Ohio State needs to win the Big Ten Tournament to reach March Madness. Should it come up short, AD Gene Smith wants the NIT to consider the team.
Ohio State's Gene Smith: 'The NIT should consider us' if Big Ten title bid falls short
The Columbus Dispatch
CHICAGO – It is no longer a rule that a team must have a .500 record to receive an at-large berth to the NIT.
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith would like the committee to keep that in mind should Ohio State’s run in the Big Ten Tournament stop shy of a championship.
“The NIT committee should consider us,” Smith told The Dispatch on Friday evening. “We’re not a team to host, but we’re a team that should be in the NIT.”
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After losing 14 of 15 games at one point this season, Ohio State has flipped the script in the last three weeks. Starting with a Feb. 26 win against Illinois
, the Buckeyes have now won five of their last six games including an unprecedented run in the Big Ten Tournament. After finishing the regular season at 13-18 overall and 5-15 in the league, Ohio State earned the No. 13 seed in the league tournament and opened with a Wednesday game against No. 12 seed Wisconsin.
No team to play on the opening day of the tournament had reached the weekend since the conference expanded to 14 teams and the tournament to five days in the 2014-15 season, but Ohio State has become the first after handing losses to the Badgers, No. 5 seed Iowa
and now No. 4 seed Michigan State in Friday’s quarterfinals.
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Those wins have allowed Ohio State to creep closer to .500, but at 16-18 the Buckeyes will need to win the tournament title in order to get back to even. That would earn Ohio State the league’s auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes will face No. 1 seed Purdue on Saturday at 1 p.m. Eastern, and a loss would send Ohio State home at 16-19 overall.
“Records matter, but the reason that committee members watch games is to actually see how teams are playing,” Smith said. “Consider the last games that we’re playing, we’re playing at a high level and I think we’ve earned an opportunity for postseason play in the NIT.”
Prior to the tournament, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann was asked on his weekly radio show if he would consider other postseason opportunities should the Buckeyes fail to win the league tournament.
“We would address that if we were in that position,” he said Monday afternoon. “That’s a conversation for another time. Our goal every year, we understand what that is. We look at it if that opportunity would come out. Our focus is on playing well Wednesday night (against Wisconsin) and seeing where that takes us. Beyond that, the rest of it will take care of itself.”
Since the win against Illinois on Feb. 26, Ohio State has rated as the No. 13 team in the nation according to BartTorvik.com. During this 5-1 stretch, the Buckeyes are 22nd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and 52nd in adjusted defensive efficiency.
In between a Jan. 5 home loss to Northwestern and the day prior to the Illinois win, Ohio State was No. 123 nationally, No. 105 in offense and No. 169 in defense. During the last three weeks, Holtmann and his players have attributed their turnaround to “playing the right way” and remaining connected despite the prior losing streak
Ohio State last participated in the NIT in the 2015-16 season, where it earned a No. 3 seed after exiting the Big Ten Tournament with a 20-13 record. The Buckeyes defeated Akron and lost to No. 2 seed Florida in the second round
Should Ohio State’s time in Chicago end without cutting down nets Sunday afternoon leading into the NCAA Tournament’s Selection Show, Smith said its recent run of success and overall body of work are worthy of being considered for the NIT.
“I think that we’re a prime example of why they changed the rule,” he said. “When you look at our team and how we’ve played up until (Saturday at least), at the end of the day we deserve to be in.”