Before the season started, coach Thad Matta told his team that the regular season Big Ten champion was going to have four losses. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, they were nearly at that number just two weeks into the season. After four games, OSU was just 1-3 and near the bottom of the conference standings. But despite the slow start, the team was surprisingly confident. “I don’t think we were really thinking about, ‘We don’t really have a shot to win it,’ because we had a lot of games to play,” junior Jon Diebler said. “We were still positive that we were going to get back on the right track.”And that’s exactly what they did. Two months and 13 wins later, the Buckeyes are the Big Ten champions.“We had shown that we could be a good team and there were spurts where we played good basketball,” junior David Lighty said. “Everything just kind of flowed for us to get these wins.”The trouble began for Matta and the Buckeyes in early December when Turner was sidelined with a back injury. OSU was left without its best player for what was initially projected to be as many as eight weeks. The loss made what was already expected to be a difficult start to conference play even harder. OSU was scheduled to begin Big Ten play with four of its first five games away from Columbus. Fortunately, Turner returned sooner than expected, but after the slow start, his team had a tall mountain yet to climb. Despite all the odds stacked against him, Matta said his confidence never wavered.“It was one of those things where I never even thought about a Big Ten championship,” Matta said. “It was more of how to get ready to play. I knew in July when they sent me the schedule, with the start, it was going to be challenging.”Matta has always been a strong proponent of the typical one-game-at-a-time mentality that so many coaches have, or at least appear to have when in the public eye. But for Matta, it’s no act. Ignoring the prying of reporters, Matta refused all year to look ahead to a potential title. It’s a mindset that Diebler said has been infused throughout the team. “He keeps pounding it into our heads, so after three years I guess we’re going to [believe it],” Diebler said. “Honestly, we were mad because we were losing and we know what type of team we could be so it was frustrating to start off 1-3. Obviously we’re doing alright right now.”With the exception of junior David Lighty, the conference title is a first for all of OSU’s regular contributors, including junior guard Evan Turner.  “You keep persevering through and keep pushing through and keep overcoming the odds,” Turner said. “People always knock you down and don’t show you that type of respect because they don’t see how hard you work. “We paid our dues and I guess some of the luck is coming.”

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