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Men’s basketball: Amid another rough season, Matta’s job seems safe

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OSU coach Thad Matta speaks to the Buckeyes during a timeout in OSU’s exhibition match-up against Walsh on Nov. 6. The Buckeyes won 85-67. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo Editor

The Ohio State men’s basketball team escaped Wednesday night with a win against Rutgers, but not without some scary moments for Thad Matta’s team. The Buckeyes had to fight to the bitter end, barely scraping by a team that had just earned its first road conference win in 24 games.

Follow that up with a loss to No. 21 Maryland away from home — which was less shocking — and OSU once again looks to be on a downtrend. The Buckeyes still lack a prolific scorer, and have been unable to find any cohesiveness 25 games into the season.

This isn’t the first time he has struggled to find a way to win.

“I was 10–9 at Xavier, and four weeks later, we were playing in the Elite Eight to go to the Final Four (in 2003),” Matta said earlier this season. “Just keep fighting, man. Just keep fighting.”

Last season, the Scarlet and Gray were scrutinized for performing well below expectations, but were expected to be at least marginally better this season. OSU has just five games remaining in the regular season to try to finish above .500 in the conference and overall.

And with teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State remaining, the odds of that happening are about as likely as Matta not chewing gum on the sideline. With the daunting task of trying to revive a team with little to fight for, the job security of the long-time OSU coach could come into question.

Matta, who now has a career record of 437-150 after the win against Rutgers and loss to Maryland, is the winningest coach in OSU history. With 335 wins under his belt at the helm of the Buckeyes, it seems strange to think his job could be in jeopardy.

Matta has missed the Big Ten Championship game in three consecutive years, and is in real jeopardy of missing it for a fourth time, barring any shocking upsets. With four seasons of less-than-stellar play, Matta’s time at the helm could be coming to an end.

On the other side of the argument, Matta is in his 13th season with the Buckeyes, and has never posted a losing season in his career. Never in his entire head coaching career has he missed the 20-win mark.

Although OSU looks like it will miss out on at least 20 wins, unless the team has a solid National Invitational Tournament run. Well, if they make it there, that is.

Matta has made it to at least the NIT every year with the Buckeyes, except for his first year at the helm. Four conference titles and four Sweet 16 appearances, paired with a solid incoming recruiting class, might just be enough to keep Matta around.

OSU currently has commitments from center Kaleb Wesson — brother of OSU freshman forward Andre Wesson — and point guard Braxton Beverly. Both players are listed as four-stars according to ESPN.

In 2018, there is even more reason to celebrate, as OSU is set to haul in a pair of forwards in Darius Bazley and Justin Ahrens, and a solid shooting guard in Dane Goodwin. Matta’s incoming players could potentially bring him some success again, but only time will tell.

Regardless of where fans stand on Matta, they should remember how many wins he has brought the program, and the not-so-long-ago past appearances in the NCAA tournament.

That, paired with some praise from Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, should give him at least one more chance.

“I shouldn’t say this, but hell, I’m happy for him,” Izzo said in January. “From the standpoint of the way people treat him around here, I’m happy for him. He’s won a lot of games here … He doesn’t have to answer to anybody and he probably doesn’t need my support, but I’ll probably need his.”

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