1. Aaron Craft may be the most hated college basketball player in the Big Ten this season (regardless of how much Dan Dakich loves him). Be honest: would you like Craft if he weren't on your team?
Even though I used to dislike Craft despite his Buckeye stature, I've pretty much done a 180 on him. It's almost impossible for me to not respect what he does for this team. He's among to top 2-3 defensive players in the country on the perimeter, and is actually one of the few players on the roster that can create their own shot and shots for others. But to answer your question, no. God no. I'd want him burned at the stake or staked through the heart like he was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
2. LaQuinton Ross seems to be having a breakout season for you guys. Besides him and Craft, who else has been a difference-maker for the Buckeyes this season?
Actually, I'd probably respond that Ross has been underwhelming this year given what Ohio State expected out of him. It probably wasn't fair, but after his NCAA Tournament last season it seemed likely he would really burst onto the scene as a potential first round pick. Just hasn't happened. As far as who else to expect something out of...
Amir Williams is big? Shannon Scott can defend? Sam Thompson can dunk? It's just so inconsistent who the third best player for Ohio State is on any given night that's it's really hard for me to pick out one player.
3. Ohio State had been flying high, as winners of 6 out of 7 in February, before a brutal loss at Penn State last night. (I would joke but IU suffered a terrible loss to the Nittany Lions recently as well.) What do the Buckeyes need to do to regain their composure before the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments?
I'd say that they need to get more consistent offensive execution, but I'm not sure they're actually capable of that because of their inability to shoot the basketball consistently. Their zone offense has been particularly abysmal. Ohio State pretty much is what they are right now: a team that can beat any other team, but also lose to any other team on any given day depending on what kind of offense shows up. Because of that, they're one of the most inconsistent teams in the country.
4. This is a veteran-filled Buckeyes team with plenty of experience and depth at every position. Thus, is it fair to say that a 9-7 conference record and fourth place in the B1G so far has been a bit of a disappointment?
It's certainly a surprise, given the way they started the season. The offensive production just has been absolutely not there. Lenzelle Smith's play has unfortunately fallen off of a cliff, Ross's offense is a bit too inconsistent to be a number one scoring threat, and Craft's inability to shoot the ball really kills all of their spacing. I thought that Ross would be a bit better, Smith would fill in more as a secondary scorer, and that Thompson would have a slightly bigger role overall. That just hasn't happened, and that's why Ohio State is staring at the fifth seed in the Big Ten tournament unless Michigan State loses out and the Buckeyes win out.
5. Ohio State has been to the Final Four and Elite Eight the past two years. Realistically, how far do you see this team going in March?
Given their inconsistency and how many close games they play, I can't see them getting past the Sweet 16-Elite Eight level at their absolute peak. They're also probably staring at a 6-seed. right now, which means that a tough 11 seed could knock them out opening night. The range of potential outcomes is very high with this squad just because every single game they play is so close.
6. I've always thought that basketball coaches at football schools could have great job security as long as they consistently win, since they are not as consistently in the spotlight as their football counterparts. Billy Donovan and Rick Barnes are two examples that come to mind. What's the general consensus about Thad Matta in Columbus? I assume that after a decade of success at OSU, he has the job for as long as he wants by now?
Matta is absolutely safe. I've been disappointed in some of the in-game coaching decisions he's made this season -- mainly on offense -- but that's a far cry from saying that he's been a problem. He's a top 5-10 recruiter and one of the truly brilliant defensive basketball minds in the NCAA. If things start to go south for a considerable amount of time, he could be in a situation like Barnes is now where he might need to actually save his job. But he's definitely a top coach that should be in Columbus for the long haul.
7. After slow starts to their NBA careers, Evan Turner is now an X-factor for a championship contending Pacers team, and Jared Sullinger is averaging close to a double-double per game for the Celtics. Which of these guys ends up having the better pro career?
Man, that's a tough call. Turner isn't a bad NBA player, but he's a high usage player that really needs the ball in his hands despite middling skills that probably don't call for it. But he also really doesn't like to defend which might make Vogel want to strangle him. He might work out well for Indiana, he might not. Same with Sullinger pretty much. I'd guess that in the future I like Sullinger to play a bigger part for better teams because his skill set is more role player-oriented, but they're both around the same caliber player in my opinion.
8. In a weird schedule quirk, IU football travels to Columbus for the second year in a row in the fall. Do you have any suggestions for fans for bars to visits or sights to see in the area? I've been told Short North is the place to hang out in C-Bus.
Yeah Short North is okay. High Street on campus is always fun after games. Lots of good bars from 15th Ave to about Lane Ave. Out-R-Inn and O-Patio are pretty good bars for college students on gamedays, and Short North is a bit better for more mature crowds.
9. How does Value City Arena measure up to other B1G basketball arenas?
I've always been somewhat disappointed by Value City, although I haven't been there since they moved the student section around. It's a bit too big to really get that super loud atmosphere.
10. Prediction for today's game - who do you have winning?
Oh god. Umm...I'll say Ohio State by 3, 59-56. But seriously, this Ohio State team could lose any game. Only thing I can say is that it will probably be close coming down to the last five minutes.
Thank you Sam for answering our questions! I look forward to never seeing Aaron Craft play in Bloomington again after today.