Thad Matta, Buckeyes embrace Ohio St. as a ‘football school’

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Thad Matta is an honest man.

Aside from that one time back in 2004 when he told the entire Xavier University community he was staying at the Atlantic 10 school, only to sneak out in the middle of the night and head up to Columbus, Matta is a guy that doesn’t seem to shy away from telling it like it is.

In just this season, he’s been openly critical of Deshaun Thomas’ lack of defense and got out in front of the idea that the Buckeyes were a shell of their December selves in February.

When the discussion of being a basketball coach at a football school is broached, Matta just smiles, and doesn’t mince words.

“I’ve always felt that we could have the best of both at Ohio State,” Matta told the O-Zone.net last weekend. “With all the trials and tribulations that have gone on with football over the past year, I’m elated for the university, probably most importantly, that we have some great things happening.”

There have been a number of instances, in both print and television, where Matta has openly embraced the notion that he’s almost never front and center of the proverbial Ohio State marquee.

Here’s a story that’ll make you cheer for Matta

What once was Jim Tressel’s role as unofficial face of the university has now been passed off to Urban Meyer, and there were few people thinking that the school’s head basketball coach should claim that distinction.

But eight years into his tenure at Ohio State, whether it be piggy backing off a brand name or taking full advantage of his school’s athletic budget, Matta has delivered results: five Big Ten regular-season titles, four Sweet 16 appearances, and now two Final Fours; all with the help of 10 McDonald’s All-American’s who Matta and his staff recruited has truly turned football-first school into a pretty well-oiled basketball machine.

It’s cliché, but you could argue that Matta took the Ohio State job with the idea that if he can build it, they will come.

“We’re still a football school, according to people.  We’ll live with that,” said Jared Sullinger “I think this program, ever since coach Matta came, he changed it around from what it came from.”

Ohio State is a big school, actually the third largest in the country in terms of undergraduate enrollment. With thousands of sports-crazed fans running around Columbus and outposts around the state yelling “hang on sloopy”, there’s plenty of people to support basketball, and plenty of money to help keep it growing and turning into a national powerhouse.

Together, football and  basketball should have no problem sharing the majority of the attention this athletic department receives, and both can compliment each other in different ways.

“There’s nothing greater in the fall than being in the shoe,” said Aaron Craft during the Buckeyes second and third round NCAA Tournament games in Pittsburgh.  “Watching our guys play football, especially with the buzz that’s going around right now with the new hires and all the recruits we have coming in.”

“It’s awesome to see Buckeye Nation come together through football, understanding the same fans back us during basketball season.”

Whether it be basketball, football, swimming, or synchronized swimming, everyone loves a winner and a reason to swell up with pride, and you’d be hard pressed to find a cluster of Buckeye fans who completely ignore the other success this school achieves.

Sports are sports, and college basketball should be treated as a pretty big deal, even in this football crazed part of the country.

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.

VIDEO: Florida’s Chris Chiozza beats Wisconsin at the buzzer

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK — So you didn’t think the NCAA Tournament had enough excitement this year?

Wisconsin and Florida solved that problem for you.

The Badgers started things, as they erased a 12-point deficit in the final 4:15 to force overtime, a stretch that included an 8-0 run at the end of regulation that was capped by a Zak Showalter running three with 2.5 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 72.

Wisconsin jumped out to a lead in overtime, but the combination of an inability to make free throws and and this epic chasedown block from Canyon Barry left the door open for the Gators, who eventually won the game on this running three from Chris Chiozza:

What.

A.

Game.

If we get a better one than this, I just hope I’m courtside for it.

KeVaughn Allen led the way for the Gators with 35 points, and no one else on the Gators scored more than eight points, but it didn’t matter. The Gators are still headed to the Elite 8, and Mike White will have a chance to play for the right to go to the Final Four in his first NCAA Tournaments.

Replacing a legend like Billy Donovan was never going to be easy, but White is doing an admirable job.

The other subplot here: With the win, Florida becomes the third member of the SEC in the Elite 8, and with a regional final against South Carolina on Sunday afternoon, it guarantees that there will be at least one SEC team in the Final Four.

While there were celebrations in the Florida locker room, Wisconsin’s was one of devastation.

The Badgers started four seniors, including tournament stalwarts Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, who played in their 17th career NCAA Tournament games.

Hayes had 22 points, but he’s going to be haunted by the free throws he missed. He was 7-for-14 from the line on the night, including four missed freebies in overtime. The end was similarly heart-breaking for Koenig, as he was a non-factor in overtime due to an injury he suffered on the possession before Showalter’s game-tying three.

Both of them are going to spend years thinking ‘What if?’ That’s how the NCAA Tournament works.

Everyone leaves in tears, either because they’re cutting down the nets at the Final Four or because their season — their career — just came to an end.

Hayes and Koenig were no different.

VIDEO: Canyon Barry saves Florida with epic chase down block

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Florida’s Canyon Berry had the best chase down block since LeBron James in the 2016 NBA Finals.

It kept Wisconsin’s lead at two points and gave the Gators a chance to tie and, eventually, win the game.

Look at this: