Thad Matta notches 100th Big Ten victory at Purdue
Buckeye fans can take a deep breath. A loss at Purdue would have been slight cause for panic seeing how Michigan and Michigan State are in the immediate future -- both ranked teams. But as I suspected Thad Matta didn't let his crew have a repeat occurance from what happened in Champagne last weekend. So here's what we takeaway from the 74-64 road win at Purdue.
Good news: Aaron Craft decided to elevate his game. He was an agitator. He played a physical game both defensively and offensively which isn't unusual for him. I did find it unusual that some of the Purdue guards were letting it get in their heads. Purdue is always one of the most physical teams in the B1G and there's often going to be fouls that aren't called. But despite playing only five minutes in the first half Craft contributed 15 points...and he did it on a 6-of-7 shooting night. He looked to score at times. He was agressive. He drove to the basket and drew fouls. And he made all of his free throws. We had a discussion on The Buckeye Show on Tuesday night and posed the question - would you trade Craft for Trey Burke straight up. Seems like an easy decision on paper for a team that needs scoring. But that's one dude I'm never trading and it doesn't matter who you're dangling at me.
Thad Matta can really coach. We already knew that. But he just grabbed his 100th conference victory. He hasn't even been coaching in the league for 10 years. Optimistic-minded people would look at 10 wins a season as great, but Matta is shattering that. After just eight seasons he accumulated 98 B1G wins. That's better than anyone in the league in that timespan. Tom Izzo had 92 and Bo Ryan was right on Matta's tail with 97. It's just a reminder that the Buckeyes are blessed with a coach that came in and almost immediately elevated Ohio State into a Top 10 college basketball power.
Sam Thompson's highlight reel keeps getting better as he had an epic one-handed jam on top of the seven-foot freshmen A.J. Hammons.
Bad news: Amir Williams still is not taking that next step forward that we'd all like to see. He had a chance to match up with Hammons, a true freshmen and a true big man. Hammons weighs more than 270 pounds and he's a seven-footer. Hammons easily outplayed Williams and he has a year less of experience. In terms of progression and expectations Williams should be further along than Hammons, but he's not.
The ceiling did not get any higher in my opinion. It took a blowout loss at Illinois to make most people realize but it was evident even before that. College basketball is hard. Players leave. Players graduate. Jared Sullingers, Evan Turners and William Bufords don't come into the program every single year. This team is capable of getting to the Sweet 16 depending on its seeding. I'm not seeing a Final Four run out of this group, and that's okay. I see it as a bonus if you're programs "transition" years are still 20-plus win seasons with NCAA Tourney appearances. North Carolina isn't fit to go to the Final Four every year either. If the Buckeyes continue to bring the game they brought to Purdue on Tuesday they will go dancing and they will win a game or two.
Michigan is coming to town. Tough game.