Pamphlet Not Included

Last season, the Buckeyes were shown a pamphlet of the city of Atlanta, site of the Final Four. This year head coach Thad Matta said a similar gesture is not necessary. Find out why as we take our first look at the 2007-08 men's basketball team.

One season ago, Ohio State head coach Thad Matta showed his players a glimpse of where he wanted their season to culminate. At the first official team gathering of the season, Matta pulled out a pamphlet about the city of Atlanta – site of that season's Final Four.

Nearly a full six months later, that dream became a reality as the Buckeyes reached the Final Four for the first time since 1968 (the NCAA vacated the school's 1999 appearance). They could not cap the dream season, however, falling 84-75 in the championship game to the Florida Gators.

Sitting at a podium to address the media for the first time on his 2007-08 squad, Matta said he did not plan any such theatrics for this year's team – but not because he does not believe they can be successful.

It is because that is not expected of them from everyone outside of the program this time around.

"The biggest reason I did that was because that's where everybody expected us to be," Matta said. "The hidden message was, ‘We're not ready to get there. We've got a lot of work to do.' "

The message was apparently received, but this year's team faces a set of new challenges that are maybe not all that different than those faced by the Buckeyes a year ago. With a small veteran core, many players new to the program have to assimilate quickly for the Buckeyes to be successful.

The roster lists 13 players including walk-ons Mark Titus and Danny Peters. Only six players have lettered for the Buckeyes, and of those six just two – seniors Jamar Butler and Matt Terwilliger – have earned more than one letter.

As a result, the immediate focus is on the near future as practice gets underway.

"We've got to focus on the now," Matta said. "My big thing is next Friday, after the 10 practices we've had in, where are we? Did we get the things accomplished at that point that we needed? Hopefully we're moving forward."

Although three weeks remain until the season gets underway when the Buckeyes host Ashland for an exhibition game on Oct. 31, Matta said he does not have a starting lineup in his head yet.

While practice will help sort that out, a few players can be penciled in as starters. Butler will be the team's point guard, and he will be joined by sophomore guard/forward David Lighty. Freshman center Kosta Koufos, pegged as a potential lottery pick in next year's NBA Draft, will likely start, while senior forward Othello Hunter could hold down the power forward spot for now.

That leaves one spot entirely up for grabs. To seize it, any number of the new players will likely have to impress Matta with their defensive capabilities.

"Which one would be (the best defender)? I don't know," Matta said. "Each one of them has a different strength. I don't know. What else do you need would be the next question in that regard. All of them honestly have something there."

One of the defensive goals set for the next few weeks, Hunter said, is simply being able to talk on defense.

As the only freshman from last year not to leave early for the NBA, Lighty figures to take on a much greater role on the team than he did one season ago. Matta said he expects him to continue to develop into a defensive stopper while also improving his offensive game.

"I have to," Lighty said. "Last year I was mainly focused on defense. All of them are gone, so we're going to have to make up for the offense somewhere. I'm going to have to pick up my game. I've got to do what I do best. I've got to represent for my homies who left."

He could also see some time at the point guard spot in relief of Butler as sophomore junior college transfer P.J. Hill acclimates himself to the Division-I game.

Normally a pretty jovial person, Hunter seemed a bit under enthused when talking about the upcoming season and how the Buckeyes would overcome the loss of three first-round draft picks.

As it turns out, that feeling came more from a desire to simply get started.

"I'm real happy," he said with his familiar smile returning to his face. "I'm just ready to go play, really. I'm so excited."

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