Sports Updates every 20 minutes
Weekday mornings and afternoons
Basketball Bucksline: Mondays 7-8 p.m.
Sunday Morning Sports Talk: 9 a.m.-noon
Crew fans get more on your favorite team
By Matt McCoy
Deshaun Thomas and the Buckeyes advance to 5th straight title game
There's death, taxes, and the basketball Buckeyes in the Big Ten tourament championship game. The run continues.
No coach has dominated this tournament like Thad Matta. With the Buckeyes 61-58 win over Michigan State, Matta improved his record to 7-0 in the Big Ten tourney semifinals. Ohio State meets Wisconsin Sunday for the title. It's the Buckeyes fifth consecutive Big Ten Tournament championship game appearance and seventh in eight years.
In fact, if you go back to the pre-Matta days, the Buckeyes won the tournament title in 2002 and were runners up in '03. That means Ohio State has appeared in the conference tournament title game nine times in the last 12 years. No bad for a football school.
How good is Matta?
Matta insists he puts little emphasis on conference tournaments saying the true champion is the winner of the regular season. Nonetheless, his teams have always played outstanding basketball in the conference tourney setting.
With Saturday's victory, Matta is now 18-5 all time at the Big Ten tournament. The Buckeyes, in fact have won 10 of their last 11 Big Ten tourney games.
When you compare his success, with the other top coaches and programs in the league, it's not even close. In his nine seasons at Ohio State, Matta's Big Ten Tournament winning percentage is .783. The next best is his opponent Sunday, Bo Ryan of Wisconsin, who is 10-7 during that time span for a .588 percentage. Michigan State's Tom Izzo is 11-8 (.579), the same record, the last nine years, of Illinois under Bruce Weber and this year John Groce.
Going further, if you include Matta's conference tournament success at Butler and Xavier, his career record at post-season conference tournament is 29-6 (.829) and he has led his team into the conference tourney title game in 10 of his 13 years. Pretty impressive numbers.
The Buckeyes have won seven in a row. The last loss was the embarrassing 71-49 setback to Wisconsin, in Madison. Now the two teams meet again with a conference tournament championship on the line.
What's turned it around for the Buckeyes? Defense. In this seven game streak, only one team, Michigan State in the game played in Columbus, has managed to score 60 points. And the Buckeyes have done it against quality competition.
Prior to this seven game run, Ohio State's record against RPI top 50 teams was 2-7. Now it's 7-7 as they've beaten five top 50 teams. The Buckeyes have topped Michigan State (RPI #9) twice, Indiana (#7), Minnesota (#33) and Illinois (#37).
At least in their last two meetings, Aaron Craft has Michigan State's number. Craft has two 20 point games in his career...both have come in the last three weeks against the Spartans.
Craft's 20 point, 9 assist, 4 steal performance Saturday carried the Buckeyes into the title game...and it was deja vu for the Spartans. Craft scored 21 points with 6 assists February 24 in Ohio State's 68-60 win over Michigan State in Columbus. In the two games he's made 16-25 from the field (64 percent), 8-10 from the free throw line, has 15 assists, 6 steals and has turned the ball over only 4 times.
Climbing The Charts
Craft and teammate Deshaun Thomas have reached some milestones while in Chicago. Craft has gone over the 500 assist mark...only the third Buckeye ever to do it. He's the first to have 500 assists with 200 steals. The nine assists Saturday gives Craft 509, only seven behind number two on the list, Kelvin Ransey. Jamar Butler is the all-time leader at 579--a record Craft should shatter next year.
Meanwhile, Thomas went over the 1,500 point mark Friday night and added 16 more on Saturday. He now has 1,524 points and is 17th on the all-time scoring list. He moved up a spot vs Michigan State, passing 2010 national player of the year Evan Turner.
Most believe this will be Thomas' final year with the Buckeyes and that he'll turn pro after the season. If he stayed, however, Thomas would have an excellent chance to become Ohio State's all-time leading score. Dennis Hopson tops the chart with 2,096 points.