COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio State basketball hit a new low under coach Thad Matta on Sunday, missing the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.
The Buckeyes had never missed the tournament in back-to-back years during his tenure, which began in the 2004-05 season. There was no shortage of things that went wrong for this year’s group. Four players transferred and Keita Bates-Diop sustained a season-ending injury. Most of all, though, the Buckeyes just didn’t get the job done. They threw away close games. They suffered blowouts. Losses came at seemingly the worst possible times, and Ohio State never won three conference games in a row.
The last humiliating blow came in a loss to cellar-dweller Rutgers in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. By then the Buckeyes’ NCAA case was laughable. However, it turned out Ohio State had also played its way out of the NIT. Not great!
Matta will be coaching for his job next season. Ohio State won’t allow the program to miss three straight tournaments without consequences. The question, then, is pretty simple. Will Ohio State find its way back into the field of 68 next season? (You’ll be able to vote at the end of this story.)
The good news (or maybe bad news, depending on your thoughts on Matta’s player development) is that the Buckeyes only lose one player. The enigmatic Marc Loving is out of eligibility, but every other key contributor will have the option to return. Trevor Thompson has been the subject of conflicting reports regarding his entry into the NBA Draft, but even if he enters he could again withdraw as he did last season.
Ohio State brings back a core that includes forward Jae’Sean Tate and guards JaQuan Lyle and Kam Williams. Thompson’s return would be huge, and getting back Bates-Diop will also be a plus. Additionally, the Buckeyes will have the services of forward Derek Funderburk, who redshirted in 2016-17, and incoming freshmen Kaleb Wesson (a 4-star center) and Braxton Beverly (a 3-star guard).
The schedule could once again help or hurt, depending on whether Ohio State takes down some marquee opponents. The Buckeyes will face North Carolina in New Orleans, and the Big Ten/ACC Challenge figures to produce a big-name foe. Furthermore, conference play will give Ohio State all the chances it needs to build up a resume.
Ultimately, a tournament berth will come down to a few factors. Can players show improvement and development? Can Ohio State avoid major injuries or other roster attrition? And lastly, can Ohio State actually get the job done when it needs to?
What do you think about the Buckeyes’ odds? Vote in our poll below!