Former ASU AD Gene Smith familiar with Sweet 16 foe

When Gene Smith looks to the opposing bench Thursday night at Staples Center he’ll have no problem recognizing the colors of the school or the name on the front of the jerseys.

The Ohio State Director of Athletics and former Arizona State University AD knows all about the Buckeyes Sweet 16 foe the University of Arizona from his five years in Tempe.

The second-seeded Buckeyes (28-7, 13-5) and sixth-seeded Wildcats (27-7, 12-6) feature excellent head coaches in Sean Miller and Thad Matta. Miller was once an assistant on Matta’s staff at Xavier before Matta left for Columbus and Miller took his spot for the Musketeers before leaving to take over at UofA.

“It’s going to be very interesting to watch two outstanding coaches,” Smith explained to Brad Cesmat Monday on ‘Big Guy on Sports.’ “Sean is one of the best in the country…[Matta] is really good about dealing with match ups and positioning each player…he’s [also] a great recruiter. He’s done a marvelous job for us.”

Smith said both teams bring special elements to the game at both ends of the floor.

“It’s going to be an unbelievable matchup once we hit LA,” Smith told Cesmat. “They both play hard-nosed, bend-your-knees defense. That’s going to be a [big] part of the overall game.”

He said he believes the game could be a grinding, low-scoring contest because both teams are playing strong defense in the tournament or you could see easy baskets at both ends from forced turnovers due to the defensive pressure.

Smith said Matta’s success at the football-dominated school speaks volumes for the type of coach he is. He mentioned Florida and Oklahoma as other universities who have experienced success on the gridiron and the hardwood.

Tip-off for UofA-Ohio State is set for 4:47 Arizona time Thursday afternoon.

Pros2Preps.com will have complete coverage of the ‘Cats starting Wednesday morning from Los Angeles.