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.

Andy Kennedy resigns from Ole Miss effective immediately

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Andy Kennedy announced that, effective immediately, he will be stepping down as the head coach at Ole Miss. Tony Madlock will serve as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

The reason is simple: Kennedy wanted to “relieve any external pressure being felt by our current players” and he did not believe that last week’s announcement that this would be his final season in Oxford accomplished that.

“It has become readily apparent to me that my continued presence as the head coach is proving detrimental to these players finishing the season in a fashion that is representative of The Standard for this program that has been clearly established and maintained for over a decade,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Yherefore, I believe that it is in everyone’s best interest that I exit my role as head coach effective immediately. We all know that “clean breaks” are always best, and I should have realized this last Monday. My apologies.”

On Saturday, Ole Miss lost by 17 points at Mississippi State. That came two days after Kennedy went viral for a brutally honest criticism of what his team was going through.

“I can’t get to them,” he said. “I can’t reach them.”

It’s sad that this is the way that it had to end for the best basketball coach that Ole Miss has ever had. But it had to be done.

No. 12 Duke beats No. 11 Clemson as defensive resurgence continues

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Grayson Allen finished with 19 points, four assists and four steals, scoring 17 of his points in the first half, and Wendell Carter added 15 points, 10 boards and three blocks as No. 12 Duke won their fourth straight game without Marvin Bagley III, 66-57.

No. 11 Clemson was short-handed as well, and that’s something that needs to be noted. Not only are they playing without Donte Grantham, who tore his ACL earlier this year, but Shelton Mitchell was not in the lineup after suffering a nasty concussion at Florida State on Wednesday.

The Tigers were a No. 3 seed when the bracket reveal occurred last Sunday, but like Ohio State and Oklahoma, they have now lost back-to-back games; 11 of the top 16 teams have lost a game in the last week.

But the story here more than anything is Duke.

Yes, Allen finished with 19 points and continues to play well without Bagley on the floor. Getting him into a rhythm is critically important for this team. He was averaging 14.7 points in 24 games with Bagley. He is averaging 22.3 points in the last three games that Bagley has missed, and that does not include the 37-point outburst he had when Bagley went down with an injury against Michigan State.

Coach K also has had a chance to develop some confidence in his bench. Javin DeLaurier had 10 boards on Sunday. Marques Bolden didn’t play a done of minutes, but he still finished with five points, three boards and a pair of blocks. He was, generally speaking, a positive influence on the game.

But here is the most important and perplexing nugget: Duke, for the third straight game, was excellent defensively. They’ve now allowed fewer than 1.0 points-per-possession in each of the last three games. They are clearly not the same time offensively without Bagley’s presence on the floor, but it is impossible to ignore what they have been defensively in the last 10 days without him.

The question we need to ask is whether or not that will continue once Bagley makes his return.

Because the only thing standing between Duke and a Final Four is their inability to defend.

No. 8 Ohio State falls at No. 22 Michigan, Michigan State moves into first in Big Ten

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After all of the drama and the speculation about whether or not Ohio State or Purdue was the best team in the Big Ten, water has seemingly found its level.

On Sunday afternoon in Ann Arbor, No. 8 Ohio State lost their second straight game, falling 74-62 at No. 22 Michigan and allowing No. 2 Michigan State — who had one of college basketball’s greatest comebacks on Saturday at Northwestern — to slide into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten with just one week left of the regular season.

Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman led the way with 17 points while Jordan Poole added 15 off the bench in the win.

The Wolverines did a good job of slowing down Ohio State’s all-american forward, Keita Bates-Diop. KBD finished with 17 points and seven boards, but he shot just 5-for-17 from the floor. Jae-Sean Tate led the way with 20 points and 15 boards for the Buckeyes.

There was a special moment before this game even started as Austin Hatch, a two-time survivor of plane crashes that killed his entire immediate family, took part in the team’s Senior Day.

VIDEO: Michigan celebrates plane crash survivor Austin Hatch’s Senior Day

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If you don’t know the story of Michigan senior Austin Hatch, you should.

He’s survived two plane crashes in his life. The first, in 2003, robbed him of his mother, 11-year old sister and five-year old brother. In 2011, to celebrate his commitment to the Wolverines, Hatch’s father flew them up to the family’s vacation home, but the plane crashed into a garage killing Hatch’s dad and his stepmom and leaving Austin critically injured.

He had a severe brain trauma, a punctured lung, broken ribs and a broken collarbone, and in order to manage the swelling in his brain, he was put into a medically-induced coma for eight months.

He managed to return and even played for the Wolverines during the 2014-15 season, but he eventually made the decision to retire from basketball at the end of the year. He did, however, remain a part of the program and on Sunday, during Michigan’s Senior Day, he warmed up with the team and was introduced to the crowd as a starter and no, I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying:

Bubble Banter: All of Sunday’s bubble action in one place

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As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Sunday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

YET TO PLAY

SETON HALL
NEBRASKA
HOUSTON
TEMPLE
PENN STATE