Thad Matta to part ways with Ohio State

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Ohio State announced on Monday Thad Matta “will no longer be the head men’s basketball coach.”

Matta, who has been at Ohio State for 13 seasons, has won 337 games with the Buckeyes. He has a career 439–154 coaching record, including stints at Xavier and Butler.

“This has been the greatest 13 years of my life,” Matta said through tears at a press conference on Monday. “I completely understand it. We mutually agreed to do this.”

When asked if he was finished coaching, Matta said, “Never say never. But honestly my whole focus right now is trying to get healthy.”

Gene Smith, Ohio State’s athletic director, said during the press conference that after the season, the plan was to bring Matta back for the 2017-18 season, but due to some losses on the recruiting trail, Smith did not think that the Buckeyes were recruiting well enough to turn this around. The Buckeyes had their top recruit in the Class of 2018 decommit from the program in April.

“It was time,” Smith said.

Over the course of the last decade, Matta has dealt with the complications of a botched back surgery in the summer of 2007 that left him with “drop foot”, a condition that requires him to wear a brace because nerve damage has left the muscles and tendons in his foot are too weak to hold the foot up on their own. The back pain the surgery was supposed to correct hasn’t dissipated, either; he still needs help doing things as simple as putting on his shoes.

When asked if he would still be coaching Ohio State if he was 100 percent healthy, Matta said, “yeah, probably.”

Matta has had a tremendously successful tenure as the head coach of the Buckeyes, although he’s run into hard times in recent seasons. From 2006-2012, Matta won at least a share of five of the seven Big Ten regular season titles, reaching the 2007 national title game with a team composed of Greg Oden and Mike Conley and the Final Four in 2012. From 2010-2013, the Buckeyes never won fewer than 29 games and made it to at least the Sweet 16 all four seasons.

The last four years, however, have been a different story. Ohio State has missed the last two NCAA tournaments and, in 2014 and 2015, failed to make it out of the first weekend. They did not finish better than fifth in the Big Ten during that stretch, getting progressively worse with each passing season. It culminated in a 17-15 year in 2016-17 and, since the season has ended, the Buckeyes have lost JaQuan Lyle to a transfer, Trevor Thompson to the professional ranks and saw their prized 2018 recruit, Darius Bazley, decommit.

“Ohio State, they didn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year,” Bazley said at the time. “They didn’t even make the NIT, which is unfortunate, but I looked into the recruits they have coming into next year, they didn’t look too good for the future.”

“So I felt like when my class came in, yeah, we would’ve been OK, but good enough to make the tournament? I don’t know. I just felt as if I was to de-commit, actually take my time, figure everything out it would just be a lot better.”

Earlier this spring, prior to the start of the Big Ten tournament, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith released a statement giving a vote of confidence to Matta.

“While we are not currently where we aspire to be with our performance on the court,” the statement read. “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.”

“I think it’s ridiculous that we have to do stuff like that. Gene and I met a couple weeks ago. It’s amazing what people do nowadays. This is a very fickle business that we’re in,” Matta said in March after Ohio State lost to Rutgers in the Big Ten tournament. “Unless you’re intimately involved on a day-to-day basis, people choose the negative side of things. It’s what they do.”

“Obviously, gas is poured on the fire,” he added. “It’s sad that sports has come to where you got to do stuff like that.”

Ohio State is considered one of the best coaching jobs in not only the Big Ten, but nationally as well. As with programs like Florida and Texas, the Ohio State is an athletic department with all the money you can ask for, a fertile recruiting ground and the proven ability to win with a fan base that doesn’t really pay all that much attention until college football comes to an end. In other words, you get paid and you fly private without having an entire state coming for your head if you lose a game or two in November and December.

As such, don’t be surprised to hear big names get linked with the job. Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall and Xavier’s Chris Mack are probably the two biggest names out there now that Archie Miller is at Indiana and Shaka Smart has things trending in the right direction at Texas. Throw in Butler’s Chris Holtmann and Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin, and there likely won’t be a shortage of big names with an eye on that gig.

Ball State forward Zach Hollywood found dead in off-campus apartment

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Zach Hollywood, a redshirt freshman on the Ball State basketball team, has died, the university confirmed to multiple local news outlets Tuesday.

He was 19 years old.

Hollywood redshirted last season at Ball State after averaging 17.5 points and 7.8 rebounds per game as a senior at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School in Bradley, Ill.

Muncie police are investigating the death at Hollywood’s off-campus apartment, according to WTHR-TV.

“On behalf of Ball State University, it is with profound sadness that we learned today of the passing of Zachary “Zach” Hollywood, a student from Bradley, Illinois,” the school said in a statement. “Zach has been a part of our family for the past year. During his time on campus, he was a member of men’s basketball team and made many positive impressions throughout campus.

“This is a tragedy. Our heartfelt condolences are with his family, friends and teammates. “For members of our Ball State family who need support during this difficult time, we encourage them to take advantage of the numerous resources available on- and off-campus.”

Hollywood’s death is a tragic turn in an already devastating story for his family, which lost Zach’s mother, Susan, suddenly just over one year ago.

3-on-3 at the Final Four for $100,000? It’s happening

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The Final Four just got more exciting.

On Tuesday, Intersport announced a 3-on-3 tournament that they will be hosting at the Final Four with a $100,000 payout for the winners. The participants must be seniors that have exhausted their collegiate eligibility, the teams will be created based on conference and the rules will be standard, international 3-on-3 rules: one-point for a bucket inside the arc, two points for a bucket outside the arc, 12-second shot clocks and games played to 21 points, or whoever has the highest score after 10 minutes. Each all-star team will feature four players, including one sub.

And, well, this is awesome.

I cannot express enough how much I love this idea.

One potential pothole here is that teams that are playing in the Final Four will, quite clearly, not have players eligible to participate.

It also should be noted that since “three-pointers” are now worth two points and “two-pointers” are now worth one, the value of long-range shooting is increased even more.

With all that in mind, why don’t we make a quick power ranking of the teams that can be created from the nine biggest conferences in college hoops:

  1. ACC: Grayson Allen (Duke), Bonzie Colson (Notre Dame), Joel Berry II (North Carolina), Ben Lammers (Georgia Tech)
  2. Big East: Angel Delgado and Khadeen Carrington (Seton Hall), Trevon Bluiett (Xavier), Marcus Foster (Creighton)
  3. Big 12: Devonte’ Graham (Kansas), Jevon Carter (West Virginia), Jeffery Carroll (Oklahoma State), Zach Smith (Texas Tech)
  4. AAC: Rob Gray (Houston), B.J. Taylor (UCF), Gary Clark (Cincinnati), Obi Enechionya (Temple)
  5. Pac-12: Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart (USC), George King (Colorado), Thomas Welsh (UCLA)
  6. Big Ten: Nate Mason (Minnesota), Scottie Lindsay (Northwestern), Vince Edwards and Isaac Haas (Purdue)
  7. Atlantic 10: E.C. Matthews and Jared Terrell (Rhode Island), Peyton Aldridge (Davidson), Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure)
  8. SEC: Yante Maten (Georgia), Deandre Burnett (Ole Miss), Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford (Arkansas)
  9. WCC: Jock Landale and Emmett Naar (Saint Mary’s), Jonathan Williams III (Gonzaga), Silas Melson (Gonzaga)

I had way too much fun putting this together.

What did I miss?

Harsh Reality: Indiana did not do Grant Gelon wrong, getting cut is part of sports

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What happened to Grant Gelon sucks, and I’m not sure anyone in their right mind would try to argue otherwise.

A 6-foot-5 shooting guard from Crown Point, Indiana, Gelon accepted a scholarship offer from then-Indiana head coach Tom Crean as a member of the Class of 2016. His commitment was something of a surprise at the time; Gelon was a two-star prospect, according to Rivals, and ranked 402nd in the class, according to 247 Sports. At the time, Gelon reportedly had seven scholarship offers: Central Michigan, UIC, Toledo, Iona, Youngstown State, IUPUI and Western Carolina.

It was a reach for Crean, but it was also a dream come true for an Indiana kid getting a chance to don the cream and crimson.

Which is what made what happened this spring particularly painful.

Crean was fired on March 16th. Indiana hired Archie Miller to replace him on March 27th. Five weeks later, after a handful of workouts with the new coaching staff, Miller called Gelon into his office — the date, according to the Northwest Indiana Times, was May 3rd — and told him that he was being cut. There was not going to be minutes available, the staff said, for a sophomore that played in just 12 games last season, and that finding a place to transfer would be Gelon’s best option.

“I told them I wanted to stay,” Gelon told the Indy Star. “I told them, I’m making my mind up, I’m gonna push hard, show them what I can do, I’m here for a reason. When I said that, it was like, ‘Whoa, slow down.’ They were kind of making that sound like it wasn’t an option.”

That’s because it wasn’t.

Miller was cutting Gelon.

He was not cutting his scholarship, mind you. The Indiana student-athlete bill of rights protects players from losing their tuition due to poor performance on the court or the field. Gelon would still be getting his education paid for if he opted to remain at Indiana, he just wouldn’t be playing for the Hoosiers. Gelon’s departure opened up a scholarship for the Hoosiers that eventually went to Race Thompson, a four-star power forward that reclassified into the Class of 2017 in order to enroll at Indiana this year.

“Coach Miller believes honesty in evaluating talent, while often difficult, is the appropriate measure to take at all times and in the best interest of each player,” a statement released by the Indiana athletic department read. “Grant was made aware that our staff believed his abilities were not of the caliber that would allow him to receive playing time of any kind in the future for the IU program.”

I feel for Gelon here. I really do. Getting cut sucks, and everyone reading this now has probably gone through it at some point in their life. It happens all the time, in every sport, at every age group. Once you get to a level in athletics where you’re playing in more than your hometown rec league, it gets competitive. If you’re not good enough, you don’t make the team. That is how this works. Gelon found that out the hard way.

And frankly, what Miller did is not uncommon. It’s called running a player off, and it happens all the time at every program. Gelon had a bad enough season as a freshman that there is no guarantee that he would have kept his spot on the team had Crean kept his job. Simply put, he is not a Big Ten basketball player. I’d wager that two out of every five transfers at the Division I level are the result of a player transferring out of a school — either because he was forced or because the writing was on the wall — to a lower level, one more in line with his skill-set.

That’s what happened with Gelon. He’s now at State Fair Community College in Missouri, where he’ll spend a year before looking to climb his way back into the Division I ranks, most likely at the low-major level.

And no matter how many interviews that he or his family gives, you won’t find me saying that Indiana handled this the wrong way.

Was Miller callous?

That wouldn’t surprise me. He’s not the type of guy to mince words, and there really is not a good way to sugar-coat, ‘You are not good enough for us.’

But Gelon was not having his scholarship taken away. Indiana was living up to their promise of paying for his education. They did not do him wrong. The staff gave him more than a month to prove himself as a player and, eventually, made the decision he would not be in their plans moving forward.

So he was cut. That opening allowed a four-star power forward to enroll this year.

That’s the harsh reality of life in the Big Ten.

And there’s nothing wrong with the coach of a basketball team doing what Miller and Indiana did.

VIDEO: UConn’s Kwintin Williams would win the NBA dunk contest

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Think that’s too strong?

Look at this dunk:

Light

A post shared by Kwintin Williams (@jumpmanebig) on

He also did this over the summer:

Williams is a 6-foot-7, 215 pound JuCo transfer that should provide UConn with some minutes in the frontcourt this season.

LSU officially announces addition of Kavell Bigby-Williams

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LSU has announced the addition of Oregon transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams, a 6-foot-11 junior that was the National Junior College Player of the Year as a sophomore.

Bigby-Williams, who is a native of London, averaged 3.0 points and 2.8 boards last season as the Ducks reached the Final Four, but he played the majority of the season while under investigation for an alleged sexual assault that occurred while he was at Gillette College in Wyoming.

The local County Attorney declined to charge Bigby-Williams with a crime, and Gillette College police consider the case closed.

“The university conducted a responsible and comprehensive review before approving the transfer,” a release posted on LSU’s Athletics site read, “including close coordination with Title IX officials, multiple discussions with Gillette and Oregon officials and a thorough examination of available public records.”

LSU head coach Will Wade was quoted in that release as well: “This is an issue we all take seriously and we made absolutely sure we did our due diligence before considering moving forward. Kavell understands that and has made clear to me that he’s going to repay our confidence by representing LSU with his very best on and off the court.”