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By Matt McCoy
To listen to Thad Matta talk about the Big Ten Tournament click HERE:
Thad Matta has cut down his fair share of nets this time of year. In fact his record in conference tournaments is nothing short of amazing.
At Ohio State, Matta has led the Buckeyes to the conference tournament title game each of the last four years and six times in the last seven years. Ohio State has won three of those titles and during those seven years, only Wisconsin (twice) has even reached the tournament championship game more than once. Not bad for a guy who openly admits he puts more stock in the regular season championship and is not particularily fond of conference tournaments.
"These tournaments are for the fans," Matta said. "I've never said, 'we've got to the Big 10 tournament championship.' It's just been like, 'hey, let's go have some fun, play some basketball over there and see what happens.' It's worked to this point...we'll see what happens this year."
The Buckeyes start their Big Ten Tournament run against Nebraska Friday night at 6:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. In his eight previous seasons at Ohio State, Matta has lost his first conference tournament game only once and his overall record at the tournament is an impressive 16-5.
If you think that's good, when you include Matta's four years of coaching before he landed at Ohio State, his conference tournament record is an amazing 27-6. Matta coached Butler to the Midwest Collegiate Tournament at title in 2001, and then won the Atlantic 10 tournament at Xavier in 2002 and 2004.
"There's no magic speech that I give," Matta said. "We've kind of honestly been very laid back going into this tournament...that's sort of how it's always been."
Here's a look at Matta's Conference tournament record.
2001-Butler-Won Midwest Collegiate tournament
2002-Xavier-Won Atlantic 10 tournament
2003-Xavier-Lost in Atlantic 10 semifinals
2004-Xavier-Won Atlantic 10 tournament
2005-Ohio State-Lost in Big 10 quarterfinals
2006-Ohio State-Lost in Big 10 finals
2007-Ohio State-Won Big 10 tournament
2008-Ohio State-Lost in Big 10 quarterfinals
2009-Ohio State-Lost in Big 10 finals
2010-Ohio State-Won Big 10 tournament
2011-Ohio State-Won Big 10 tournament
2012-Ohio State-Lost in Big 10 finals
Happy Anniversary Charles
Probably the most memorable Big Ten Tournament I've ever covered was 10 years ago when the Buckeyes, after a lackluster regular season, won three straight games before losing to Illinois in the 2003 tournament championship game.
The tournament was filled with exciting and bizarre moments. The Buckeyes won in the final seconds in the first round over Iowa on a driving lay-up by the late Brent Darby. It started as good of a four-day run by a single player as I've ever seen.
In round two, Ohio State was leading a tight game against top-seed Wisconsin when then freshman Matt Sylvester fired a sideline inbounds pass in the backcourt that hit the rim of Ohio State's own basket. I had never seen that before or since. Wisconsin got the ball on the turnover, but the Buckeyes still won the game and advanced to the semifinal against Michigan State.
For Ohio State basketball fans, they'll always remember the one-point win over the Spartans the following day. It's the infamous "Charles Bass off the glass" game. The Buckeyes and Spartans were tied in the closing seconds. Darby was having a huge game, but starting center Velimir Radinovic had fouled out forcing coach Jim O'Brien to insert the little used Bass at crunch time.
Bass had not attempted a free-throw all season and has scored only eight points in his career. Spartan coach Tom Izzo knew it so rather than giving Darby a shot at winning the game, he had his team intentionally foul Bass to put him at the free throw line. Bass fired up the foul shot which banked off the backboard and into the hoop. He banked the second one as well, but it was no good. The Spartans rushed the ball up the court and shot and missed at the buzzer for an improbable Ohio State win.
"Charles Bass off the glass," O'Brien said at the start of his post-game press conference---and a legend was born.
The final was memorable too--for the wrong reasons. During Ohio State's championship game loss to Illinois, starting forward Zach Williams lost it--screaming at assistant Paul Biancardi during a timeout. O'Brien sent Williams to the locker room and as it turned out--he would never play for Ohio State again. It was an amazing four days.
One of Thad Matta's former assistants was involved in the game of the day Thursday. Alan Major of Charlotte, coached his team to a 68-63 win in regulation over Richmond. Amazing considering they trailed 63-60 with 4.7 seconds left. It was a controversial finish that included some questionable calls by the officials coupled with a complete meltdown by Richmond.
If you haven't seen the incredible sequence which included fouls, free throws and technical fouls, check it out. You won't believe it.