When the Michigan men’s basketball team blew a 20-point lead to Ohio State earlier this season, it came as a bit of a surprise.
The Buckeyes were supposed to be in a rebuilding year, and the Wolverines seemed to be rallying momentum after a win over UCLA.
Fast forward a few months, and the result of the first matchup seems more reasonable. The Buckeyes have established themselves as one of the best teams in the Big Ten, currently ranked eighth nationally.
Ohio State’s unexpected rise in Chris Holtmann’s first season as head coach is highlighted by somewhat unexpected contributions.
Junior forward Keita Bates-Diop has emerged as a top big man in the conference, as he leads the Buckeyes in scoring with 19.6 points per game.
Graduate transfer Andrew Dakich, who played sparingly for four years at Michigan before transferring to Columbus, has also played consistent, quality minutes for the Buckeyes this season.
To start the year, though, senior forward Jae’Sean Tate was expected to be Ohio State’s best scorer. After averaging 14.3 points per game last season, Tate seemed poised to contribute even more in an increased roll.
Bates-Diop has taken some of that production for himself, but Tate still averages 12.4 points per game heading into Sunday’s matchup.
The Daily sat down with Tate at Big Ten Media Day in October to discuss Dakich’s transition in Columbus, Holtmann’s impact on the team and expectations for Tate heading into this season.
The Michigan Daily: With Andrew Dakich coming over, what has he shown and how has he assimilated to the team?
Jae’Sean Tate: When Dak first showed up, it didn’t take him long to — he just has a confidence about himself, an element where people just like him. It wasn’t weird or anything. I feel like I’ve known Dak a long time, and I’ve only known him a few months. You know, he’s a genuine guy. He’s not afraid to speak up. There have been times where he’s called out teammates. He’s just been a good, fifth-year upperclassman that leads the young guys. And then, he’s been a source for me to go to. (Michigan) won the Big Ten last year. I want to know what they’re doing that we could do to get there. Just talk about the difference between the Ohio State culture and the Michigan culture, what they did, and seeing if we could take nuggets from them to improve us.
TMD: Is there any ribbing back and forth with him coming from Michigan?
JT: Oh yeah, definitely. I think we had like a scrimmage the day they had to go get their rings, and we were like, ‘You better not wear a Michigan shirt. You can get your ring, but you better come right back.’ Also his girlfriend lives up there, so sometimes he goes home on the weekend and I’m like, ‘I hope you have a good time, but I hope you get stuck in three hours of traffic on your way up there.’
TMD: Shifting gears a little, you guys have a new coach now, too. So there’s a lot of changes going around. How has that been different?
JT: It’s different because you go from one whole coaching staff to the next. Different people and different personalities. But I think Coach Holt is a good guy. He’s a good coach — a player’s coach. I feel like he trusts me, and the same with the team. I feel like we’re putting all our trust in him. We’re still getting to know each other and it’s going to be a long process, but for the short time we’ve been together, I think we couldn’t do it any other way.
TMD: You were recruited and played under Thad Matta, is it weird for you to play your whole career with one coach and now have it switch in your last year?
JT: Umm, no. Like I said, at first it was kind of shocking. At the end of the day, it’s a business. It’s life. Maybe down the road I’m on a team or in the corporate world, and I get a new boss or something. I just have to look at it like that. Things are going to change. The only thing you can change is your attitude and how you approach the situation.
TMD: There have been expectations for you in the past few years, but now that you’re a senior, have you felt yourself taking on a different role?
JT: I feel like I’ve been in the same role since my sophomore year. My team always puts trust in me. They always look towards me. And every year, I’ve seen that I’ve improved in that leadership role. This year, my whole thing is just to be more positive. We’re so new — new faces on the team, new coaching staff — it’s vital for me to stay positive and try to teach the new faces. I’m still trying to figure out Coach Holtmann’s ways, and we’re just trying to start the Holtmann era off to a good start, but also end Matta’s era on good terms.