Washington D.C.—The Ohio State locker room was morose and quiet. That’s not a surprise, given that Ohio State’s run in the Big Ten Tournament came to an end even quicker than fans and players expected, as Rutgers knocked off the Buckeyes, 66-57.
With the loss, Ohio State’s record falls to 17-15. The NCAA Tournament is obviously out of the question, but heading into the Rutgers game, Ohio State was projected to make the NIT, anywhere from a three to a five seed. After a bad loss, that seed line is likely to take a hit.
Earlier this evening, Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch spoke with Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith about Smith’s vote of confidence in Thad Matta, stating he’d be coaching the Buckeyes again next season. During that conversation, Smith said the following:
"We've got some postseason opportunities for these young men and hope that they perform well and then we'll have the offseason for Thad to put in place the things he feels we need to have in place to be able to get back to where we want
When I asked Matta is Ohio State would accept an NIT bid if offered, he told me he didn’t know yet.
It very well may have been just the disappointment after losing a tough game, but the mood in the Ohio State locker room wasn’t one of a team that badly wanted another chance to play.
Trevor Thompson seemed lukewarm at best if he wanted to play in the NIT. “If we do, we do,” he said. C.J. Jackson told us, “I guess so” when asked if he’d want to play in another game, given that the season didn’t end the way he wanted. Other players like Buckeye point guard JaQuan Lyle pointed out that the decision would not be theirs. Nobody was particularly clamoring for another immediate shot at redemption.
On one hand, a trip to the NIT would give additional game time experience for Ohio State’s younger players, like Andre Wesson and Micah Potter, as well as a chance to end the season on a higher note than a brutal loss to Rutgers. But if the team is banged up and not mentally engaged, it’s also easy to understand why the team might elect to pass on the trip. The crowds would be sparse, the payoff perhaps limited, and if losing to Rutgers was bad, then losing an opening round game to New Mexico State or Richmond would be damaging as well.
Ohio State will need to determine if this team would benefit, emotionally, mentally, or otherwise from additional postseason basketball. If the Buckeyes want that opportunity, they will probably get another shot. But in the immediate aftermath of a tough loss, that wasn’t clear. It’s tough to make that evaluation right after a difficult loss.