Presser Bullets: Ohio State Preparing for “Versatililty” of Georgia's Attack, Scotty Middleton Back With Team, Bruce Thornton Being Evaluated

By Andy Anders on March 25, 2024 at 2:02 pm

Ohio State is on the doorstep of a berth to the NIT semifinals at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

As the Buckeyes prepare to face Georgia in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, Jake Diebler met with the team's media contingent to preview the matchup. After missing two games while tending to a family matter, freshman wing Scotty Middleton is back with the team but is still "processing" what happened.

After taking a knee to the thigh in the second round against Virginia Tech, star point guard Bruce Thornton is still being evaluated.

Diebler also said that Georgia's "versatility" with multiple different scoring threats will be a challenge and that the Buckeyes will take any momentum the NIT will provide for next season.

  • With a lot of players banged up – Roddy Gayle Jr. also suffered a minor hand injury during the game against the Hokies, though he played through it – Diebler said Ohio State took Sunday to recover in large part.
  • While the hiring of Dave Dickerson as the team's associate head coach was announced just before his press conference, Diebler said he has "no official comment" on any staff updates.
  • On Georgia: "They're very good. I have a ton of respect for Coach White. ... I think with Georgia, there's a great deal of versatility from a scoring standpoint on their roster. I think they've got, I want to say, seven guys averaging seven points or more on the season."
  • On what it means to play in Value City Arena for another NIT game: "The atmosphere has been awesome. Awesome. Buckeye Nation has been incredible... we've felt the presence of our fans both of these NIT games."
  • While he does believe the tournament setting ups the intensity, Diebler said that the tight nature of Ohio State's games in the first two rounds has more to do with the quality of opponents than anything. "I put it more on the fact that they're good teams."
  • Diebler said it's strange that the NIT semifinals and finals will be in Hinkle Fieldhouse and not Madison Square Garden, but says he believes the Indianapolis-based arena is an "awesome venue."
  • It's been a team-wide effort to not worry about where players will be next year but instead focus on the games at hand, Diebler said. "That's been player-led, that we're going to wait until after the season. ... They want to get out there and win, so we've done everything we can to lock in on that."
  • Diebler said all the resources at Ohio State that Middleton feels he may or may not need are available to him. "We've come alongside, we're supporting him. He's doing well, I think he's just processing some things."
  • On what this late-season run says about his team: "The way they've performed this postseason says a lot about who they are as people, it says a lot about the chemistry within this team and program and it speaks to their pride for what's on the chest of their jersey."
  • On whether he dwells on Ohio State's games against Illinois and Purdue down the stretch of the season with how well both those teams are performing in the NCAA Tournament: "I think the metrics would back this up, the last five to six weeks we've been one of the better teams in the country. ... We've had an opportunity in the NIT to show we've been playing some of the best ball in the country. ... We're embracing the opportunity in front of us."
  • That's not the main thing motivating his squad though, he said. "Our guys are motivated by the fact that there's a game to be won, there's a championship to be won. ... They're motivated to play for each other."
  • On the leadership of Jamison Battle: "It's hard when you transfer in and you know you're only going to be there for one year ... but I've encouraged him to be himself. And he's earned the right to use his voice and we've certainly needed it. I think he and I's relationship has helped that. ... He's got a great deal of maturity and experience, he's about winning. ... It's been really impactful for us."
  • Diebler attended the Ohio High School State Championships and received a warm reception. "The state championship holds such a special place in my heart for our family. ... It's something I look forward to every year. ... It's something I hope to be at every year."
  • Jake's brother Jon Diebler, legendary former Ohio State sharpshooter and current director of recruiting at Butler, was also in attendance. "I'm so happy with what Jon's been able to do starting his coaching career. ... It was the first time I've seen him in-person since all of this, so got a hug in and caught up on family stuff."
  • While it's not the focus, Diebler will welcome any momentum a deep NIT run can provide for next season. "I think if you look at the history of Ohio State basketball, you've seen an NIT run impact that. We'll see, ultimately, how impactful that can be ... but there's a history here of teams that have done that and gone on to find some momentum. ... We're not doing this because of that ... but we'll certainly welcome as much momentum as we can get moving forward."
  • On Taison Chatman: "He's been really good in his minutes and you can see we've tried to give him an additional part of the rotation. He's earned that. ... We all would have liked to see what it could have looked like for him if he had had a full summer, full fall. ... He's a really, really talented player. ... He stayed ready."
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