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Ohio State, the best program in the Big Ten four years ago, is now 0-4 in the league


No. 18 Wisconsin pounded Ohio State into oblivion on Thursday night, jumping out to an 18-point lead at the break and eventually going up by more than 30 points before winning 89-66.

And frankly, based only on what we’ve seen out of the Buckeyes this season, that result isn’t all that surprising. They’re now 0-4 in Big Ten play and 10-7 on the season, already having lost to Florida Atlantic at home before conference play even started.

But based on what the Ohio State program has been under Thad Matta – and, frankly, what Thad Matta has been as a head coach throughout his career – this result is surprising, but not quite as surprising as what has happened to Ohio State basketball.

Let’s start with the here and now: This slow start to the season is coming a year after Ohio State made a trip to the NIT. That came after back-to-back years where Ohio State lost double-digit games and failed to finish in the top four of the Big Ten.

And while Ohio State basketball doesn’t have the same reputation as Ohio State football, prior to this recent drop off, the Buckeyes has arguably more success on the hardwood under Matta than they did on the football field. Matta’s first season in Columbus was in 2004-05, when the program was still ineligible for the NCAA tournament. But in five of the next seven seasons, Matta won at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title and three outright Big Ten regular season titles. He went to the national title game in 2007 and another Final Four in 2012. He reached the Elite 8 in 2013, when the Buckeyes finished second in the conference, and made another pair of Sweet 16s.

And that was after a four-year coaching career when Matta won the Horizon in his one season at Butler before winning two Atlantic 10s in three seasons, reaching the Elite 8 in the year he didn’t win the league, with Xavier.

In other words, the fall from grace for Ohio State and Matta was both sudden and unpredictable.

Because this is not a good basketball team right now, and with games coming up against Michigan State, at Nebraska, Northwestern and Minnesota, it’s not going to get easier anytime soon.

So what happened?

Well, the easy answer is that they’re not getting the same level of talent into the program that they were before. They reached the national title game with Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook on the roster. The reached the Final Four in 2012 with Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft and DeShaun Thomas. Evan Turner won a player of the year awards. D’angelo Russell was an all-american.

They don’t have anyone anywhere near that level right now, unless you have a drastically different opinion of JaQuan Lyle than I do.

Then there is the issue of the guys they actually do bring in. Their 2015 recruiting class consisted of Lyle and four players that have transferred out of the program. Outside or Russell, who left after one season, no one in the 2014 class turned into much more than a role player in the Big Ten. None of the 2016 recruits Ohio State landed have been instant impact guys, and this is all while the most talented players in the state of Ohio – Luke Kennard, Carlton Bragg, Nick Ward, Nigel Hayes, V.J. King, Omari Spellman, Devin Williams, Esa Ahmad … do you get the point by now? – have ended up elsewhere.

Three straight lean recruiting classes combined with the fact that the best players from the program’s natural recruiting base have gone elsewhere is an easy way to drive a Big Ten title contender into the conference’s cellar.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.