What turned out to be one of the more exasperating Ohio State basketball seasons in recent memory ended in fitting fashion Thursday afternoon as the Buckeyes bumbled and stumbled yet still almost advanced before a late Dayton bucket finally put Thad Matta's team out of its collective misery.
Finishing at 25-10, the Buckeyes went 10-10 over their final 20 games and posted a 10-8 record in B1G regular season play before being eliminated in the opening game of The Dance for just the third time in 26 appearances.
The team is very much in transition with Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. out of eligibility and LaQuinton Ross contemplating his basketball future but before we venture into the offseason here's a few numbers that help summarize the 2013-14 Buckeyes.
As in 10 total losses. In what could be a surprise to some folks, under Thad Matta the Buckeyes have lost at least 10 games in four of his ten seasons though this marks the first time since 2008-09 the Buckeyes have reached double digit defeats.
Judging from the various colors of Matta's face during the year (I'm pretty sure Tarantino would've dubbed him Mr. Purple), this was one of Thad's more frustrating years as a head coach.
He repeatedly struggled to get through to his team as they often started slow, loafed on defense, went through frequent bouts of apathy and mental fragility. For the first time in a while, the players themselves showed a huge lack of chemistry and therefore accountability to each other.
Even in a down year, the Buckeyes still managed to post a 17-3 record at home though two of the defeats were shaky.
Ohio State fell 84-74 to Iowa on January 12th, evening their record at 2-2 in B1G play as they allowed the Hawkeyes to close the game on a 22-9 blitz. Ross tallied 22 points and seven boards but he and Craft combined to turn it over 11 times.
A little over two weeks later, the Buckeyes bottomed out in a 71-70 overtime loss to Penn State, dropping Matta to 17-1 against the Lions, and OSU to 3-5 in league action.
Four games later, Michigan came to Columbus and posted a 70-60 victory as they outscored the Buckeyes 44-30 in the 2nd half evening Ohio State's conference record at 6-6.
As decent as 17-3 at home sounds, Ohio State hadn't fared that poorly in the friendly confines since back in 2008-09 when a 22-11 squad featuring names like Jeremie Simmons, P.J. Hill and Noopy Crater (for a couple months anyway) went 15-3 in the Schott.
In fact, during the four-season stretch book-ending those seasons, the Buckeyes went 71-5 at home including a perfect 20-0 record in 2010-11 and 17-1 in 2009-10.
Following the one-point loss to the Flyers, Ohio State's last six NCAA tournament defeats have come by a combined 14 points. A rundown of the previous five:
- 2013: Wichita State 70, Ohio State 66 - The Buckeyes fought back from a 20-point deficit but couldn't overcome 31% shooting including 5/25 from distance as they fell to the #9 seeded Shockers, missing out on a berth in the Final Four.
- 2012: Kansas 64, Ohio State 62 - In a Final Four matchup, OSU led by as many as 13 points and for all but 3:48 of the 40 minutes but they were outscored 13-7 over the final five minutes as they missed eight of 10 shots allowing the Jayhawks to advance.
- 2011: Kentucky 62, Ohio State 60 - In a regional semifinal clash, Jared Sullinger posted a 21-16 double-double but William Buford went 2/16 from the field and Brandon Knight hit the game-winner with :05 left.
- 2010: Tennessee 76, Ohio State 73 - Evan Turner's one-man show went for 31 points but Ohio State lost the lead with :35 left and Turner's three-point try just before the buzzer was blocked, ending OSU's season in the Sweet Sixteen.
- 2009: Siena 74, Ohio State 72 (2 OT) - Turner was a beast with 31 points, nine boards and eight assists but the Buckeyes blew an 11-point lead late in regulation before falling on a Ronald Moore three-pointer with 3.9 seconds left.
Despite going just 3-3 this month, Thad Matta is still 56-16 in March during his time at Ohio State, good for a 77.8% winning percentage. That number is good for 5th-best among active coaches over the last 10 seasons.
Bottom line, everyone is frustrated with how this season played out for a litany of reasons but as I've said many times, Thad Matta is the best coach Ohio State can get and that's not a back-handed complement in any way whatsoever.
In fact, among the coaching community, Matta is always on the short list of the best coaches without a national title. Ohio State is incredibly lucky to have him leading the program and any known current commodity viewed as a better CEO of a program is not interested in or available to Ohio State.
38.5% & 28.4%
What a rough swan song for Lenzelle Smith Jr. The guy Ohio State was forced to lean on as a secondary scorer managed to do so (11.0 ppg) but it wasn't pretty.
His numbers nose-dived in league play, putting him up there with Shannon Scott as having the most busted jumper among Buckeyes in the heavy rotation (at least 70 FGA in B1G play).
|PLAYER||OVERALL FG%||B1G FG%||OVERALL 3FG%||B1G 3FG%||OVERALL PPG||B1G PPG|
As you can see, Smith was Ohio State's worst overall shooter among the guys logging major minutes and his shaky 28.4% shooting from distance in B1G play was only outdone by Scott's 25.6%.
Scott's clanks against B1G competition were less hurtful as he attempted just 39 (making 10) while Lenzelle launched 81 triples, hitting only 23.
Also of note on this graph, only Ross managed to score more points per game in B1G play than overall. Everyone else failed to step up in the scoring department.