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Wake Up Sloopy

Ohio State basketball’s awkward timing, Ray Rice visits Columbus and more

Ryan Ginn

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Today is Thursday, March 9, and it’s time to Wake Up Sloopy.

Ohio State confirms Thad Matta’s return hours before humiliating loss

Wednesday was quite a day for Ohio State basketball.

On the heels of a report from Yahoo’s Pat Forde that head coach Thad Matta would return for the 2017-18 season, athletic director Gene Smith confirmed that news. He released a statement detailing his support for Matta, who has won more games than any other coach in program history.

“Recently, Thad and I had a great discussion regarding the future of our Men’s Basketball Program,” Smith said. “Thad’s record at Ohio State is an outstanding 337-122; a winning percentage of .734. He is the all-time wins leader and owns the record for most games coached at Ohio State. His teams have won five Big Ten titles, and made nine NCAA postseason appearances.  What Thad’s teams at Ohio State have accomplished – both on and off the court – is highly commendable.

“While we are not currently where we aspire to be with our performance on the court, Thad understands better than anyone that component has to improve.  I am confident in his leadership to return the program to the winning ways that we have all enjoyed during his 13 year tenure. 

“We have had  tremendous success with Thad as our basketball coach. His commitment to developing young men in a holistic way and running our program with the highest of integrity continue to be hallmarks of his leadership.”  

The announcement came just hours before Ohio State’s opening-round game against Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament. It didn’t sit well with fans that the Buckeyes were playing on Wednesday and needed to win five straight games. One can imagine how the fan base feels now that Ohio State actually lost to the Scarlet Knights.

The timing of the announcement couldn’t have been much worse. Ohio State was always going to keep Matta after this season – and one game doesn’t change that – but making that announcement right before a nearly double-digit loss to Rutgers couldn’t have looked much worse.

As for Matta’s future, it was clear from the moment the announcement was made that next year will be a make-or-break season for his Ohio State future. My colleague Ben Axelrod dove into that after Smith released his statement.

If it doesn’t improve next season, it’s hard to imagine Matta returning for a 15th season at Ohio State. While the Buckeyes may never be the perennial power fans want them to be, they’re also not a program that should be going more than two consecutive years without making the NCAA Tournament. Make no mistake, Matta’s own early success is certainly one of the reasons for Ohio State’s high standards. But with the Buckeyes’ record, attendance and postseason results steadily declining, the all-time winningest coach in Ohio State history is running out of goodwill.

What will Matta have to do to save his job beyond next season? There’s likely not going to be a set criteria. At the very least, the Buckeyes will surely have to make the 2018 NCAA Tournament, but even that might not be enough.

More than anything, Matta will have to prove that Ohio State is still heading in the right direction. And whether it be on the court or the recruiting trail, not since 2013 — when the Buckeyes won the Big Ten Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight a year after making it to the Final Four — has there been much evidence of that.

Ray Rice speaks to Ohio State football

Slow news day, huh? On the same day that the Matta news was spreading, it was revealed that former NFL player Ray Rice spoke to the Ohio State football team.

Rice hasn’t played in the NFL since the 2013 season, after being videoed knocking out his fiancee with a brutal punch. Given that Wednesday was International Women’s Day, the timing probably could have been better. However, that doesn’t mean Rice doesn’t have something valuable to share. He was rightly vilified at the time and remains pretty toxic, but cautionary tales can also be impactful.

You can watch a clip of him speaking thanks to the Ohio State football Twitter account.

Should Ohio State have brought in Rice to speak to the team? Let us know in the comments.

Could Chris Jent leave?

As noted above, Wednesday was not a particularly great day for the Ohio State basketball team. The situation was further complicated by news that a top assistant could be a candidate at a nearby opening.

Jent would be a tough loss heading into a critical season, but Matta said after the game that he always roots for his assistants to get head coaching jobs.

“Something like that, for my guys, what’s good for them and their families, I’m always good with,” he said.


B1G Happenings

• Inside Michigan’s nightmarish airplane experience Wednesday

• Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles will return next season

• Former Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan set to become a Hall of Famer

• Nebraska’s new football coaches already feel at home

• Minnesota self-reported a minor recruiting violation