Ohio State's season isn't heading in the tournament it wants to be, but its season is not over. The Buckeyes host Akron Tuesday in the first round of the NIT at 7 p.m. Ohio State is the No. 3 seed, while the Zips are the No. 6 seed.
Head coach Thad Matta joined Paul Keels and Ron Stokes on 97.1 The Fan Monday for his weekly call-in show to discuss the matchup and more.
- "I like the setup for this team, and hopefully we can make the most of the opportunity that we have." — Thad Matta on the chance to play in the NIT with such a young group of players.
- Matta called the start of the second half against Michigan State Friday in the Big Ten Tournament "catastrophic," where the Spartans started on an 8-0 run to extend their lead to 15 points. As soon as the Buckeyes made mistakes, the Spartans capitalized and put the game away quickly.
- On his team's defensive effort against the Spartans, Matta thought switching all screens was "effective," but Michigan State still hurt the Buckeyes in transition.
- Matta on star Spartan guard and Big Ten Player of the Year Denzel Valentine: "You probably need a couple guys to stop him. I'm still mesmerized on some of the things he's able to do."
- Asked whether or not practicing for the NIT would benefit one specific position on your team, Matta said he believes it helps your team across the board: "It's something that gives everyone another chance. You've got a goal in the end to try and get to New York City."
- Despite the slow start against Penn State Thursday in Indianapolis, Matta was happy with how his team closed the opening half to stay close and eventually come out on top: "That was a good win for our basketball team."
- Matta thinks Marc Loving has been "really dialed in" when it comes to finding the open areas and either scoring or feeding to teammates in position to score.
- Matta on his discussion with freshman JaQuan Lyle during the game: "I wasn't pleased with how he was playing and his body language was not exemplifying what we needed at that moment."
- Kam Williams was "very sick" the weekend before the Big Ten Tournament, Matta said. Ohio State wasn't sure if he would even be able to go against the Nittany Lions.
- Matta said Ohio State had a long team meeting after learning its postseason fate Sunday night: "Getting the guys to talk and share their feelings on the year was a good thing."
- Michigan State provides a great example for what Matta wants his team to do down the road with developing their game and staying committed to the program, he said.
- Matta believes Akron should have been in the NCAA Tournament: "They're very deep ... their leading scorer comes off the bench."
- After hearing an ad to stop texting and driving, Matta said he nearly got in a car accident this morning on his way to work. A driver was texting and didn't stop at a light that was only green for the turn lane, but Matta said he was lucky to be paying attention to not get in an accident.
- Matta brought up Aaron Craft's dive for a steal in the D-league over the weekend: "It was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. I miss that kid."
- Loving is being more vocal to the team, Matta said: "I'm very proud to see that. His emotions and commitment to getting better is really good right now."
- Matta was pleased with Daniel Giddens' effort Friday against Michigan State, and the effort carried over to practice Monday: "Daniel has spent a lot of time working on his jump shot. He still swears that he can shoot 3s, but I just love guys that are committed to getting better."
- A caller asked how Matta would tweak the NCAA Tournament selection process if he could and Matta brought back an idea from Bob Knight of putting every team in: "It's hard, but you look at teams that improved by the end of the season but didn't make it. Those are the things that make you wonder."
- Matta said he isn't sure if you can pinpoint one set of criterion that would help it.
- On his team specifically, Matta said he thinks it can continue to mature with this extra time with NIT practices and games: "Just continue and figure out how to win games."
- With his freshman class, Matta said each guys has gained valuable experience just from playing in big games against tough teams.
- Matta said the 2008 NIT matchup against California at St. John Arena "was one of the best atmosphere I've ever been a part of." He's hoping to have a "decent" environment against Akron Wednesday.
- Matta likened Akron to Northwestern a bit with how many 3-pointers the Zips shoot.
- Matta said he thinks the Big Ten was under-seeded in the NCAA Tournament: "I thought Michigan State was for sure a 1."
- On the game Tuesday, Matta said the biggest thing he'll look for early in the game is whether or not his players are talking on defense. If they are, they'll be locked in, he said.
- Akron primarily plays man-to-man defense, but has shown a 1-3-1 and a 2-3 zone this season.