About an hour in advance of his team being ranked No. 2 in the nation, Matta was asked about the likely move up after previously third-ranked Michigan State suffered a Nov. 23 loss to unranked Connecticut.
"There's not much room to go up but there's a lot of room to go down, that's for sure," he said. "It's exciting for the program and that sort of thing but I've always said I'd like to be there at the end as opposed to the beginning."
After opening the 2010-11 campaign ranked fourth in the nation and pegged as a serious contender to reach the Final Four, the Buckeyes climbed one spot in the polls following their 93-75 road dismantling of No. 9 Florida on Nov. 16.
Duke and Michigan State had sat one-two atop the rankings since the season began, but the Spartans took a 70-67 loss to unranked Connecticut on Nov. 23 and dropped to sixth in the polls. On the strength of the win against the Spartans, the 5-0 Huskies entered the rankings at No. 7.
The Buckeyes will have their first chance to live up to their ranking Tuesday night when they take on unranked Florida State as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. After that, they will enjoy a nine-day break for final exams before returning to the court Dec. 9 against IUPUI.
The time off will allow the coaches to do some self-examination of this year's team.
"As we're looking at our team right now, we're starting to make some adjustments but there's a lot of things we've got to look at when we've got time during the break," Matta said. "I think these guys have put themselves in a position to play good basketball. I'm just looking for the 40-minute consistency."
That final viewpoint was shared by some of his players following a 66-45 victory Nov. 26 against Miami (Ohio).
Asked if he felt the Buckeyes are the second-best team in the nation, junior guard William Buford said, "Not really because we haven't really proved ourselves to anybody yet. No. 2 is fine but we've still got to show everybody that we're capable of being No. 2."
Senior forward David Lighty said that in order for OSU to get there, it has to start playing better on both sides of the ball.
"I think we still have to prove it going out and playing 40 minutes of basketball like we want to, dictating things that we want to (happen) on offense and defense," he said. "I think we're a high-tempo team. Twenty-eight points in the first half (against the RedHawks?) Coach Matta likes to get up and down. Once we start putting 40 minutes together on both sides then we'll be holding ourselves accountable as maybe the No. 2 team in the country."
One person with first-hand experience of the nation's top two teams begs to differ. On Nov. 16, Miami head coach Charlie Coles and his team dropped a 79-45 contest while playing the Blue Devils on their home court.
According to him, OSU and Duke are worthy of being ranked as the top two teams in the country.
"People will argue with me about it, (they are) but very comparable," he said. "They're different. Duke is going to get after you. If Duke's better at you they're going to beat you pretty good. If Ohio State is better than you, because of the way Thad coaches it's not necessarily going to be a rout. I've learned never to look at that."
Coles is not the only recent opposing coach to praise the Buckeyes. Morehead head coach Donnie Tyndall's team opened the 2009-10 season with a road loss to a Kentucky team that would go on to capture a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and reach the Elite Eight.
"Obviously that's a very, very talented Ohio State team," he said after his team's Nov. 23 loss to the Buckeyes. "There's really not a weakness that I see in that team this early in the year. We played Kentucky about this time a year ago and right now Ohio State is a better team than Kentucky was at that time. I feel like Ohio State is certainly a team that, knock on wood, they stay healthy, will have an opportunity to play for a national championship."