Highly Ranked Buckeyes Yet to be Tested
By Rob Ogden
The Buckeyes are finally done with finals, but their first true test as a team might still lie ahead.
Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the coaches poll, but the Buckeyes' own coach is wondering just how good of a team he has.
"I've asked myself that question about 100 times a day," Thad Matta said. "That's one of the hardest parts of coaching, because there's so many ups and downs throughout the season. A lot of times you need to hit both and see the response. Do you embrace success or wilt under pressure when things aren't going well?"
There aren't a lot of things that haven't gone well for the Buckeyes so far this season. Ohio State is 10-0, and over its past five games, has excelled on both ends of the floor.
The Buckeyes haven't had much of a measuring stick thus far, and won't get one Wednesday when they host Delaware inside Value City Arena.
Ohio State does have an impressive road win over then-No. 17 Marquette, but the Golden Eagles have since dropped out of the top 25.
It wasn't Cameron Indoor Stadium or Allen Fieldhouse, but it was a menacing atmosphere, nonetheless, Matta said.
"The Marquette game, once we stepped off the bus I knew we were walking into a hornet's nest," he said. "I thought our guys handled that very well, kind of took the crowd out of it."
Still, the win offered little in the way of adversity, as the Buckeyes nursed a 20-point lead in the second half.
Ohio State barely broke a sweat in a 76-60 win over Maryland Dec. 4. The most the Buckeyes have been tested was Nov. 12 against Ohio. The Bobcats pulled within five points in the game's closing minutes. But even that game was more like a quiz, as the Buckeyes pulled out a 10-point win.
When the test finally does come, junior Sam Thompson said there's no reason the veteran-laden Buckeyes shouldn't pass.
"We have great leadership at the top," Thompson said. "Two seniors, five juniors that have been in this program for a while. We've been to the top and we've had some bad losses. I think we're conditioned to handle adversity well."
Matta said he's hoping he won't ever have to find out how his team deals with a little affliction, but there's no avoiding it once Big Ten play begins.
Thompson denied that the Buckeyes pay any attention to the rankings, but did point out the fact that there are currently three Big Ten teams ranked in the top five in the AP Poll.
With no daunting non-conference dates on the schedule, Matta might enter Big Ten play still wondering about his team's true potential.
Thompson will leave all the pondering to his coach.
"At this point we don't think about how good we are, we just think about what we can do to improve and what we can do to get better," Thompson said. "This is a long season. If all goes well we'll play 40 games. We're only 10 games in."
10 games down, likely many tests to go.
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