Would Ohio State Accept an NIT Bid If Offered? Should It?

By Tim Shoemaker on March 9, 2017 at 1:05 pm
C.J. Jackson puts his hands on his head after Ohio State's loss to Rutgers.

WASHINGTON — Ohio State’s Big Ten tournament ended much quicker than expected.

The Buckeyes lost to Rutgers — yes, that Rutgers — in the opening round Wednesday, 66-57. It was a new low point for an Ohio State program that has hit quite a few over the last two years.

There will be no NCAA tournament for the Buckeyes for the second-straight season — the first time under Thad Matta’s direction that has ever happened. The reality is Ohio State is likely headed for an NIT bid for the second-straight year instead.

The Buckeyes reportedly signed to a "non-binding agreement" to play in the secondary tournament back in January. Given how the season ended, it's unclear if Matta wants to redeem that.

Following the loss to the Scarlet Knights, Matta didn’t commit to saying Ohio State would accept one if extended the offer.

“I hadn't even thought about that," he said. "I don't know. I’ll have to sit down and think about what I want to do with these guys.”

The Buckeyes are just 17-15 on this season, a mark that probably isn’t even good enough for them to host an NIT game if they were to play in the tournament. They’d likely have to travel to play a game — or games — that essentially don’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things.

That's not exactly something that gets people excited.

Nobody comes to Ohio State to play in the NIT. The goal is to play in the NCAA tournament each and every season. It hasn’t happened in Columbus for the last two, though, so after last year’s experience in the NIT — a second-round loss to Florida — do the Buckeyes’ players even want to go back?

“That’s Coach Matta’s decision,” point guard JaQuan Lyle said. “Obviously, I love the game so to be able to put the Ohio State jersey on another time this year, that’d be fun but that’s Coach Matta’s decision.”

It’s a decision Matta is yet to make.

On one hand, it might be best to just put this season to bed. Many thought with a core of six players returning, the Buckeyes would take positive strides in the 2016-17 season and get back to the NCAA tournament. It didn’t happen, and it might be time to just move on and focus on the future.

On the other hand, the extra practice time could come in handy. If Ohio State were to make a deep NIT run — a big if — the team would be allowed to practice for the next couple of weeks. With the bulk of the team scheduled to return again next season, that could have some benefit. The extra game experience, that might help a little bit too, especially with the young players. Who really knows?

It’s a decision that will ultimately need to be made by Matta.

But in the waking moments of Wednesday's loss to Rutgers, the players inside Ohio State's locker room who were asked about playing in the NIT for a second-straight year didn't exactly sound thrilled with the idea.

Sure, they'd play because it's basketball and it's why they came to play for the Buckeyes. It's another opportunity to play the game. 

It's just not where anybody on Ohio State's roster thought they'd be playing at the beginning of the season.

“Of course I would never say I wouldn’t want to play the game of basketball that I love,” junior forward Jae’Sean Tate said. “My time here is limited, going into my last year, so anytime I can take the court in the scarlet and gray of course I’m going to take that opportunity.”

“But we’ll just have to see how everything works out.”

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