March 11, 2010

Is rest best?

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Big Ten Tournament is underway and the Buckeyes have the luxury of one more day to prepare for the eventual winner of the Iowa vs. Michigan game. The Buckeyes have not been on the hardwoods since a March 2nd game against Illinois that wrapped up a share of the Big Ten regular season title.

The layoff did not mean that the Buckeyes had a chance to kick back for too long and play XBOX and stay away from Value City Arena. While Thad Matta did give the players two days off after the win against the Illini and a NCAA mandated day off later in the week the Buckeyes were surprisingly sharp when hitting the practice floor again.

There has been concern with Ohio State's short bench that players might lose their legs and hit the proverbial wall as the team gets ready to potentially play three games in as many days on the eve of learning where the next destination will be.

"First and foremost we have no choice if we are fortunate to do that," Matta said. "We have great athletes and more so than that we have very competitive kids."

Ohio State has had experience with player fatigue rearing its ugly head in the tournament and Matta has vivid recollections of the last time that happened to the Bucks.

"I look back to a few years ago we made it to the championship game and Matt Terwilliger just had his appendectomy and Matt Sylvester's back (only allowed) him to play in games. The three games crushed him and those guys fought hard and maybe ran out of gas down the stretch," Matta admitted in retrospect.

So the structure of practice has been changed a little bit but that doesn't mean that the players are getting any sort of white glove treatment.

"I think we have kept practices relatively short but like I have said they have been up-and-down and intensified with keeping score and a lot of situational type of stuff," Matta said. "I think we will find out how it went on Friday."

It wouldn't be the first time in players' lives that they have been asked to play a lot of minutes of basketball over a weekend stretch.

"It's back to AAU days where you play four games in a day," guard David Lighty added. "Three games in three days will be fine."

And National Player of the Year candidate Evan Turner put it all into perspective.

"It is only 40 minutes of basketball," Turner said regarding the short schedule.

Is there really much to coach up when it comes to teams that you have played at least once and in many cases twice during the Big Ten season?

"We have been trying to get back in game mode and I think when it comes to tournament time that that's all basketball is, you just go up and down, not a lot of teams have a lot of time to prepare," Turner said. "I just think you play basketball in March and there are not too many X's and O's and it is just you come with your players and coaches and come ready to battle."

So conditioning will come into play and the Buckeyes have made extra allowances for that during practices.

"I have tried to make it as faced-paced and as intense… we will take some timeouts but there hasn't been a whole lot of stoppage in practice and we are just trying to keep our wind and execution and timing and that sort of thing," Matta said.

And after Thursday the practice is essentially over and the games start on Friday and that will be a good thing for the players according to Matta.

"These guys would rather play a game than practice," Matta said.


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