Well we are set to face Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament once again for the first time since 2013. We took the liberty to ask Land-Grant Holy Land’s Matt Tamanini a few questions ahead of these week’s matchup. Matt will also be joining the Wide Right and Natty Litecast this week to talk a bit more about the game. So let’s see what he had to say!
1) First off, well all remember the Aaron Craft shot over Georges Niang to send Ohio State to the Sweet Sixteen. Iowa State fans talk about that moment in complete anger, does that moment come up a bunch amongst the Ohio State basketball crowd or is it just there?
What Aaron Craft shot? Oh, you mean this Aaron Craft shot?
All of a sudden, I'm having some really good memories of the NCAA Tournament. https://t.co/RnUpprsU74— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) March 17, 2019
In all honesty, anything Aaron Craft-related is beloved by Ohio State basketball fans, but it probably doesn’t hold a candle to Evan Turner’s game-winner in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament for a number of reasons. Obviously first and foremost is the opponent. Next is Turner holding the shooting form over his head way longer than necessary, and finally is Thad Matta’s ridiculously fired up fist pump.
This is the Holy Grail of Ohio State postseason buzzer-beaters.
2) Chris Holtman is in his second season, and took a bit of a step back, but they are in the NCAA tournament. Was the fan base irritated this season or was this kind of the expectation in year two?
To be perfectly frank, the Ohio State fan base is never not irritated at something or someone, but this season was very strange. Ironically, the expectations for the team coming into the season were for them to finish around the middle of the Big Ten and to maybe be one of the last at-large teams to receive a berth to the NCAA Tournament, and that’s exactly what happened. But, it was a weird, wild trip to get to that point.
Ohio State lost three core veterans from last year, including Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop, and this year’s team is frighteningly young and inexperienced; so the expectations weren’t super high to start the season. Most viewed it as a transition year until Holtmann could get his first real recruiting class in this coming fall, which is anticipated to be the best in the Big Ten.
The only problem is that the Buckeyes started the season 12-1, and got as high as No. 13 in the AP Poll, so expectations shifted. Then, the calendar turned to 2019, and the Big Ten season started in earnest, and they regressed back to the mean as a one-dimensional team that lacked consistent leadership and a reliable scoring threat. Then, just as they were seemingly figuring things out, their best player goes and gets suspended for the final three games of the regular season, derailing any late-season momentum.
With Kaleb Wesson being out late in the season (due to suspension or fouls), OSU’s veterans have been forced to step up – Keyshawn Woods, C.J. Jackson, Andre Wesson (Kaleb’s older brother) – and that’s probably good in the long run for this team. But, the general lack of consistency has been what’s doomed this squad all season, and I’m just not sure that they have someone other than Kaleb that I would feel comfortable counting on in crunch time.
3) Kaleb Wesson has gotten in a ton of foul trouble this season. His ability to stay out of foul trouble against Iowa State is one key that could make this game very interesting. What seems to be the biggest problem for his foul troubles?
I think with a guy like Kaleb Wesson, who is the cornerstone of your offense, and an invaluable piece of your defense, you can live with the fouls that he picks up from aggression – especially on the defensive end. It’s the unnecessary ones that can be frustrating with him. He often picks up stupid fouls setting screens at the top of the key because he doesn’t get in position, or swiping at a ball out of frustration after not getting a rebound.
If he is ever able to cut down on those fouls that are, for the most part, outside of the normal scope of the game, that would change the entire complexion of how his team operated, and how he is viewed as an elite-level big man in the Big Ten and nationally.
4) Besides Wesson, who else should Iowa State be on high alert for? We always seem blessed to be barraged from 3pt range from an unlikely player. So, we have our nut cup ready to rock.
I wish I could tell you, but honestly, the scoring – especially the three-point shooting – has been so inconsistent for Ohio State, it’s hard to tell. Wake Forest grad transfer Keyshawn Woods has seemed to finally step up on the scoring end in the last week or two, and fellow senior guard C.J. Jackson is the most likely to fill up a stat sheet, but neither is reliable in terms of shooting from distance.
If anyone is going to catch fire for OSU, it very well might be one of their freshmen who otherwise won’t garner much defensive attention; either Duane Washington Jr., Luther Muhammad, or Justin Ahrens. Washington Jr. shot the ball really well to start the season, but after hitting the freshman wall a bit in the Big Ten season, cooled down. Similarly, Muhammad has only hit five three-pointers since Feb. 10, despite shooting 37.2 percent on the year.
Ahrens – the younger brother of Michigan State’s Kyle Ahrens -- didn’t really see the floor much until late February against Maryland, and then especially when he went 6-for-10 from downtown en route to 29 points against Iowa. I would be shocked if he gets much playing time on Friday night (he played a combined nine minutes in OSU’s two B1G Tournament games). But, as he showed against the Hawkeyes, he does have the ability to get hot in a hurry.
Honestly, don’t be surprised if you see Kaleb Wesson hit a couple of threes in the game. If his defender sags while he’s coming down the floor, the younger Wesson will take the shot from the top of the key; he’s actually hit 24 of 67 attempts from behind the arc this year.
5) How much of an impact will Greg Oden make in this game?
Haven’t you seen the picture? Every Greg Oden impact is a huge impact.
6) Earlier this season, you beat Iowa at home. Fran McCaffrey went off on the refs. So where infact do you guys hire your “Cheating MFers” as refs?
Look, if Holtmann, or even OSU athletic director Gene Smith, were in fact buying off refs this season, and Kaleb Wesson still had four or five fouls in 14 of his 30 games played, then they certainly didn’t get their money’s worth.
7) Do you give a damn about Michigan? What happens if they win their region? Do care then?
I do not, in fact, give a damn for the whole state of Michigan, be that the University of, the State University, Eastern Polytechnical College, or even Kid Rock.
As I am sure is true in Big XII country, there is a regular argument amongst Ohio State fans as to whether you should want to see your rival succeed -- because it makes the conference look better -- or you should root for the all-out decimation of all of your rival’s hopes and dreams.
Having worked at the Big Ten office, my opinions on this matter have changed over time, but now as I am getting older, I realize that only SEC fans are pathetic enough to claim the successes of other schools as their own.
So, I am all for seeing the Wolverines fail miserably. Whether that is getting bounced by 15th-seeded Montana team in the first round, or making it back to the National Championship Game – just 60 minutes away from the sweet satisfaction of college basketball supremacy – only to get destroyed; either is fine with me, as long as TTUN is embarrassed as much as humanly possible.
8) So how much do we have to pay a tattoo parlor to get in on a national championship?
First off, if they had just paid for the tattoos, rather than bartered with gold trinkets, Jim Tressel might still be OSU’s football coach. Second, while most Buckeye fans (myself included) think the whole tattoo situation was overblown, knowing what we know now, I think few have much of a problem with what happened to the program in the aftermath, obviously including the first College Football Playoff National Championship. Land-Grant Holy Land was easily the most out-spoken Ohio State website when it came to criticizing Urban Meyer before, during, and after the scandals that surrounded him last season, but I feel comfortable in saying that we would all live through #Tattoogate again to get the 2014 national title.
But, third, and most importantly, isn’t it crazy how in just seven and a half years, this Tattoogate thing has gone from being seen as the decimation of intercollegiate athletics to being almost quant in comparison to the scandals that followed, which involved coaches (allegedly) paying for strippers, boosters (allegedly) paying for abortions, the FBI investigating shoe companies for (allegedly) paying players on behalf of schools? Can’t we go back to the good ole’ days when the worst thing that happened in sports was players trading their own personal property to get some ink done?
9) Lastly, if we ever come to Columbus. What is the go-to place to eat? Best tailgating spot? Obviously anything Michigan is a big no-no but what is the second most do not do at an Ohio State tailgate?
If you are in the mood for burgers, head to Thurman’s in German Village just a few miles from campus. Or, if you are actually interested in German food, hit up Schmidt’s, and you’ve gotta have their legendary creme puff. Depending on when game time is, on campus, Buckeye Donuts is always a solid way to start your morning. And in terms of pizza, I am partial to Adriadico’s and Catfish Biffs.
In terms of tailgating, I think as long as you aren’t wearing blue, you should be in good shape!