Who will Ohio State hire to replace Thad Matta?

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On Monday afternoon, in a hastily called together press conference, Thad Matta and his athletic director, Gene Smith, announced that they had come an agreement that the former would no longer be the head coach at Ohio State.

The decision came, according to Smith, after Matta’s program had started to fall apart. It’s been four years since the team finished better than fifth in the Big Ten standings. The Buckeyes went two just two NCAA tournaments in that span, winning just a single game, and finished last season with a 17-15 record. Throw in JaQuan Lyle’s transfer, Trevor Thompson’s decision to go pro and a decommitment from a four-star prospect in the Class of 2018, and the two had decided enough was enough.

Matta wasn’t going to get this thing turned around any time soon, and with the constant health issues he’s had regarding his back and his foot, it was time.

That means that, as of June 5th, one of college basketball’s 15 best jobs is now on the market, which is a shame for Buckeye fans. It was one of the worst kept secrets in college basketball circles that Archie Miller, the new Indiana head coach and former Dayton head man, wanted the Buckeye job, and by waiting until June 5th to part ways with Matta — instead of, say, in mid-March, when he issued Matta a vote of confidence — Smith cost himself a shot at Archie.

Is that something that he will come to regret in the next five-to-ten years?

And who, now, will Ohio State hire as a replacement for Matta?

Chris Jent, Ohio State assistant coach: The big question now is whether or not the Buckeyes are going to hire an interim head coach for the 2017-18 season and take their time trying to find a coach to hire or jumping head-first into a June coaching search. If it’s the latter, it’s hard to imagine Jent, a well-respected and longtime assistant for Matta, will be able to beat out some of the names that you’ll see listed below.

Ohio State is a great job, one that some will tell you is the best in the Big Ten. They have money, they have facilities, they have a recruiting base, they have a winning tradition and they don’t have the pressure that comes with being a ‘basketball school’.

But if the Buckeyes do opt to go with an interim coach, Jent is the guy that would be expected to earn the chance to audition his way into the job a la Greg Gard at Wisconsin. For what it’s worth, Smith made it sound awful unlikely that this would be the direction he would be willing to go in.

A current NBA head coach?: Billy Donovan’s name is already being bandied about. The like of Fred Hoiberg and potentially even Brad Stevens, former college coaches that are now running NBA organizations, will also be mentioned. It seems unlikely that any of the three would actively make the decision to return to the collegiate ranks.

Sean Miller (Arizona), Archie Miller (Indiana), Tony Bennett (Virginia), Jay Wright (Villanova): Don’t hold your breath, although that likely would have been different had this change happened in April, before Archie accepted the Indiana job.

Gregg Marshall, Wichita State: You cannot have a coaching search at a high-major program without mentioning Marshall’s name. It makes sense. Marshall is one of the top ten coaches in college basketball and may very well be the best coach currently outside of the Power 5 conferences. That said, he gets paid mountains of money — more than $3 million annually — at a school that will never fire him and that just jumped from the Missouri Valley into the AAC for the 2017-18 season. With the Koch Brothers providing the funding for the Shocker program and a top ten program for the upcoming season, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Marshall makes the leap. But Smith needs to make Marshall say no. This is the kind of job that he would take.

Shaka Smart, Texas: Smart is a native of the midwest that began his coaching career in Ohio. After a tough first two seasons with the Longhorns, there was some speculation that Smart was unsettled in Austin and was considering heading to Georgetown. But that was before Mo Bamba committed and Andrew Jones returned to school, giving the Longhorns a tournament caliber team. Ohio State checks the boxes for Smart — winning basketball program at a football school — but it doesn’t seem like the job he leaves for.

Chris Mack, Xavier: This is where is starts to get interesting. Mack is a Cincinnati native and a Xavier graduate that has spent the last eight years steering the Musketeers to the point that they are routinely getting ranked in the preseason top 20. He’s also just 47 years old and one of the nation’s best coaches, and there is always going to be speculation that he’s looking to move on to bigger and better things. Mack would be a good fit — he clearly knows how to recruit Ohio and the Midwest, and the Big Ten is a step up from the Big East — the question is whether or not this is the job he would want to leave home for.

Mick Cronin, Cincinnati: Cronin, like Mack, has spent a long time coaching in the state of Ohio, having spent the last 11 seasons building Cincinnati back into a top 25 program in the sport. But there also is something of a ceiling with the Bearcats — they’re arguably the best program in the AAC, but Cronin has only been out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament once, back in 2012. Cronin can recruit the area, and flirted with leaving Cincinnati for UNLV after Dave Rice was fired.

Chris Holtmann, Butler: Holtmann is one of the hottest names in coaching after the year that he had with Butler in 2016-17. He took a Bulldog team that was projected to finish in the bottom half of the Big East and turned them into a top 15 team in the country. In three seasons as Butler’s head coach, he’s never finished worse than fourth in the Big East — he finished second in the league twice — and has won a game in all three NCAA tournaments, including getting to the Sweet 16 this past season. That was enough to earn him a raise and an extension with a handful of high-major programs sniffing around back in April, but is it enough to keep Holtmann at home if the Buckeyes come knocking?

Ed Cooley, Providence: Cooley, like Mack, would have to be convinced to leave his hometown program, but he’s also one of the most underrated coaches in the country. He’s led the Friars to four straight top four finishes in the Big East and four straight NCAA tournaments, and the expectation is that that streak will continue in 2018. If he can do all that while recruiting to Providence, what can he do when he is able to recruit to a program like Ohio State?

Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech: Buzz would be an expensive hire, and given his Texas and Oklahoma roots, the assumption has been that his next move will send him to the Big 12; if Oklahoma State wasn’t pinching pennies after the Travis Ford debacle, he may have been hired by the Pokes in either of the last two springs. That said, Williams built Marquette into a Big East power and took Virginia Tech to the NCAA tournament last season. It would be interesting to see what he could do in a place like Ohio State.

Tom Crean: How ironic would it be if the man Indiana fired to hire Archie Miller was the guy Ohio State hired at the end of the day? That might be enough to keep it from happening, to say nothing of the fact that Ohio State and Indiana are Big Ten rivals, but Crean is probably the best coach currently out of work.

No. 16 Xavier beats No. 17 Providence 85-83 in OT thriller

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CINCINNATI — Jack Nunge had 23 points and 14 rebounds as No. 16 Xavier held off No. 17 Providence 85-83 in an overtime thriller Wednesday night.

Colby Jones and Souley Boum each scored 20 for the Musketeers, who won a first-place showdown in the Big East without injured forward Zach Freemantle.

Noah Locke had 22 points and Ed Croswell added 21 for Providence (17-6, 9-3), which had beaten Xavier three straight times.

A layup by Boum put the Musketeers (18-5, 10-2) ahead 82-79 with 51 seconds remaining in overtime. A turnover by the Musketeers led to a layup by Devin Carter that cut Xavier’s lead to one with 24 seconds left.

Boum hit one of two free throws, and Jared Bynum’s 3-point attempt from the left corner rimmed out at the buzzer as the Musketeers held on.

Xavier played its first game without Freemantle, the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. He is expected to miss four weeks with a left foot injury, the same foot that required surgery in 2021.

Jerome Hunter, who has excelled off the bench for the Musketeers, made his first start of the season and scored nine points with eight rebounds. Xavier had used the same starting lineup in each of its previous 11 Big East games.

Things started well for the Musketeers. who went on a 12-1 run to build a 25-11 lead.

With Boum on the bench with two fouls, the Musketeers didn’t have a field goal in the final 4:18 of the first half and the Friars pulled to 39-35 at halftime.

Providence outscored Xavier 8-2 to start the second half and took its first lead, 43-41, with 17:41 left.

There was a frantic finish to the second half, with Adam Kunkel’s 3-pointer putting Xavier ahead 76-73 with 55 seconds left. But then Bynum banked in a tying 3 and Boum missed two long shots to send the game to overtime.

BIG PICTURE

Providence: The Friars, who won their first Big East regular-season title last year, entered the night tied atop the conference standings with Xavier and No. 14 Marquette, which hosted Villanova later. Providence was picked fifth in the preseason.

Xavier: Hunter, who averages 14 minutes, left with three minutes remaining in OT with an apparent cramp in his right leg. With Freemantle out, Hunter played 36 minutes.

UP NEXT

Providence: Hosts last-place Georgetown on Wednesday.

Xavier: Will host St. John’s on Saturday.

Florida upends No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 behind Colin Castleton

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Colin Castleton had 20 points and nine rebounds, Kyle Lofton added 14 points and Florida used a 13-0 run late in the second half to upend No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 on Wednesday night.

The Volunteers, playing with their highest ranking in four years, lost for the first time in five games. They had won nine of 10.

Tennessee (18-4, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) looked like it had taken control midway through the second half. They outscored Florida by 10 points in the early going to take a six-point lead.

But the Gators (13-9, 6-3) stormed back behind Castleton, who scored 11 of 14 points as Florida rallied. The senior had a dunk, two free throws, a three-point play, a layup and a short jumper – essentially putting the team on his back down the stretch.

Myreon Jones and Will Richard chipped in nine points apiece for the Gators.

Zakai Ziegler led the Vols with 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Olivier Nkamhoua added 11 points and nine rebounds for the vistors, who also got 11 points and eight boards from Vescovi Santiago.

Florida led 27-21 at halftime, just the fifth time the Volunteers has trailed at the break this season. Tennessee rallied to win three of the previous four.

The Gators were red hot to start, making six of their first eight shots – including all three from 3-point range – while building a 17-4 advantage. But they quickly cooled against the nation’s best defense, missing nine of their next 11 as Tennessee made cut it to 22-21.

The Vols had it going coming out of the locker room, with Ziegler getting into the paint and making things happen. But it was short-lived – thanks mostly to Castleton.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Tennessee surely will drop a few spots in next week’s AP Top 25 college basketball poll.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers gave up 10 points in the opening four minutes of the games, a rare sluggish start for the nation’s best defense. Tennessee had held four of its first eight SEC opponents scoreless at the first media timeout, roughly the first four minutes of games. It was a sign of things to come.

Florida: The Gators have been resilient much of the season, and this was arguably the most impressive comeback of the season for coach Todd Golden’s team. The Gators squandered a 13-point lead early and a six-point advantage in the second half. But they rallied when it mattered.

IN THE HOUSE

Football coach Billy Napier watched the game from a few rows behind Florida’s bench alongside his two sons and receiver Ricky Pearsall. Former Florida tennis star Ben Shelton, the NCAA singles champion in 2022, also was in attendance. So was former Gators and NFL quarterback Doug Johnson.

UP NEXT

Tennessee hosts No. 25 Auburn and former coach Bruce Pearl on Saturday.

Florida plays at Kentucky on Saturday. The Gators have lost seven of eight in the series.

No. 8 Kansas avenges earlier loss to No. 7 Kansas State, 90-78

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jalen Wilson had 20 points, Kevin McCullar Jr. added 16 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 8 Kansas avenged a loss to Kansas State just a couple of weeks ago with a 90-78 victory over the seventh-ranked Wildcats.

Dajuan Harris Jr. scored 18 for the Jayhawks (18-4, 6-3 Big 12), who built a 12-point halftime lead before coasting to their 17th straight home win over the Wildcats in the 10th matchup of top-10 teams in series history.

Kansas has rebounded nicely from a rare three-game skid that included the overtime loss to Kansas State, and made sure to avoid taking back-to-back losses in its storied home for the first time since the 1988-89 season.

Markquis Nowell scored 23 points and Keyontae Johnson had 22 to lead the Wildcats (18-4, 6-3), who were trying for their first regular-season sweep of their biggest rival in four decades. Nae’Qwan Tomlin added 11 points and David N’Guessan had 10.

In their first meeting on Jan. 17, the Wildcats raced to a big early lead and controlled the game until late in the second half, when the Jayhawks forced overtime — only for Kansas State to win on Johnson’s alley-oop dunk.

It was the Jayhawks who controlled the rematch.

They used a 16-7 run in the first half that included a technical foul on Kansas State coach Jerome Tang to build a 32-19 lead. And when Johnson answered with eight straight points for the Wildcats, and the lead was eventually trimmed to four, the reigning national champs pulled away again down the stretch.

It was 37-32 when Wilson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Zach Clemence added one of his own. And by the time Wilson made two foul shots with about 10 seconds left, Kansas had built a 49-37 lead that it took to the break.

The Wildcats briefly got within six in the second half before the Jayhawks stretched their lead to as many as 16.

OFFICIATING OOPS

Johnson had to sit with two fouls just 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Only problem? The crew of John Higgins, Kip Kissinger and Marques Pettigrew gave one to the wrong player. By the time they corrected their mistake, the Wildcats’ leading scorer had unnecessarily ridden the bench for several minutes.

SELLOUT … AND THEN SOME

For the first time in more than 15 years, more Kansas students redeemed tickets than there was space available inside Allen Fieldhouse. The overflow had to watch the game on screens in the adjacent Horejsi Family Athletics Center, where the Jayhawks play volleyball games. Those students also got refunds and concessions vouchers.

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State’s three losses in league play have been to ranked teams on the road: TCU, Iowa State and Kansas. And with a more forgiving second half to the Big 12 schedule, the Wildcats remain firmly in the conference title hunt.

Kansas got its mojo back with its win over Kentucky last weekend. This victory over another bunch of Wildcats was crucial because the road doesn’t get any easier for the Jayhawks, who are in the midst of three straight games against teams ranked 13th or better.

UP NEXT

Kansas State returns home for another top-10 showdown Saturday against No. 10 Texas.

Kansas hits the road for the third time in four games against No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday.

BC beats No. 20 Clemson 62-54; Tigers fall into ACC tie

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BOSTON — Makai Ashton-Langford had two key driving baskets in the closing two minutes and finished with 15 points to help Boston College beat No. 20 Clemson 62-54 on Tuesday night.

Jaeden Zackery added 13 points for the Eagles (11-12, 5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference). BC held Clemson to one field goal — and that came with 18 seconds left — in the final 13:16.

Hunter Tyson led Clemson (18-5, 10-2) with 22 points and Chase Hunter had 12. The Tigers fell into a first-place tie atop the ACC with No. 6 Virginia.

The Eagles used a 5-0 spurt — with T.J. Bickerstaff hitting a free throw and getting a driving layup — to pull ahead 50-45 with just over five minutes to play.

Clemson sliced it to 50-47 before Aston-Langford made his two big baskets. He followed that by making two free throws with 32 seconds left.

Trailing by 10 midway into the second half, the Tigers went on a 10-0 spree, tying it at 45 when RJ Godfrey hit both ends of a 1-and-1.

The Eagles had opened a double-digit lead twice in the opening six minutes of the second half, the later 45-35 on Prince Aligbe’s foul-line jumper with 14:12 to play.

BIG PICTURE

Clemson: Off to a solid start in conference play, the Tigers were tested on the road for the second straight game after edging Florida State by a point on Saturday. It hasn’t been easy for them away from home with a 4-3 record and with three away matchups against North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia to go, they’ll need to get it straightened out of they’re going to won the ACC regular-season title.

Boston College: The Eagles proved when they play defense that they’re a tough out in coach Earl Grant’s second season. A little more offense could make them very dangerous for top ACC teams to play.

ARRIVING LATE

In the first half, Clemson’s man-to-man defense smothered the Eagles’ offense for the opening 10 minutes, holding them in single digits in scoring until just about the same time the student section finished filling up late, bringing some energy to a very quiet building.

BC’s players then responded, closing the half with a 22-4 spree that turned an 11-point deficit to a 30-23 halftime edge.

SIDELINED

Both teams were missing key players. Guard Brevin Galloway, Clemson’s fourth leading scorer at 10.6 points per game, was sidelined with an abdominal injury. For BC, guard DeMarr Langford Jr., who logs big minutes at the point, was out with a knee injury.

UP NEXT

Clemson: Hosts No. 23 Miami on Saturday.

Boston College: Hosts Syracuse on Saturday.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Ohio State tumbles

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
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It was a rough week for Ohio State, which lost all three of its games and tumbled down the AP Top 25 as a result.

The previously unbeaten Buckeyes fell from second to 10th in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll released Monday after losing to Iowa and Indiana, two top 10 teams, as well as Purdue. Ohio State fell two games back in the Big Ten Conference standings.

South Carolina remained No. 1 for the 32nd consecutive week. The Gamecocks, who were again a unanimous choice from the 28-member national media panel, have the fourth-longest streak ever atop the poll. Only UConn (51 and 34 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

Stanford moved back up to No. 2 in the poll and the Cardinal were followed by LSU, Indiana and UConn in the top five. LSU is the only other undefeated team in women’s basketball besides South Carolina, which visits UConn for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

Iowa jumped out four spots to sixth with Utah, Maryland and Notre Dame coming in ahead of Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the season No. 4 in the poll.

The Fighting Irish split a pair of games last week against ranked opponents, routing Florida State before falling to N.C. State.

“There’s a lot of parity right now, which is great, great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “The game is growing, which is what you want. But yeah, I mean, every night, especially the ACC, the ACC is the strongest league and, you know, we have just a tough stretch every night.”

One week after falling out of the rankings, Texas re-entered the poll at No. 24. The Longhorns routed then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last week. South Florida also came in at No. 25. Colorado and Illinois fell out of the poll.

RISING BULLS

No. 25 South Florida continued its streak of being ranked for at least one week every season since the Bulls entered the poll for the first time in 2015.

“For us not being in a so-called football five conference, that’s a huge accomplishment,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. His team has won 10 consecutive games and has 20 victories this season. The team’s four losses have all come against ranked opponents (Michigan, Villanova, Ohio State and N.C. State).

“This group has been fun to coach. We always play a great non(equals)conference schedule,” Fernandez said. “We won on the road at Texas, beat Alabama, beat Arkansas. We challenged ourselves in November and December.”

RECORD PERFORMANCES

Cameron Brink carried Stanford to a win over Oregon with a triple-double that included 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double in NCAA Division I women’s basketball featuring double-digit blocks since Tamari Key did it for Tennessee in an overtime win against Texas on Nov. 21, 2021.

No. 20 Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson set the all-time NCAA women’s career record for 3-pointers when she hit her 498th in a loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Robertson has 503 entering this week. The all-time NCAA record, men or women, is held by Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who has 534 and counting.