Well, forward to February 2007, the coach is sure excited that they are still on his side.
"I arrived on campus and had no idea what to expect from them," Matta says. "But we always stress the ability to just hone your skills and be a more complete player."
The Buckeyes (25-3, 13-1) are a pretty complete basketball team.
They have senior leaders in Harris and Lewis. They have good point player from freshman Mike Conley, Jr., and they have one of the more intimidating post players in college basketball in the form or 7' freshman phenom Greg Oden. Mix in key reserves Daequan Cook, Matt Terwilliger. David Lighty, and Othello Hunter and you have the recipe for success.
"We have a nice group of players," Matta proclaims. "The four guys we had returning from last year were successful, so that helps. Also, every guy we brought in this year came from a winning program last year. We all mesh well together."
Oden and Conley came from the same high school, Lawrence North in Indianapolis. The two help lead the Wildcats to three consecutive state titles. Last season, they became the first school in the rich history of Indiana high school to finish the season as the top ranked team in every national high school poll. So, they were the mythical national champions as well. They definitely know how to win.
"They know what it takes," Matta says. "Mike has adapted well to college hoops. He is a great person with great commitment and work ethic."
There is one more thing that people should know about Conley.
"I think Greg Oden is Mike's number one fan," the OSU coach claims. "We both know what he is capable of doing. He works extra before and after practice and always has a smile on his face."
As for if the goal of making the players more complete has worked?
"I am pleased with how we have played this year," he says. "And I am pleased with how they (Lewis and Harris) have played throughout their careers. We still need to find consistency, but that is what it's all about."
IT'S JUST A NUMBER
When the Badgers and Buckeyes face off Sunday, you had better just throw the number in front of the name out the window.
At least that is what Coach Matta thinks.
"I don't feel any different being number one," he states. "We had a cup of coffee with it in November. It really makes no difference. That is just part of the game, I guess."
SENIORS, MONEY, and STUDENTS
It has certainly become a rare thing in the world of college sports that a senior dominates any sport.
Most of the good, younger players leave for higher ground and greener pastures. That is the nature of the game these days. Had it not been for a new rule that high school seniors must play at least one year in the NCAA before going to the pros, you would probably not have to worry about seeing Greg Oden in the post on Sunday.
In fact, the Big Ten may name its version of the rule as the "Greg Oden Rule". Much like the Big 12 will have the "Kevin Durant Rule".
Coach Matta just wishes for something else.
"All I want is for people to let the kids be student-athletes." he says. "I know that people (media) have got to get paid and have a job to do, so you just sort of live with it."
As for if the talk of Greg Oden leaving the OSU campus for the NBA bothers him? Well...
"Like I said, it is just something you learn to live with." Matta states. "I cannot do anything about Greg getting talked about. I just try not to worry about it."
WHAT DOES THE COACH EXPECT ON SUNDAY
"I know it is going to be a Big Ten game, a big game, and they (Wisconsin) are a good team. (Alando) Tucker can score on anyone and has shown he can take over a game. They are as solid as any team in the country. We had some turnovers in the first game that proved to be costly. It will be a good one, people will definitely be watching."