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Gene Smith is confident that Thad Matta will get Ohio State basketball back on the map

It was a down year for Buckeye basketball, but Gene Smith isn't worried with Thad Matta in charge.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

"I have all the confidence in the world that [Thad Matta]'s going to get the program back to where he and I think it should be."

Gene Smith, via Doug Lesmerises, Northeast Ohio Media Group

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith met with Thad Matta for 90 minutes in their regular season-ending meeting, aftera  season that was not one of the better ones in the Thad Matta era. The Buckeyes finished with a 21-14 record, and was just the third time in 12 years that the Bucks hadn't gone to the NCAA Tournament under Matta. While it's not ideal, it's also not the end of the world, and Gene Smith even said that Matta has set the bar at Ohio State. The 2015-16 season just happened to be a rebuilding year, and that happens everywhere.

Matta told Lesmerises, "We knew this was going to be a challenging season, no question about that. I hope our guys have a sense of what college basketball is about now." Marc Loving will be the only senior on the team next season, but a year under the belts of JaQuan Lyle, Daniel Giddens, and Mickey Mitchell should certainly be a huge help. Kam Williams got a pair of starts at the end of the season and performed well, and will be an upperclassman alongside Keita Bates-Diop and Jae'Sean Tate. There were flashes of greatness during the season, the Buckeyes might have just needed another season to mold together. The 2016-17 season should show an uptick for the Buckeyes who will continue to be under great leadership in Matta.

"Heuerman missed his entire rookie season because an ACL injury that he suffered early in the offseason. The Broncos had big plans for him last year and still do heading into the 2016 season."

Scotty Payne, Mile High Report

Former Ohio State Buckeye and current Denver Broncos tight end Jeff Heuerman missed his rookie season because of an ACL injury, but that hasn't hurt the team's confidence in him. In fact, Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak told reporters that they are going to count on Heuerman "big time" in the 2016 season, after releasing Owen Daniels. Kubiak was impressed with Heuerman, and thinks he is a complete tight end that can catch and block. It was also mentioned that Heuerman "comes from a winning program."

Heuerman has great size at 6'5, 254 lbs. He started every game he played in for Ohio State in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and collected 52 receptions, 792 yards, and seven touchdowns in his time as a Buckeye. The Broncos let Brock Osweiler go to the Texans during the offseason, and have brought in Mark Sanchez at quarterback, although they could still be shopping for another arm. Kubiak said that Heuerman is ready to go and will participate in OTA's in a few weeks for the defending Super Bowl champions.

"[Jae'Sean Tate] can't use his left arm -- his shooting arm -- for at least four more weeks. He doesn't think he'll be able to shoot a basketball until sometime in May."

Bill Landis, Northeast Ohio Media Group

Next to knee injuries, shoulder injuries might be the worst when it comes to your performance on the basketball court, when you consider the overhead motion that goes with shooting, and in some instances passing. That is what Jae'Sean Tate is having to go through this offseason, as he's still unable to use his shooting arm, and won't be able to until at least May. Basketball is very much a game of repetition, and to be unable to work on your craft for that long certainly takes a toll. But as Landis points out, Tate has done this before.

Tate was half-kidding with Landis about having to shoot with his right hand. "I was thinking about that, but you never know," Tate said. "I might turn into a right-hand shooter. I've been doing a lot of form shooting with my right hand. You never know with the surgery when you'll get all that range of motion back." Tate was playing great ball before he was injured, but as Matta tries to keep him mentally prepared for a strong return, there's reason for optimism that Tate can come back better than ever. He had shown great improvement in his shooting before the injury, so hopefully Tate can use the same tactics to get back to form.

Former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott will be presenting the AAU Sullivan Award on April 10 this year. It's the 86th edition of the award, that Elliott won last April after helping lead Ohio State to the first ever College Football Playoff national championship. The AAU Sullivan Award is given out to the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States.

Candidates this year include Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, Olympic speed skater Brittany Bowe, Olympic wrestler Jordan Burroughs, Nebraska Cornhusker volleyball player MIkaela Foecke, Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry, Navy Midshipmen quarterback Keenan Reynolds, and UConn Huskies basketball's Breanna Stewart.