: Ohio State deserved to win. The Hoosiers were pounded into submission.

The next question is obvious: What does it all mean? I'm glad you asked.

  • It means Ohio State filled the one and only gap on its otherwise sterling NCAA tournament résumé -- the lack of a quality road win. The Buckeyes, with their top-30 RPI and SOS marks, have been a tournament lock for weeks. They've toppled Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Minnesota in Columbus, and they've yet to lose a game to a team ranked outside the RPI top 50. But before Tuesday night, their best road win came at either Purdue or Nebraska (take your pick). The Buckeyes' CV has zero holes now.
  • It means Ohio State might just be elite after all. It's not like Ohio State wasn't held in high regard before Tuesday night. It's just that the regard was predictable, almost staid. Ohio State was good enough to beat teams it should beat, particularly at home, but not good enough to reach up into the top five or the top 10 and knock off the true national title contenders. The Buckeyes' defense was always going to show up, but their lack of a second scorer to complement Thomas, their lack of a real offensive punch, would hold them back. If there is any impression to take away from Tuesday night in Bloomington, it's this: If Ohio State defends like that, it can beat just about anybody.
  • It could cause you to feel a lot less safe picking Indiana to progress to Atlanta in your Final Four bracket. This would not be unjustified, but not for the reasons you think. After all, it's not like Indiana just got worse. None of its flaws (frequent turnovers, atrocious defensive rebounding and shot-blocking) are particularly new. If you regard Indiana differently, it should be because on Tuesday night IU -- at least according to EPSN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi -- lost its No. 1 overall seed and possibly its ability to play its potential second-weekend tournament games in Indianapolis. Hoosiers fans travel, and they'll show up just about anywhere for a Sweet 16. But it's hard to overstate the importance of playing what could essentially be home games for the right to join the Final Four.
  • It means Indiana has to go on the road to Ann Arbor, Mich. -- to play a Michigan team that will need to win to get its own share of the prize -- with its outright conference title hopes on the line.
  • It means Sunday's Indiana-Michigan game just got even more important, and it means we get to watch that game. This is awesome.

One thing's for sure: This wasn't the ending Indiana envisioned. There would have been few better things than hanging a singular conference title banner for the first time in 20 years on senior night; the party was going to be rocking.

Instead, Ohio State crashed the party in fine, brassy fashion. With a pretty fall-back jumper iced, Aaron Craft smiled on his way out the door. Now Indiana has to clean up the mess.

Dual-threat Craft changes Buckeyes

February, 24, 2013
Aaron CraftAP Photo/Jay LaPreteThe 21 points Aaron Craft scored against the Spartans was a collegiate career high for the guard.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The rosy-cheeked aggression is nothing new.

The difference was where Aaron Craft was channeling that famous energy.

The Ohio State junior has built his reputation largely on the strength of his relentless, pesky approach on defense. Michigan State can once again attest that nothing has changed on that end of the floor. But in something of a surprise to the No. 4 Spartans, Craft went after the rim and the lane the same way he normally would a ball-handler. He made himself just as much of a nuisance offensively in a 68-60 win at Value City Arena that offered a reminder that No. 18 Ohio State shouldn’t be written off quite yet.

“It was great to see the ball going in for him and him attacking the rim,” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta said. “I thought he was tremendous today. It definitely helps our basketball team when he’s doing that, because you know what you’re going to get on the other end.

“I mean, he’s the best defender in college basketball, there’s no question about it.”

There were some lingering doubts about how much scoring Craft could supply to complement the consistent defense, but he was certainly the most productive offensive player on the court on Sunday afternoon in one of Ohio State’s last chances to make a statement and build momentum before the postseason.

The Spartans had no answer for the dual-threat Craft, who made it look routine to get to the basket off the dribble. He rarely took a wrong step on the pick-and-roll, either finishing on his own or setting up teammates for one of his six assists. He won one-on-one matchups to get easy finishes, dropped in contested attempts in traffic, and was almost perfect from the free-throw line on the way to a game-high 21 points.

As recently as a week ago Ohio State was reeling from a blowout loss at Wisconsin and Deshaun Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, was struggling with his shot. The Buckeyes couldn't have needed Craft to be at his best offensively more than this game. Considering that his previous career high had come against Albany in the season opener, Craft might never have been better with the ball in his hands than he was against the Spartans.

“Give Craft credit, he tore us apart in the second half,” Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. “It was Aaron Craft, he beat us every way he could beat us.

“Aaron Craft was more aggressive than I’ve ever seen him as a scorer, and give him credit for that. … I couldn’t plan for something I’ve never seen before.”

The Buckeyes would obviously be more formidable if Craft had that part of his game more regularly; although his defense has already helped keep an inconsistent team, that relies heavily on Thomas, afloat.

Craft still gave Ohio State everything it has come to expect from him. He was credited with only one steal, but he helped fluster Keith Appling as Michigan State’s leading scorer hit just one of his six shots and finished with three points. Craft was a fixture on the floor as he threw his body around for loose balls -- notably securing a crucial possession late in the game in a scrum under the Ohio State basket. He pushed all the right buttons on the floor, knowing just when to push the tempo or slow it down to let his teammates regroup.

But he apparently realized that the Buckeyes needed him to add something extra to allow Ohio State to hang around in the Big Ten race a little longer.

“The biggest thing that we get from a game like this is a win against a great opponent,” Craft said. “This is big for this basketball team, the way we’ve picked ourselves up from a week ago [at Wisconsin] when we weren’t ready to go. Hopefully we can continue to build off this.

“If it takes [me scoring] -- I don’t care who is scoring, who is putting the ball in the bucket as long as we come out with more points.”

Collectively, that was the Buckeyes. And they’re clearly a more dangerous team when Craft is pacing the individuals.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Quick thoughts following a bounce-back, 81-68 win for Indiana over Ohio State on Sunday afternoon at Value City Arena.

Overview: Indiana might have got the order wrong, but it essentially got what it needed from its road trip.

Ohio State didn’t get anything out of its tough stretch this week.

The No. 1 Hoosiers responded from a disappointing loss down the stretch at Illinois with a thoroughly impressive outing against the Buckeyes to earn a split on the two-game stand away from Assembly Hall. After coming up short earlier this week against rival Michigan, No. 10 Ohio State had no answer as it was beaten in nearly every phase of the game in a loss that will make contending for a Big Ten title a chore now.

The Hoosiers used a balanced attack in the first half to build a lead, and they rode Victor Oladipo’s athleticism and Cody Zeller’s interior presence after that to extend it and deliver a win that surely eased the sting from their loss to Illinois and allowed them to keep pace on top of the Big Ten standings.

Oladipo and Zeller both finished with more than 20 points, a 1-2 combination that was more than enough to offset a 26-point outburst from Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas.

Turning point: The first big run Olapido put together couldn’t get rid of Ohio State. The next one made clear the Buckeyes wouldn’t be able to keep pace with the Hoosiers.

After Ohio State came out of intermission and started chipping away at Indiana, Oladipo picked up where he left off in the first half by flipping in a hook shot and burying a pull-up 3-pointer that pushed the lead right back to nine points before the first media timeout of the half quieted the home crowd and sent the Hoosiers on their way.

Key player: There was no counter for Oladipo’s athleticism, and he routinely made Ohio State pay on both ends of the floor.

The junior guard stuffed the stats sheet as usual and had no shortage of head-turning plays despite the aggressive defense the Buckeyes threw at him, but he was at his best at the end of the first half as the Hoosiers took control and built a solid eight-point cushion heading into the locker room. Oladipo scored eight of the last 12 points for Indiana in a flurry that put his versatile skills on full display.

There was a reverse lay-in on an alley-oop. That was followed by an emphatic two-handed slam after corralling a loose ball. And after Ohio State had seemingly come up with a critical bucket to cut the margin to six only a few seconds before the half, Oladipo drew a foul with his speed coming up the right sideline that produced another easy couple of points and kept the lead at a comfortable margin.

Key stat: The Hoosiers rarely wasted a possession and more often than not knocked down any look they had on the offensive end. Against a typically stingy Ohio State, Indiana connected on 53 percent of its field goals and knocked down 7 of 18 attempts from 3-point range -- while turning the ball over just nine times.

Miscellaneous: Buckeyes coach Thad Matta couldn’t deliver some of his fairly common success against top-ranked teams, falling to 8-11 all time now against No. 1 squads after dropping the decision to the Hoosiers. ... Indiana had lost 10 straight road games against top-10 opponents entering today's matchup. The last win in that situation for the Hoosiers came more than a decade ago, when they knocked off Notre Dame on Dec. 5, 2000. ... It took more than 38 minutes, but Aaron Craft finally nabbed the steal he needed to move into the top 10 in Big Ten history. The hard-nosed defender had a hard time coming up with it, but the 215th steal of his career moved him up to No. 10 in conference history.

Next up: After taking some punishment during a brutal week against two of the nation’s best teams, Ohio State gets as much of a breather as it might have left in the regular season with a home date on Thursday against Northwestern. The Buckeyes are right back to the Big Ten grind after that with a weekend trip to surging Wisconsin.

Indiana should have a bit of a letup coming its way as well as it returns home from its two-game road swing with a matchup Wednesday against Nebraska. The Hoosiers stay at Assembly Hall for another critical conference date against Purdue on Saturday.

Video: Ohio State 74, Purdue 64

January, 8, 2013
Deshaun Thomas scored 22 points as 15th-ranked Ohio State held off Purdue, 74-64, to give coach Thad Matta his 100th Big Ten victory.

Coaches most likely to join 900-win club

January, 1, 2013
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim recently became the third member of the 900-win club, joining Mike Krzyzewski and Bob Knight as the only Division I men's coaches to reach that milestone.

So who, if anyone, might join that elite trio down the line?

Here’s a subjective look at the most likely candidates based on age and current win total.

10. Jeff Capel (37 years old) - 162 wins
Currently an assistant at Duke, Capel got his head coaching start at 27. He'd obviously need to get another head-coaching job soon, but at 162 wins, he’s got a good head start -- especially if he ends up as Coach K’s successor.

9. Steve Alford (48) - 447 wins
In his sixth season at New Mexico, Alford has been a head coach every year since he was 27. At 48, he’s almost halfway to 900.

8. Brad Stevens (36) - 149 wins
Stevens was one of the fastest ever to reach both 50 and 100 wins. Still only 36, he has many years in front of him. But Stevens won’t have the Horizon League to kick around anymore.

7. Rick Pitino (60) - 641 wins
Six seasons in the NBA have set him back, but Pitino would reach 900 wins in about 10 years if he averages 25 per season.

6. Roy Williams (61) - 685 wins
Williams didn’t become a head coach until he was 38. That’s six years older than Boeheim was. With 215 wins to go, Williams would likely need to coach until he was about 70.

5. John Calipari (53) - 513 wins
Averaging 34 wins per season at Kentucky, Calipari is making up for the four seasons he lost to the NBA. At 53, he needs fewer than 400 more wins to reach 900.

4. Thad Matta (45) - 333 wins
Matta is in his 13th season, and he’s never had fewer than 20 wins. In fact, Roy Williams is the only coach with more wins through his first 12 seasons.

3. Billy Donovan (47) - 430 wins
Only Boeheim and Krzyzewski have longer active streaks of 20-win seasons than Billy Donovan. At 47, he figures to be halfway to 900 before the end of this season.

2. Bill Self (50) - 487 wins
No one under 50 years old has more wins than Self. Since coming to Kansas, he’s averaged more than 29 wins. At that rate, he’s less than 15 seasons away from 900.

1. Bob Huggins (59) - 717 wins
Bob Huggins is already well beyond 700 wins and hasn’t turned 60. That’s well ahead of where Boeheim was at the same age. At 24 wins per year since arriving at West Virginia, he’s on track to get to 900 at a younger age than either Boeheim or Bob Knight.

Podcast: Talks with Matta, Alford, Haith

December, 20, 2012
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg talk to Ohio State coach Thad Matta, New Mexico coach Steve Alford and Missouri coach Frank Haith.