Though it ended with a disappointing thud in the form of a 96-92 loss to Indiana at home on Saturday, Ohio State's regular season is over. The same can be said about the other 13 teams in the Big Ten as well.
The conference tournament convenes later this week at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. At 17-14 overall and 7-11 in Big Ten play, Thad Matta's Buckeyes received the No. 11 seed and are set to face No. 14 seed Rutgers on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. The winner faces Northwestern on Thursday.
Matta and the other 13 head coaches came together for a post-regular season teleconference on Monday morning. Ohio State's head coach was noncommittal on if his team is better than last year and said he hasn't thought about if the Buckeyes would accept an invitation to the NIT should that opportunity get presented.
“It's a new season,” Matta said. “We've gotta get ourselves ready to roll.”
Additional Matta Notes:
- Matta said Ohio State's path in the tournament and first-round opponent "is what it is." He mentioned the game against Rutgers a month ago, where the Buckeyes only beat the Scarlet Knights by six at home.
- On Kam Williams's recent shooting slump, Matta said the redshirt junior has been working hard in the gym: "From the standpoint of what we need him from him, making shots is obviously very, very important to us."
- Matta on Rutgers: "They're a team that has had some great moments of basketball ... we just have to get our guys ready to compete at the highest level. That's for sure."
- Does Matta think Ohio State is a better team than last year even though its Big Ten record is far worse than in 2015-16 when it was 11-7? "I don't know if I completely know the answer to that but I think the start we got off to, we had a very very challenging Big Ten schedule in terms of starting out on the road as much as we did ... I've been saying it all year long: We need that consistency."
- Would the Buckeyes accept an invitation to the NIT? "I haven't thought about that. What I want to do with this team right now is see what we can do out there ... if we get knocked off we'll take a deep breath and see what we can do."
Tom Crean, Indiana
- Crean called Iowa, Indiana's first opponent in the Big Ten Tournament, "one of the most dangerous teams in the country" right now due to how well the Hawkeyes are playing lately. Iowa has won four consecutive games.
- Crean said Robert Johnson's defense got him going against Ohio State on Saturday. Johnson led the Hoosiers with a game-high 26 points against the Buckeyes: "I thought he did an excellent job of moving without the ball ... he always practices well but there's no question the two days going into that game was a different mindset for him."
- Crean said his team "didn't flinch" when it blew its 18-point lead against Ohio State and then fell behind: "Then we scored on seven straight possessions."
- Crean said Indiana put "a lot of focus" on Kam Williams ahead of Saturday's game: "We treated him as the great shooter that he is."
Fran McCaffrey, Iowa
- McCaffrey said his team has "grown up a lot" in recent weeks.
- On Indiana: "They're playing really connected now. The guard play is always a concern. They've got a lot of weapons but [Thomas] Bryant has really stepped it up."
John Groce, Illinois
- "We didn't play well on Saturday at all. It was a 2-hour, one-day deal. Hopefully, we can get back to how we were playing before." Illinois has won five straight games before losing to Rutgers 62-59.
- Groce: "You are who you are at this time of year."
- Asked about former boss Thad Matta, Groce said the two text "every week." Groce said he and Matta both are not commiserators: "We're obviously supporters of each other ... I know he's dealt with some injuries and different things throughout the year but Thad is one of those guys that's going to work every day to get the most out of his team. He's always been that way as long as I've known him, which was a long time ago."
Chris Collins, Northwestern
- Northwestern plays the winner of Ohio State-Rutgers on Thursday night. Collins called them "both physical teams."
- He named JaQuan Lyle, Jae'Sean Tate, Trevor Thompson and Marc Loving as players who show the physicality: "They've shown they can beat anybody in the league."
- On the challenge of not knowing who his team will play until Wednesday night: "I don't want our guys locking in on either team because anything can happen in the postseason." He said he wants his team to "work on us" the next few days in practice before getting to Washington D.C. on Thursday.
- On Northwestern's road win at Ohio State earlier this season: "That place had been a house of horrors for Northwestern for more than 40 years. I thought it was a huge confidence builder for us."
Mark Turgeon, Maryland
- "We're excited for some more Big Ten basketball and even more excited we get to play it in our back yard of D.C."
- Maryland doesn't play until Friday, so Turgeon gave his players Sunday and Monday off: "The long layoff is nice. Try to get rested and ready to go."
- Turgeon said Maryland has sold its entire allotment of tickets for the Big Ten Tournament this week.
Matt Painter, Purdue
- On having a double bye, as Purdue is the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament: "This week is more about getting healthy and getting prepared for the tournament. For us, it's going to be more of preparing ourselves to get healthy and feel good about ourselves."
- "When you are going on the road to win in this league, it says something about the players and the coaches. Especially if you have some bad losses. To recover from that, some guys just want the season to be over with. We've got some teams in this league that's not been their mindset ... we have a very, very good league."
Patrick Chambers, Penn State
- Penn State plays Nebraska in the first game of the tournament on Wednesday: "It's really about who wants it more. There is still a ton to play for."
- "This year, I thought we competed with everybody top to bottom ... but unfortunately, we have to learn how to win those close games."
- Chambers said his team has potential but "that's a scary word."
Tom Izzo, Michigan State
- "I don't know if we're necessarily playing our best right now. We did some things good enough to win and some things bad enough to lose."
- Izzo said he feels like the Big Ten Tournament is as wide open as it has been in recent years: "I've been in this league in 20-some, 30-some leagues ... and go ahead. Tell me you'd rather play a 12 or No. 7 or No. 13 or No. 5. It is wide open and there is a lot of parity."
- More on the evenness of the Big Ten: "Parity doesn't mean poor, parity can mean we're deeper from top to bottom."
Steve Pikiell, Rutgers
- Pikiell called Ohio State a "terrific program" and Matta a "terrific coach."
- Ohio State beat Rutgers 70-64 on Feb. 8 in Columbus: "They're different and we're a little bit different too from that last time we played."
- Pikiell called the Big Ten "awesome" and from top to bottom as competitive as any other conference in the country: "Really challenging schedule we've been through with a new team."
- "We've improved and one of these days, we're going to put it all together in a game."
- Pikiell said Ohio State "always has a lot of good players" and Marc Loving "always scares" him: "It's not just one guy. It's a collection of guys ... They all cause different problems for us."
Greg Gard, Wisconsin
- "We've always been a program that really relies on upperclassmen and development."
John Beilein, Michigan
- Beilein said he is "so glad" Michigan is playing on Thursday as opposed to a day earlier since the team didn't return from Nebraska until very late on Sunday night.
- "Anybody can beat anybody."
Richard Pitino, Minnesota
- Pitino said his team doesn't have too many players who have experienced postseason play at the college level due to the turnover on the roster from a year ago. Minnesota earned the No. 4 seed in the tournament this year: "There's going to be a lot of hoopla and a lot of things to get excited about but you can't get distracted by that."
Tim Miles, Nebraska
- On the message to his players ahead of the Big Ten Tournament: "More of a come to grips of how they see their role, how they can help the team, what they are struggling and then shedding that."
- Miles mentioned his team looks like it is walking around with a cloud of lightning over its head after getting blown out by Michigan on Sunday night.
- "We have a chance to be a good team. We've proven we can play with the best ... It all amounts to between the ears."