Big Ten: A Thad Nerve-Racking

By - October 29, 2006

One of the few interesting tidbits related to the otherwise-unsurprising USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll released Friday -- the first official Top 25 of the 2006-07 season -- had to do with the distribution of first-place votes.

Florida, which returns all five starters from a team that finished 33-6 and won the school's first-ever national championship, received 30 of the 31 first-place votes cast -- making the Gators a near-unanimous selection.

The lone remaining first-place vote went to Ohio State, which ranked fourth behind No. 2 North Carolina and No. 3 Kansas. When asked whether he knew who cast the single vote, Matta didn’t miss a beat.

“My mom,” deadpanned the third-year coach of the Buckeyes to the laughter of a dozen surrounding reporters. “How you don’t vote Florida No. 1, I don’t know. Maybe somebody knows something that I don’t know [about the Buckeyes] after 18 practices.”

Matta’s team loses four starters -- including Big Ten Player of the Year Terrence Dials -- from a club that finished 26-6 overall and won the program’s first outright conference title since 1992. Last season, the Buckeyes were one of the league's more experienced units. This year, it's the opposite.

“I felt a lot better sitting up here last year than I do this year,” Matta said. “You knew what you were going to get from those guys. When you win on the road, a home opener, back to back games -- you knew because you had seen them go through it. And right now, it’s the unknown.”

So how does Matta feel about the Ohio State youth movement?

“Nerve-racking would be an understatement,” Matta said. “I’ve had one team that I think has been as young as this when I was an assistant at Butler. We had lost all five starters and we had a lot of young guys. To be quite honest, as I reflect on it, we started 0-4 -- but through January and February, we won 12 straight games. It’s kind of been good to look back and think about the mistakes we were making [with that team].”

Posted by at 11:55 AM on October 29, 2006

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