COLUMBUS, Ohio — As a new era of Ohio State men’s basketball under Chris Holtmann gets set to begin, a golden age of Buckeyes basketball comes to an end.
Thad Matta may not have left Columbus on the terms he wanted to, but he does so having been responsible for some of the best moments in Ohio State basketball history.
Those memories include deep NCAA Tournament runs, dramatic buzzer-beaters and the careers of some of the best players to lace ’em up for the Buckeyes. To recount them all would take days. So with that in mind, here are the five best moments from the 13 years of the Thad Matta era at Ohio State.
5. William Buford wins Ohio State the Big Ten championship
One of Matta’s most famous phrases developed from his description of guard William Buford.
“Will is Will,” Matta would often say.
Depending on the day, that could have been a good thing or bad thing.
On March 4, 2012, it was very much a good thing.
Facing Michigan State in their regular-season finale, the Buckeyes needed a win vs. the No. 5 Spartans to earn a share of what would be Ohio State’s third consecutive Big Ten championship. The Buckeyes, however, fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half against a team featuring Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green.
Ohio State would battle back in the second stanza, taking the lead with less than 10 minutes remaining. The game would come down to the wire, with Buford’s long 2-pointer breaking a 70-all tie with 1 second remaining.
Green would go on to miss the game’s final shot as the Buckeyes captured their fifth Big Ten title in seven seasons under Matta. Earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State would go on to advance to the Final Four before falling to Kansas in the national semifinals.
4. Evan Turner’s buzzer-beater
Truth be told, Ohio State’s first game of the 2010 Big Ten Tournament didn’t mean that much. With a piece of the regular season conference championship already in tow, the Buckeyes had already locked up a high seed in the ensuing NCAA Tournament.
That, however, doesn’t make one of the craziest shots in Ohio State history any less memorable.
After Michigan erased a 10-point second half lead, the Buckeyes found themselves facing one-and-done as Manny Harris’ jumper gave the Wolverines a 68-66 lead with 2.2 seconds remaining. That, however, would prove to be too much time. Following a Matta timeout, Evan Turner raced up the court, sinking a 37-foot buzzer-beater to give Ohio State a 69-68 win.
Thanks in large part to the play of their National Player of the Year, the Buckeyes would go on to win the Big Ten Tournament, clinching a No. 2-seed in NCAA tourney. From there, Ohio State would advance to the Sweet 16 before falling to Tennessee.
3. The 2010-11 Buckeyes’ 24-game winning streak
It may not have been Matta’s most accomplished team, but there may not be a more talented squad in Ohio State history than the 2010-11 Buckeyes. With a veteran group led by David Lighty, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale and Buford and a freshman class that included Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State won its first 24 games, maintaining the nation’s No. 1 ranking for the majority of the season.
After winning both the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships for the second straight season, the Buckeyes entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. Ohio State’s bid for a national title, however, would fall short, thanks to a loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
Though the season ended in heartbreak, Matta’s seventh team in Columbus may have been his most complete. The Buckeyes finished the season with a 34-3 record, ranking fifth nationally at year’s end.
2. Matt Sylvester’s game-winner
Matta’s first season in Columbus was supposed to be a lost one. With the Buckeyes enduring an NCAA Tournament ban as the result of infractions committed by previous head coach Jim O’Brien, Ohio State had little to play for.
That, however, changed in the Buckeyes’ final game of the regular season, when No. 1 Illinois came to town with a 29-0 record. One more win and the Fighting Illini would clinch an undefeated regular season.
Ohio State would have other ideas, as the Buckeyes hung around with a team featuring Deron Williams, Dee Brown and Luther Head. With less than 10 seconds remaining, Illinois held a 64-62 advantage. That — and the Illini’s undefeated record — however, would evaporate thanks to a 3-point shot from Matt Sylvester with 5 seconds remaining.
As fans poured onto the floor of the Schottenstein Center, this much was clear: Buckeyes basketball would never be the same.
1. The Thad 5
Simply put, Ohio State might not see a team like the 2006-07 Buckeyes again.
Featuring a star-studded recruiting class, headlined by 5-star center and the nation’s No. 1 prospect, Greg Oden, Matta’s third team in Columbus marked a new era of Ohio State basketball both on the court and the recruiting trail. After opening the year as the nation’s No. 4 team, the Buckeyes rose to No. 1 in the matter of three weeks before going on to capture the Big Ten’s regular season and tournament championships.
But after entering the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed, it wouldn’t take long for Ohio State to find adversity. In the second round, the Buckeyes needed a near buzzer-beater 3-pointer from Ron Lewis to force overtime against Xavier, before beating Matta’s former team 78-71 to advance to the Sweet 16.
It was there that Ohio State fell behind by 17 points to Tennessee, before fighting back to take the lead, with Mike Conley Jr. putting the Buckeyes up by one with 6 seconds remaining. Oden would then block Ramar Smith’s game-winner, as Ohio State went on to beat Memphis in the Elite Eight and Georgetown in the Final Four, before facing defending national champion Florida in the national title game.
The Buckeyes’ bid for a national title, however, would fall short, with the Gators securing an 84-75 win. Nevertheless, Matta’s freshman fueled squad — dubbed the ‘Thad 5’ — will forever be remembered as one of the best teams to play at Ohio State.