BOSTON – So Ohio State is going to be one of the final eight teams standing entering the weekend.
That shouldn’t shock you, but you may overlook the fact that this is unchartered territory for this current roster of Buckeye players.
Yeah, Thad Matta’s Buckeyes were a national runner-up in 2007, but since then the talent level of all subsequent teams has not severely dipped, but Ohio State has been unable to reach a regional final even though they’ve clearly been good enough to do just that.
With last night’s victory over Cincinnati, finally, the Buckeyes have a chance to meet the expectations of harsh critics, and exceed expectations from those who have written off this team for lacking a killer instinct.
“Coach Matta has been through two Sweet 16s where the train kind of stopped,” said Jared Sullinger after the game “We wanted to make sure that this train was going to keep rolling. I mean, it’s tremendous to be in a situation like this, and it’s a blessing, but at the same time we can’t lose sight of focus.”
Sullinger is spot on. Any sort of revelry after beaing Cincinnati may have suggested this team was satisfied, but clearly there should be bigger goals to seek to attain in this 2012 NCAA Tournament. Goals that would validate players like Sullinger and William Buford and even Aaron Craft as true Ohio State Buckeye stars.
“I think as you get to this stage, a lot of it, just the emotion of continuing to advance really centralizes your guys’ thinking and focuses their thinking,” said Matta. “I couldn’t be happier for this team.”
This Buckeye progam has been very successful under Matta.
He would like to say that it’s been built with the help of that football team in Columbus, but Matta has turned the basketball program into its own, self-sustaining entity within the Ohio State athletic department. One that will continue to grow and likely one day solidify itself as one of the country’s top and consistent basketball programs.
He just hasn’t won a National Championship yet.
But now that he’s knocking on the door for the first time in five seasons, he may get a real chance to take this program to the next level.