Matta is why OSU could surprise

Talent alone won't make Buckeyes a Big Ten title contender in '14-15

Updated: August 19, 2014, 3:36 PM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider

Thad MattaMichael Hickey/Getty ImagesThad Matta has guided Ohio State to six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.

The last time we saw Ohio State, the Buckeyes lost to Dayton 60-59 in the NCAA tournament's round of 68. So I trust no one will accuse me of hopping on the bandwagon when I offer the following observation: Thad Matta is the most underrated coach in the nation.

(Then again I'm not the first observer to raise this possibility. This may not be a bandwagon, but with luck it could become one.)

For one thing, it is surely a tribute to Matta that OSU will (almost certainly) be ranked in the top 25 when the preseason poll is released in a few weeks. Not bad for an NCAA tournament No. 6 seed that had merely the Big Ten's sixth-ranked offense last season. Matta even lost three starters from that team, including featured scorer LaQuinton Ross and point guard Aaron Craft.

Matta has a very good freshman class coming in, to be sure, as well as one or two highly esteemed transfers. (See below.) Still, none of these OSU newcomers will be found on any 2015 mock draft.

With virtually any other coach in the country, all of the above would add up to a rebuilding season. It does for Matta, too, it's just that he's redefined "rebuilding" to mean top 25 and a potential Sweet 16 appearance.