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Ohio State looses big piece to rebuilding effort as Daniel Giddens transfers

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Ohio State men’s basketball went in to the 2015-16 season knowing it was going to have a transformative season. A key part to its future was supposed to be 4-star center Daniel Giddens.

However, the Buckeyes are apparently back to the drawing board up front as Giddens announced his intention to transfer from the program on Monday.

This past season Giddens averaged 18.1 minutes, 3.8 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game in his only season at Ohio State.

Losing any big man is a blow, but one that was a Top 50 player and the No. 8-ranked center in the country after just one season — and not to the NBA — well, that is a massive hit to the depth and strength of any Big Ten program.

For its part, OSU will have a few nice frontcourt pieces coming in to the program for the 2016-17 season in 4-star center Derek Funderburk and 6-10 center Micah Porter, a 3-star recruit. It also will return starting center Trevor Thompson, but it appeared as though Giddens was on his way towards a bigger role in the future.

It was unclear the reason for the transfer request or the destinations Giddens is looking at.

The news got a bit worse later on, as according to another report on Monday night Ohio State is also set to have guard A.J. Harris leave the team. According to the report, this was not a surprise to the staff, as it was described as a “mutual” decision.

Harris averaged just 2.8 points, 1.0 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game while starting four of 35 games and playing 13.7 minutes per contest.

[Bucknuts]

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He's a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

Basketball

Butler did it again…as Buckeyes name Chris Holtmann basketball head coach

Ohio State dips in the Butler pool again, tabbing Chris Holtmann to replace Thad Matta.

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The last time the Ohio State Buckeyes dipped in to the pool of coaches from Butler it worked out pretty well. Over a decade ago, former Butler and Xavier head coach Thad Matta was named the Buckeyes’ head coach.

His successor comes from the same tree (sorta), as third-year Butler head coach Chris Holtmann has agreed to replace Matta at the helm of Ohio State’s program. According to reports, Holtmann’s contract is for eight years and will pay him about $3.1 million annually.

It’s a big bump in pay for Holtmann, who had just signed a long-term extension with the Bulldogs a few months ago. That deal was set to pay him $1.2 million per year.

Apparently money talks a lot more than honoring your word and contract in this case. It is hard to turn down an extra couple of million a year to be sure, and the move happened quickly. After reports of Greg McDermott and Fred Hoiberg sitting atop the wish list and turning down the Buckeyes, things may have worked out for the best.

While Holtmann and Matta both coached at Butler, that’s where the similarities really end. Holtmann isn’t from the Matta coaching tree in the least. He was a previous assistant to John Groce at Ohio and also to Brandon Miller at Butler before getting his shot as a head coach.

It’s worked out well, as he owns a three-year record of 70-31 (.693). His Butler teams finished second, fourth and second respectively during those three years and made the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament this past season.

Holtmann also had a three-year stint as the head coach at Gardner-Webb (2010-2013), where he improved from 11 wins in his first season to 21 wins and a berth in the CollegeInsider.com tournament. After the 2013 season, Holtmann moved on to a position as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs.

Those are all attractive qualities, but Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith also sees his abilities on the recruiting trail and his Midwestern roots as a big deal too.

“Chris is focused on academics, is a high-integrity person, a relentless recruiter with Midwestern ties and a proven winner,” Smith said in a release from the athletic department.

With a lot of issues on the recruiting trail in the past few years, Holtmann will have to hit the ground running in the upcoming July evaluation period to right this ship quickly.

An introductory press conference will take place on Monday morning at 11.a.m. ET at center court at Value City Arena.

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Basketball

Gene Smith’s answer for new direction of OSU basketball…Greg McDermott?

Reports surface that Creighton head coach Greg McDermott is being offered the Ohio State job.

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Damned if you do, damned if you don’t is supposed to be about a really difficult decision forced upon you. It isn’t supposed to be about a choice you voluntarily made and then went and backed yourself in to a corner over.

Rather, that is the definition of stupidity. Yet, it is exactly what seems to have gone down in the quick search for Thad Matta’s replacement.

According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman, Creighton head coach Greg McDermott has been offered the job.

No, this is not fake news at all. Instead, sources are telling respected newsman Jeff Goodman of ESPN that Creighton head coach Greg McDermott has met with the Buckeyes on Wednesday night and was offered the job.

Earlier reports indicated that interest from the Buckeyes was surfacing with two ex-Iowa State coaches — McDermott and now Chicago Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg.

Ok, so, as someone who experienced the worst of Greg McDermott at Iowa State, let me just get this out of the way:

There’s seriously no way the Buckeyes are going from Thad Matt to Greg McDermott. If so, and if for some strange reason Gene Smith finds our little corner of the internet…I implore you to stop, take in tape of McDermott’s Iowa State squad from the 2007-08 season and beyond and tell me he’s really a step up.

Sure, McDermott went to Creighton, got it to a powerhouse in the Missouri Valley and kept his program competitive in its switch to the Big East. That is impressive, but we’ve seen this about McDermott in the past.

After all, it was his 90-63 record and three-straight 20-win seasons at Northern Iowa that landed him the Iowa State job in 2006-07. He also has a knack for being able to recruit really well. That was always his calling card, and it happened while he was at Iowa State. He just couldn’t get all the talent he recruited to play together on the court at the same time.

Injuries played a part, off-court issues played a part and flat-out being unable to gel as a team played a part. But, that should be the indictment of all indictments on getting to jump to Ohio State here.

For his part, McDermott has had plenty of time to prove he deserves a second bite of the apple at a bigger program. He also has reflected on what went wrong in Ames, and readily admitted to the biggest issue on that team — culture — before this past season in Omaha.

“We ended up getting some good players, but we never got the chemistry right or the culture we wanted. You live and learn,” McDermott told Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald.

But there’s more to the story, even at his time at Creighton.

Did I also mention McDermott took all the talent he has had at Creighton and never got the team out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament? This in an age when plenty of other “mid-major” talent (in the days of the MVC version of Creighton) were getting to the second weekend and beyond.

History has a strange way of repeating itself, and Ohio State would be wise to remember that in its apparent love-affair with McDermott.

On a side note, McDermott is a really good human being and one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the fortune to meet. The time he took to meet with my fraternity and speak with us over the course of a few hours was impressive. He certainly didn’t have to do it, but he took it seriously and I came away knowing more about him as a man than as a figurehead of Iowa State’s marquee program.

It was also part of what bought him at least an extra season in Ames, and likely part of the package that sold him to Gene Smith as well.

But, this seemingly ready-to-happen move begs the question of…is the grass really greener with McDermott at the helm? Or was it better to stick with Matta for one more season and get yourself lined up for the real big targets you wanted all along?

Smith appears to be gambling that McDermott is somehow better than Matta, and as we’ve seen that is a huge gamble with a likely $4 million per year paycheck.

Should this offer be accepted, we’ll hear Smith talk about getting “their guy to lead the Ohio State program forward.” Don’t buy it for one second, because he surely isn’t serious. Otherwise I’ll have what he’s having at the bar, because he’s drunk.

(Now watch McDermott prove us all wrong and take full advantage of his second chances.)

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Basketball

Blowout by Badgers shows why Thad Matta should be done at Ohio State

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One game in a 30-game regular season shouldn’t be the end-all, be-all of a college basketball season let alone a coaching career. However, there are games that are the perfect snapshot of what is going right or wrong for the future of the program. 

Thursday night’s 89-66 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers in the Kohl Center was one such night — and clearly not in a good way. Ohio State was dominated from start, to middle, to end as the Buckeyes moved to 0-4 in Big Ten conference play.

It’s been a slow, steady and painful march to this butt-kicking too. After all, the Buckeyes have gone from losing by a combined six points in the first two games of league play to getting dominated by 10 on the road at Minnesota and today’s 33-point loss at Wisconsin.

There’s rarely shame in losing at the Kohl Center, and Thad Matta is well aware of that, but it is the how this one happened and the how of the decline of the Buckeyes program over the last year-plus that should be troubling.

When was the last time Ohio State was thrashed around inside like they didn’t even matter? It happened against the Badgers, who dominated the post to the tune of 42-22 in points in the paint and 28-9 in second chance points.

When was the last time you remember a Buckeyes team just flat-out giving up physically? It happened against the Badgers, as UW dominated the boards 44-31 and used 12 Buckeyes turnovers to create 16 points on the other end.

When was the last time Ohio State allowed a team to shoot from 50 percent beyond the arc? It has actually only happened just 28 times coming in to this game in the Matta era, with the Buckeyes holding a respectable 12-16 record. On Thursday, Wisconsin, who just got done going ice-cold from three-point range against Purdue, put on a three-point shooting clinic.

UW hit 12 of 22 from beyond the arc for 55 percent on the night, and it wasn’t just Bronson Koenig either. Sure, he was a crazy 5 of 7 (for 21 points in total), but the rest of the team was 7 of 15 (46.6 percent) as well. Meanwhile Ohio State couldn’t respond, going just 5 of 20 from three-point range itself.

So, on Thursday night the Buckeyes couldn’t shoot from beyond the arc, hold an opponent in check down low or compete well on the boards. Got it.

Last time I checked, those were all hallmarks of a successful Thad Matta team at Ohio State. Yet, this team and the last few have seen a steady decline in ability down low and quality on the perimeter.

Some will point to the loss of star Keita Bates-Diop to a season-ending injury as a reason for the issues at hand. It may be the case that they miss him, but all good Ohio State teams under Thad Matta have been more than one player.

If Bates-Diop is that important to OSU’s success, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of what is happening these days under Matta.

We’ll see if the Buckeyes can rebound, but if the lifeless team that came out on Thursday night at the Kohl Center continues to come out the rest of this season it should be time for Gene Smith to say buh-bye to Matta.

Something has to change, and unfortunately, nothing Matta has done in the past two seasons has indicated change is happening in the positive direction. After all, this is a program that hasn’t gotten out of the opening weekend of the NCAA tournament since the 2012-13 season and didn’t even make the NCAA tournament last season.

It was a nice run while it lasted, but given Ohio State’s long-term success as a basketball program, this type of play is wholly unacceptable.

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Buckeyes Basketball

Ohio State believes there’s value in winning NIT, history says something else

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The Ohio State Buckeyes took down Akron in the first round of the NIT on Tuesday night, if you weren’t paying attention. It was but a first step in a stated goal to win the whole tournament for Thad Matta’s crew.

According to Matta, there’s value in winning the NIT. He’s instilled that value in his players in just the short time it took to turn around from the Big Ten tournament to the disappointment of missing the NCAA tournament.

“We couldn’t overlook this game, it’s another opportunity to get better,” Marc Loving said. “Postseason play for this team is a good thing.”

Perhaps Loving has a point, but then again history also has a lot to tell us about Loving’s theory of just how much the NIT tournament and a championship can do for a team.

In fact, Ohio State’s fellow Big Ten teams can write a book on just how little an NIT victory can do for a team and the future for a program.

A little digging back in the NIT archives reveals that since OSU won the NIT tournament title back in 2008, the Big Ten has seen two other teams win the title in Penn State (2009) and Minnesota (2014).

Penn State took a promising situation in 2008-09 and turned in to the Big Ten’s bottom dwellers just one year later with a 3-15 B1G record and an 11-20 overall record.

After falling in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2010-11, DeChellis was off to Navy of all places. He had managed to make Penn State in to a yo-yo team and took off before the walls closed in. Since then, Pat Chambers has not gotten his team to an NCAA tournament despite consistent improvement.

Minnesota, a much more historically good basketball program than Penn State, also fell in to a trap after winning the 2014 NIT tournament. It was head coach Richard Pitino’s first season in Dinkytown, and he led the Gophers to a 25-13 overall record (8-10 in B1G play).

It was enough to get in to the NIT tournament, and a team of upperclassmen (six juniors) gave plenty of hope with a run to the NIT title. That next season saw eight upperclassmen on the roster, but it was all downhill due to injuries and other issues.

Same for this past season, where Minnesota went in to the Big Ten tournament with just six players healthy or available due to suspension. The Gophers went from 25-13 in 2013-14 to just 8-23 overall this past season.

Let’s just say the Gophers have become a mess instead of taking that NIT title and becoming a Big Ten power because of it.

However, those are just two of what are plenty of other cautionary tales. No team is more of a cautionary tale than Stanford, who won two of the last four NIT tournament titles. That statement alone should be the cautionary tale, but it is what happened in between and after the 2014 title that are the real historically significant issues.

After winning the 2012 title, Stanford appeared poised to make an NCAA tournament run. Instead a team with nine upperclassmen would go just 19-15 overall and find themselves back in the NIT tournament, bowing out in the second round to Alabama.

The Cardinal made an appearance in the NCAA tournament the next season, making the Sweet 16, but it was back to the NIT tournament a year later. All of it despite adding three 4-star players in the class of 2014.

The 2014-15 team would go 24-13 overall, but finish just 9-9 in Pac-12 play. Given the youth of the team and the big expectations of a highly rated recruiting class, Dawkins was brought back for the 2015-16 season.

Instead of improvement, the Cardinal went to 15-15 overall and 8-10 in conference play, ultimately costing Dawkins his job.

Of course, Stanford doesn’t quite have the OSU pedigree nor Thad Matta’s coaching prowess to lean back on. However, making the NIT a priority and a hopeful springboard also speaks to where this program is compared to its peers.

Teams like Wisconsin and Indiana also saw major roster turnover with much less on the recruiting trail, yet are still prepping for NCAA tournament berths. Heck, Indiana took a few upperclassmen and a good mix of youth right to a Big Ten regular season title, while the Badgers managed to finish third in Big Ten play.

Just how far has Ohio State fallen? OSU has seen its own NIT bounce go from Sweet Sixteen or better in four straight years (2010-13) to being bounced on the first weekend of the tournament in 2014 and 2015, all the way to an NIT berth this season.

That trend isn’t exactly upward and should have OSU fans worried, along with the history of teams who have won the NIT tournament over the past seven years.

Of course, OSU is also in a much different position given its historical successes and all of that. But, this is a team that has consistently brought in the upper echelon of recruiting talent over the past few years and couldn’t find a winning formula.

Will Ohio State be able to win an NIT title and make it count towards the goal of Final Fours? After all, OSU basketball has much bigger goals in mind.

If not, we could be seeing the end of the Thad Matta era at OSU before our very eyes over the next few years.

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