Ask any Ohio State basketball fan about the “golden era” of OSU hoops, and you’ll get a near unanimous answer…the teams coached by Fred Taylor that went to three straight NCAA championship games, and four Final Fours in the span on nine seasons. There’s really no argument to be made.
Well, maybe there should be.
In eight seasons at Ohio State, Thad Matta’s Buckeyes have some numbers that stack up quite favorably with that near-dynasty from 50 years ago.
Let’s start with wins and losses, which is why the game is played, right? Well, from the 1959-60 season through 1967-68 (referred to hereafter as the “Taylor Era”), the Buckeyes went 171-62, winning 73% of the time. From 2004-05 through 2011-12 (the “Matta Era”), OSU is currently 221-64. Advantage: Matta Era
In Big Ten play, OSU went 89-37 (.706 win percentage), which just barely trails the current group’s 98-40 mark (.710 win percentage). Advantage: Matta Era
As far as Big Ten Championships go, that Taylor Era wore the conference crown 6 times in those nine seasons, while Thad Matta has won or shared five regular season titles in his eight years. Matta’s teams also have won three Big Ten Tournament titles. Advantage: Taylor Era (although Matta could match in 2012-13)
In NCAA Tournament appearances, Taylor’s teams went four times in that span. It’s important to note that back then, there were no at-large teams invited to the tournament. So, even though Ohio State shared the Big Ten title in 1963 & 1964, they didn’t go the NCAA Tournament because of arcane rules that I will spare you the details of. In eight years in Columbus, Thad Matta is in his sixth NCAA Tournament. Once again, it’s important to note that Ohio State self-imposed a tournament ban in his first season (2004-05) as a result of NCAA violations committed under Jim O’Brien. Advantage: Matta Era
While Taylor only made four tournaments during that stretch, each time his squads advanced to the Final Four. Thad Matta is at his second Final Four (2007). Furthermore, the Buckeyes were 13-3 (81%) in NCAA play, while Matta is currently 14-5 (74%). Advantage: Taylor Era
There have been four all-time seasons that the Ohio State program has been ranked #1 in the polls, and all fit in this comparison. Fred Taylor’s teams spent nearly all of the 1960-61, and 1961-62 seasons at the top. Thad Matta has been there twice, as well, hitting the top in 2006-07, and again last season. Advantage: draw
Some of the biggest names overlap these eras in OSU hoops. In this Taylor Era, there were four players (Jerry Lucas-3, John Havlicek, Larry Siegfried and Garry Bradds-2) who received a total of seven All-American honors. Under Thad Matta, there have been three (Greg Oden, Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger-2) All-Americans earning four appearances. Advantage: Taylor Era
How about national players of the year? Taylor had Lucas (1961 & 1962) and Bradds (1964), while Matta coached Turner (2010). Advantage: Taylor Era
Moving on to first team All-Big Ten performers…Lucas (3), Havlicek (2), Siegfried, Bradds (2) and Hosket (2) were feted under Taylor. That’s five players with ten total honors. Matta can counter with six players and eight honors. That list includes Terence Dials, Oden, Mike Conley, Jamar Butler, Turner (2) and Sullinger (2). Advantage: Taylor Era
During the Taylor Era, there were five players (Siegfried, Lucas, Havlicek, Bradds and Hosket) chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft. Matta has had six players taken (Oden, Conley, Daequan Cook, Kosta Koufos, Byron Mullens, Turner). Despite math telling me that this should go to Thad, remember there were far fewer NBA teams, so those first round selections carry more weight. Advantage: Taylor Era
That leaves us with just one real category to compare, and really, it is the only one that should matter. Fred Taylor coached the school’s only National Championship team in 1959-60, and while Thad Matta reached the finals in 2006-07, OSU fell to Florida. Advantage: Taylor Era
If you were keeping score, that’s seven for Fred Taylor, and three for Thad Matta. No matter how you add it up, though, both eras are extremely impressive.
So, I’ll make this suggestion. Let’s go ahead and call this current Thad Matta reign as the “golden era” of Ohio State basketball, and we’ll elevate Fred Taylor’s epoch to the “platinum era”. Sound good?
Really, the only thing missing for Matta is that national title. Should the Buckeyes cut down the nets in New Orleans on Monday night…then, we’ll really have something to argue about.