The big story with Ohio State basketball right now is about all of the players transferring out of the program, and for good reason. But in an interview yesterday with the Columbus Dispatch, Thad Matta may have accidentally leaked some other potentially interesting news about next season's campaign.
Tucked in a discussion about Ohio State's scholarship situation, Thad Matta said the following:
"We wish those guys well," coach Thad Matta told The Dispatch. "We're going to help them do whatever we can to make them be successful. When we take the floor next year and open at the Naval Academy, we're going to have the guys who want to be here and who appreciate the opportunity.
So did Coach Matta just leak Ohio State's first opponent for next season?
We reached out to representatives from both Ohio State and Navy, and both declined to confirm any game. However, normally, when the head coach of the Ohio State basketball team tells the lead basketball writer of the Columbus Dispatch that "we're opening at the Naval Academy", you'd think that would be good enough to assume that they're playing Navy next season.
It's fair to assume that Ohio State will play at Navy. But that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be playing against Navy.
For the last two seasons, Navy has hosted a season-opening kickoff event called the "Veteran's Classic", a four team doubleheader featuring Navy and three other bigger name programs. Last season, Navy hosted Florida, while North Carolina and Temple. The year before that, Navy battled Michigan State, while VCU played Tennessee. The event was televised on CBS Sports.
It is entirely possible that Ohio State could be playing another opponent in Annapolis instead.
The Buckeyes hitting the road to play Navy would be a little unusual. Ohio State hasn't played very many true road games in the non-conference schedule under Thad Matta, and virtually all of them have been against power opponents. The last time Ohio State played a true road game against a non power-conference team was in 2009, when they played Butler (and lost, 76-44). The Buckeyes also played at Cleveland State in 2007, if you're looking for an example that more closely resembles Navy.
Last season, Navy finished 19-14, with an RPI of 216, and a KenPom ranking of 197. The Buckeyes have played military academy programs in recent memory (Ohio State played both Air Force and VMI last year, beating them both), but they haven't played Navy in sometime. OSU are 0-1 against the Naval Academy all time.
Not much about Ohio State's 2016-2017 schedule is known yet. The Buckeyes will face UCLA in Las Vegas in December 17 as part of the CBS Sports Classic (as part of a doubleheader with Kentucky and North Carolina). Ohio State will also host UConn on Dec. 10, in the return leg of a home and home agreement.
Ohio State will almost certainly get a game in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (I'd guess on the road), and potentially a game against a Big East opponent in the Gavitt Games series. Ohio State did not get a Gavitt game last year, and if the team is opening the season on the road at Navy, especially against a name opponent, a Gavitt game is probably less likely (since those are also very early in the season).
Given Ohio State's roster situation, if Ohio State does play a bigger name at Navy, outside of the ACC/Big Ten or Gavitt series, you should be a little surprised if the Buckeyes added another big name to the schedule. But that doesn't mean that some of the other games wouldn't be interesting.
Playing Navy probably won't do wonders for Ohio State's computer profile, but there'll have plenty of other opportunities to do that before conference play. And for a team that struggled with attitude and discipline issues at times, maybe spending some time around the Naval Academy could do the team some good.
Once we know more details about this game, or the rest of Ohio State's basketball schedule, we'll share it.