Head Coach: Thad Matta
Kenpom Ranking: 55
When the Ohio State Buckeyes lost to UT-Arlington 73-68, most college basketball fans thought it would be a small hiccup in the road for head coach Thad Matta's squad. But, then the Buckeyes lost to Louisiana Tech, and later Memphis.
The slow start for Ohio State shouldn't be that shocking as Matta has an inexperienced team with no seniors on the roster. However, I don't think many thought they would be 4-4 after eight games. So far this season, the Buckeyes have relied heavily on junior Marc Loving while inexperienced teammates have turned into somewhat of a strong supporting cast for Loving. Matta has played a deep bench through the first eight games with 10 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game as he is trying to develop these young players early and often.
Statistically, the Buckeyes have been around average in most categories. They are averaging 74.6 PPG and 38.5 RPG while allowing 65.1 PPG. On the offensive end, Ohio State is shooting 48.2% from the field and 35.1% from behind the arc. According to Kenpom, they rank 72nd in adjusted offensive efficiency, 78th in defensive efficiency, and 291st in adjusted tempo, which is possessions per 40 minutes.
Part of the poor ranking in adjusted tempo is due to the turnovers which this young team keeps committing. The Buckeyes have committed an average of 14.4 turnovers per game which ranks tied for 267th in the nation.
#2 Marc Loving, Junior, Forward (6-7, 220): 17.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 49.0% FG, 17-44 3PT
The team's best player leads the Buckeyes in points, rebounds, and minutes. After being suspended mid-way through last season, Loving struggled and some were nervous that he would continue that type of play this year. Clearly, that has not been the case as the junior forward continues to be a three-point threat who has started to create off the dribble. Loving has scored in double figures every game this season, including a 25-point performance in a loss to Louisiana Tech.
#33 Keita Bates-Diop, Sophomore, Forward (6-7, 235): 12.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 47.8% FG, 9-29 3PT
Ohio State fans were hoping Bates-Diop would take a major jump from his freshman to sophomore season and he has certainly done that, currently sitting as the team's second-leading scorer. Bates-Diop is athletic enough to play the 2, 3, or 4 which gives Matta plenty of options for different lineups. The sophomore has scored in double figures in all but one game this year.
#1 Jae'Sean Tate, Sophomore, Forward (6-4, 225): 11.6 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 55.2% FG, 6-13 3PT
Despite being 6-fot-4, Tate plays more like a power forward. He is second on the team in rebounds and not afraid to throw his body around. The sophomore is an extremely tough player who likes to attack the hoop as much as possible, especially from the high post. Tate has scored in double figures in five games this season, including a double-double in the loss to Louisiana Tech.
#13 JaQuan Lyle, Freshman, Guard (6-5, 210): 10.0 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.9 RPG, 40.6% FG, 8-24 3PT
One of the top freshmen Matta has brought in, Lyle originally committed to Louisville before decommitting and choosing Ohio State. You may recognize his name from confirming the Louisville recruiting scandal which broke out this past offseason. The freshman is a combo guard who has incredible court vision that allows him to create for himself and others. Often times in high school, Lyle would make such good passes that his teammates would have no idea they were coming.
#4 Daniel Giddens, Freshman, Center (6-10, 230): 5.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.3 BPG, 56.0% FG
He missed the previous two games with the flu and then a hamstring injury but should be cleared to play against UConn. Giddens is an athletic post presence whose defensive ability has translated well to the college game. He has already proven that he is an extremely talented rim protector as he has recorded at least three blocks in his last four games, including six blocks in the loss to UT-Arlington. Once Giddens improves his offensive game, he should be one great player for Thad Matta.
The Ohio State is coached by Thad Matta, who is in his 11th season with the program, where he holds a 303-98 record. In his 11 seasons, Ohio State has made the NCAA Tournament nine times, making it to at least the second weekend five times and the Final Four twice including the National Championship game in 2006-07. Before Ohio State, Matta was the head coach at Xavier for three years, where he went 78-23 and made it to the NCAA Tournament all three years. Before Xavier, he spent one season as the Butler head coach where he went 24-8 and made the NCAA Tournament.
In his 15 seasons as a Division I Head Basketball Coach, Matta has impressively missed the NCAA Tournament only twice. The first time, it was his first year at Ohio State and the team was ineligible for the postseason. The second time was in the 2007-08 season, and the Buckeyes ended up winning the NIT. Some view Matta as the best coach who has yet to win a National Championship.