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October 29, 2006
Buckeyes surprised at favorite's role
• Preseason Top 25
• Media Days Central
• The College Basketball Wire
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CHICAGO - Ohio State was picked the favorite to win the Big Ten by media members at the conference's annual media day on Sunday, and nobody felt more undeserving than the Buckeyes themselves.
"It shocks me, because in what other sport can you lose 80 percent of your scoring and get picked higher the next year," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "Especially when one of your guys can't even play."
The hype surrounding the rebuilt Buckeyes, who debuted at No. 4 in the USA Today coaches' preseason poll Saturday, stems from the arrival of the nation's No.2-ranked recruiting class. However, 7-foot center Greg Oden - the consensus No. 1 overall prospect - is sidelined with a wrist injury. Oden is tentatively scheduled to return in early January.
Without Oden, the Buckeyes are down to eight scholarship players - including three who haven't played in a college game yet. OSU lost four starters from last season's team - a squad that captured the school's first outright Big Ten title in 14 years.
Outside of junior point guard Jamar Butler, last year's sixth man, senior wing Ron Lewis, and reserve Matt Terwilliger, there are no other Buckeyes back who played have played at least 10 minutes a game.
"I was pretty shocked," Butler said about the lofty preseason ranking for the Buckeyes. "I thought we would be lower being so young."
The reporters in Big Ten country seem to share Butler's belief. A different poll, voted on only by 22 of the league's beat writers and columnists, put Wisconsin on top over OSU.
The Badgers, who were picked to finish second at the media day, return nine players who played 10 or more minutes per game in 2005-06. Wisconsin finished 19-12 last season.
One of the Badgers returning is Big Ten preseason player of the year Alando Tucker, who averaged 19 points and 5.7 rebounds.
"I think Wisconsin is the premier team in our league and a legit top-10 team in the country," Iowa coach Steve Alford said. "When you think about the Big Ten, you have got to think about them."
"Not only does (Oden) only have one hand, but there is so much uncertainty about his injury," Matta said. "We don't know if he will ever play a game this season without anything (a brace or some type of support) on his wrist."
Illinois was picked to finish in third by the media in attendance. The Big Ten only asks for the media to vote on the top three.