The 2013-2014 Buckeyes won their first 15 games before going just 15-10 over the final 25 games, including a 4-game Big Ten losing streak from Jan. 7-20.
It was one of the few Thad Matta teams that didn’t improve as the season went on. In his ten seasons at the helm only once has a Buckeyes team performed worse over their final 25 games. Ohio State closed the 2008-2009 season with a 14-11 record over their final 25 games. Like last season, the Buckeyes finished that year with a first-round loss in the NCAA tournament, falling to Sienna.
“The entire season last year has been the motivator for us,” senior Sam Thompson said. “None of us have lost like that our entire career, even with as much talent as that team had, as much experience as that team had, for whatever reason we couldn’t’ get it together. That’s really what has been driving us this offseason, we don’t want a repeat of last year. We don’t want to lose the close games that we feel like we can win. We want to take care of business this year.”
Seven of Ohio State’s 10 losses a year ago came by single digits as they struggled to close games.
Thompson and the rest of the senior class are bent on reversing the course. Last season was an anomaly for the Buckeyes upper classmen as they went 60-16 over their first two seasons in Columbus with a trip to Final 4 in 2012 and Elite 8 in 2013.
The Buckeyes have four traditional seniors this year with Thompson, Shannon Scott, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald to go along with graduate transfer Anthony Lee. With no juniors in the program, all the seniors are expected to take on a leadership role.
“I do think and hope that these guys understand that a lot has been accomplished in this program,” Matta said of the seniors. “We’ve had a luxury if you will.
“For these guys, next year we lose these seniors and we don’t have any seniors and the next year we have one senior in Marc. I do think these guys have a chance to prove themselves and their worth to this program because they’ve been involved with some great, great basketball players in their time here and now it’s kind of their opportunity.”
While last year was a disappointment, the seniors do have the success of their first two seasons in Columbus to draw on. Though they weren’t focal points of the team in those campaigns, Thompson, Scott and Williams all received significant playing time on those teams.
“I think that I’m one of the guys, along with Amir, along with Trey, along with Shannon, that has been here, that know what it’s like to go deep in the tournament that knows what it’s like to win championships, win conference tournament championships, go on the road, stuff like that,” Thompson said. “I think that I will be called on to do more than I have been in my career thus far and I’m excited about it.”
Lee and the four incoming freshmen that form the 10th-ranked recruiting class in the country will certainly help the seniors’ production, though those players don’t have the failures of the 2013-2014 campaign to draw on. It’s up to Thompson, Scott and Williams to show that last year was an anomaly and to send themselves out with a bang.