Nov. 28, 2006

Thad Matta, head coach
On the progression of the team
Going into the season, there were so many unknowns. We were apprehensive and quite honestly we still are a little bit. The guys have done a nice job of adapting to how we want to play offensively and defensively, but it is still very early. I give our veterans credit for the job they have done and the new guys for keeping their eyes and ears open and trying to learn.

On the football and men’s basketball teams being ranked No. 1 nationally
I haven’t talked to coach Tressel since the Michigan game. I like his position a lot better with one game left to play. I think it’s exciting times now. Our team can continue to get better and it’s a unique situation for our program. They know they have to prove their worth and we have a long way to go to do that. It was great motivation to go to the football game Saturday and see the enthusiasm and motivation of the football team and we just try to piggy back off the success coach Tressel and Ohio State had.

On playing North Carolina
With the recruiting classes, we had a sneaky suspicion we would be playing North Carolina (in Big Ten/ACC Challenge). Our kids have played against and with kids at North Carolina. So, there was no secret we were going to play them in that regard. The NBA age restriction makes a game like this more possible. It helps college basketball. North Carolina is a program I looked at when I took this job and wondered how Dean Smith built his program and what they have been able to do over time. Their talent is always high.

On the underclassmen’s progress
I want everyone to lead on this team and have an invested interest. The younger guys look at the older guys and see they have a Big Ten championship ring and so they look to them for guidance.

On Greg Oden’s rehabilitation from wrist surgery
He is doing great. Things are going as planned. He is getting more time at practice and letting mother nature run its course. There is no question he is anxious to get out there and play. He has been diligent in his work ethic and rehab. I think he knows he will be able to help the team and do his part.

On playing in Chapel Hill, N.C.
When we leave North Carolina tomorrow night, I know we will be one step closer to being able to play in any environment. The majority of the `upsets’ were on neutral sites. A lot of returning players have played in environments like this, as well as the incoming guys. It will be a good start for us tomorrow night.

On the progress of Daequan Cook and Mike Conley, Jr.
I have been pleased with their progress. As a coach, it is enjoyable to watch guys get better over time. Cook has made the effort to learn the defense and Michael is growing into the point guard position at the college level.

On playing against North Carolina’s depth
The depth they have at all positions is obviously a challenge. Those guys inside are a force you have to be concerned with and guys on the outside on the perimeter. That’s what makes them special. You have to pick you poison and hope they don’t have a breakout game.

On the freshman for Ohio State and North Carolina having an immediate impact
It’s a unique situation and North Carolina went through it last year kind of like we did where we lost four starters. Both teams are fortunate to have the ability to recruit and have them have an impact early in their careers. The biggest challenge is to get guys who fit into our system and so far we have had great success with that.

On chances of beating North Carolina and improving throughout the season
It will take a great effort on our part to have a chance to win the basketball game. I know from my standpoint the process of building a team and building the individual to play within a system. We have a long way to go, but we will become a much better basketball team at both ends of the floor. Playing North Carolina is a great opportunity for our kids to go down there and get better.

Jamar Butler, junior guard
On playing North Carolina
“Just the chance to play in that great college basketball environment is exciting. I’ve never played in a game like this. As a team, we try to prepare like it’s any other game, but in the back of a player’s head it’s always a great opportunity. This year we have the mindset that we can beat anyone and that we are going to be hard to beat. We’re ahead of where we were last year and are continuing to head in the right direction.”

“Once the ball goes up in the air, I think we’ll settle down and play our game. This game is about being smart and taking care of the ball. I know (Greg) Oden wants to get out there and play. If it was up to him, I know he’d be out there playing. North Carolina pounds the ball inside, so our defense is going to pack the middle to cover (Tyler) Hansbrough. But we know they also have guards that can shoot from the perimeter.”

Ron Lewis, senior guard
On playing North Carolina
“You don’t put too much pressure on any game because then you are too nervous to play. We haven’t played a road game yet, so it’s important we stick to our game plan. Scouting has helped us because it is key to help secure a win. This is the peak for me. Going into North Carolina, you know it’s a facility where everyone wants the chance to play.”

Mike Conley, Jr., freshman guard
On playing North Carolina
“I think since we are familiar with some of the guys, we aren’t as intimidated. We are just trying to come in and stick to our game. In this game we will see if we can bounce back from a run with the away crowd behind them. It’s exciting to go there and play with the traditions the arena holds. It’s a great opportunity to play there and the No. 1 ranking is going to make the environment hostile.”

Othello Hunter, junior forward
On his position
“When I was recruited, I was recruited as a forward. I play a lot of the 4 position (forward) in practice and the 5 (center) in the games. It has been kind of tough, but if that is what coach wants me to do, I’ll do it. If he wants me to go get the rebound I’ll go get the rebound.”

On how he find out about No. 1 ranking
“We didn’t hear about it. We knew when we were watching the Florida game that if they lost we would be No. 1. “

On Greg Oden’s return
“It will be a whole different game. The one thing I can say is it will be really hard for opponents inside.”

On his position
“In junior college I played the 5 position. Playing the 4 position is a new thing for me. I am excited about playing forward because I like a new challenge.”