Thursday, April 3 (Gameday)
Champions! After celebrating the NIT title at Madison Square Garden, the Buckeyes traveled to New Jersey to catch a charter flight back to Columbus. The seniors thanked their teammates after the game for making the 2007-08 season an enjoyable one end to their careers. The travel party spent time on the bus talking and texting loved ones and well wishers and looking toward the off-season. The seniors leave with 105 victories. The underclassmen have momentum heading into next year. The coaches are already looking forward to the start of spring and summer workouts with an eye on starting practice in October when only a couple teams will start the 2008-09 season on a win streak.
The teams are warming up with just over 30 minutes remaining before tip time in the title game of the 2008 National Invitation Tournament. The Buckeyes and Minutemen started preparation for the 2007-08 season in mid-October and nearly six months later the season will culminate with an on-court trophy presentation. UMass will be well represented by a vocal fan base but the Buckeyes are showing up en masse as well. One notable Buckeye in attendance is Curtis Wilson, who played for Ohio State at guard the last time the Buckeyes claimed the National Invitation Tournament title in 1986. The Ohio State and UMass coaching staffs have a notable connection. Minutemen assistant Steve Middleton and Thad Matta, head coach of the Buckeyes, were teammates for one season at Southern Illinois University when Middleton was a high-scoring sophomore and Matta was a freshman. Matta left SIU after the 1985-86 season to finish his collegiate playing career at Butler.
There will be no more trips to the Empire State Building, Central Park, Yankee Stadium or Times Square. Fifth Avenue stores will miss the Ohio State support staff and families. It’s time for the Buckeyes to play for a title. After five days in New York, Ohio State and UMass will decide the 2008 National Invitation Title at storied Madison Square Garden in just under three hours. The team finished its team meal about 3:30 p.m. and began packing for the return trip to Columbus after the game tonight. The team will load the bus at 5 p.m. for the short ride to the Garden for the last game of the 2007-08 season. The Buckeyes enter the contest with a 23-13 record and will play for a title for the second-consecutive season. The coaching staff and players have diligently prepared, as they have all season. It’s the final college game day routine for Jamar Butler and Matt Terwilliger, the winningest four-senior class in Ohio State history. Classmate Othello Hunter also ends his Ohio State career tonight along with four senior managers. Go Bucks.
One last time. The Buckeyes walked through the gameplan one last time in the final pregame workout of the season and for seniors Jamar Butler, Matt Terwilliger and Othello Hunter. It’s a day of lasts for the Buckeyes in playing the final game of a championship tournament. The players are shooting free throws now and will soon load the bus back to the hotel where pregame meal is set for 3 p.m. ESPN plans to tape an interview with Butler after shootaround. It will feature his tattoos and the significance of each. Tune in to the game at 7 p.m. tonight.
The countdown is on … Breakfast is set for 10:15 a.m. before the team heads to Madison Square Garden at 11 a.m. for its hour-long shootaround. The team will spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing. Pregame meal is set for 3 p.m. The team will head to the game about 5 p.m. with tipoff set for 7:05 p.m. ESPN will televise the game and 1460 AM The Fan will have the call locally in Columbus.
Wednesday, April 2
Done for the day … With practice completed, the Ohio State men’s basketball team is off for the remainder of the day. The team will gather for dinner a short distance from the hotel for some New York-style pizza. Thad Matta and Travis Ford both closed the NASDAQ in a ceremony that occurs twice a day on Times Square: once for the open of the market and again at closing. The coaches posed for photos as the team logos were displayed for all to see on the seven story facade facing Times Square. After the closing ceremony, the coaches were photographed in Times Square in front of the NASDAQ studio. The next time the coaches meet will be just before tipoff of the 2008 MasterCard National Invitation Tournament Title game at 7 p.m. Thursday (ESPN).
At the market. Thad Matta and Travis Ford, the opposing coaches in the NIT title game Thursday, will ring the closing bell at NASDAQ. Both coaches are going through orientation in times square.
Last practice … Ohio State will again travel a short distance to Baruch College for the final full practice session of the season, the 118th of the year for the Buckeyes. Last year, on the way to the NCAA national title game, the Buckeyes had 111 practices. The additional practice time has already paid off for the young 2007-08 Buckeye squad. Thad Matta, head coach of the Buckeyes, said several times over the last few days how players like Dallas Lauderdale and Kosta Koufos have made incredible strides toward improving as a result of the additional court time during the NIT. Matta will go directly from practice to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ. The ceremony will last from about 3:30 to 4:05 p.m. and will be televised live nationally. The Buckeyes will review additional film this evening. Photos of the NASDAQ ceremony will be online later this afternoon.
UMass and Ohio state will meet with the media this morning with the Minutemen starting at 10:30 and the Buckeyes taking their turn at 11. Ohio State will practice from 2-3:30 p.m. or so. Thad Matta will be picked up from the team practice site at Baruch College to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ. The coaches will continue to prepare for UMass throughout the day with scouting and film work while the team works on academics and prepares for the title game.
Tuesday, April 1 (Gameday)
The Buckeyes held off a second-half Mississippi run to score an 81-69 victory and a shot at the NIT title vs. UMass Thursday. Jamar Butler and Evan Turner led a balanced effort Ohio State with 17 points each. David Lighty and Kosta Koufos added 16 a piece.
The Buckeyes used an 8-0 run after a Rebel 3-pointer to start the game and prompt a Mississippi timeout. The Rebels responded with five points to tie the game at 8-all. Ohio State then answered with a 19-2 run to take a 27-10 lead. The Buckeyes finished with a 17-10 spurt to lead at the break 44-20. Seven Buckeyes scored with Jamar Butler and David Lighty leading the way with nine points each.
It’s UMass! Behind a decidedly partial UMass fan base, the Minutemen knocked off Florida and await the winner of the Ohio State-Mississippi game for the 2008 NIT title. That game will be played at 7 p.m. Thursday and will be televised by ESPN. The crowd at Madison Square Garden is speckled with Scarlet throughout. It will be interesting to see who the UMass fans adopt in game two.
At the half, Florida is leading UMass at the half, 36-27. Ohio State just arrived for its game with Mississippi. The teams in the second semifinal will watch a portion of the second half of game one before gathering one final time before taking on the Rebels.
Nothing but the game. All the practices are over. There is no more film to watch. The Buckeyes are ready to take on the Rebels of Mississippi later tonight in the second semifinal of the 2008 National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden. ESPN2 will televise the game nationally at about 9:30 p.m.. The Ohio State Radio Network also will broadcast the game on 1460 AM The Fan in Columbus. Ohio state will return to the hotel and then eat a pregame meal at 5 p.m. before returning to the Garden around 7:30 to catch the last part of the Florida-UMass game.
At the Garden. The team arrived a bit early for its scheduled 2 p.m. shootaround. Mississippi was on the court finishing its workout after Florida and UMass went through workouts earlier in the day. The Buckeyes moved into their lockerroom while the coaching staff settled in one of the Garden’s “star” rooms to wait for the court to become available.
It’s Gameday. The Buckeyes are settled into a normal gameday routine in preparation for the NIT semifinal game with Mississippi. Game time is set to start about 30 minutes after the first semifinal between Florida and UMass at 7 p.m. The team gathered for breakfast at 10:15 and will then go to studytable at 10:45. Ohio state has a 2 p.m. shootaround time at Madison Square Garden, the first look at the world’s most famous arena, for the Buckeyes on this trip.
No April Fools’ Day pranks so far. But don’t expect that to last long.
Monday, March 31
Central Park. Fran Fraschilla, a former assistant coach at Ohio state and currently a commentator for ESPN, was the emcee of the welcome banquet for the NIT Final Four. The teams gathered at The Boathouse in Central Park for dinner on the eve of the semifinal round of the 2008 NIT. Those attending the dinner chose between steak or halibut, but all have the same agenda-ending the season with a title. Fraschilla, along with Ron Franklin and Bill Raftery will call the game for ESPN2 Tuesday. After dinner and the trek back to the hotel, the Buckeyes will gather for film study before calling it a night.
The streets of New York are coming to life as the work day ends and the nightlife begins in and around Times Square. The Buckeyes, along with the teams from Mississippi, UMass and Florida, are boarding buses destined for a banquet honoring the NIT finalists. Loading four teams through the hustle and bustle in the heart of Times Square is a process, but not nearly as taxing as the bus drivers negotiating the cabs, street construction and pedestrians.
The Buckeyes worked out at Baruch College, about 20 blocks from Times Square. About 16,000 students — primarily business majors — attend the school which takes up bout three city blocks. The gym is well below ground, but provided three courts of practice space. The plan is for a 90 minute workout before heading back to the hotel to get ready for a welcome dinner for the NIT finalists.
The media interviews are over with seniors Jamar Butler, Matt Terwilliger and Othello Hunter representing the Buckeyes along with head coach Thad Matta. The players responded to questions from Mississippi media as well as those covering UMass and Florida. The four head coaches the took the podium and spoke about their teams and seasons. The Buckeyes then grabbed a quick pasta and chicken lunch before boarding a bus for practice. Check back shortly for audio and photos from the media session and practice.
An after dinner film session and a night’s rest are behind the Buckeyes as the team gathered for breakfast in the hotel Monday. After the team meal the Buckeyes will hit the books during study table before a noon press conference and an afternoon practice session at a local college.
Sunday, March 30
Plataforma Churrascaria is about four blocks from Times Square but it will take a longer walk to work off the endless supply of carved meats at the Brazilian steak house the team dined at Sunday evening. After dessert the team walked back to the hotel to rest for a day of media interviews, practice and a tournament dinner Monday night.
42nd Street. Safely and quickly through the Lincoln tunnel, Ohio State’s travel party inched it’s way through traffic down 42nd Street toward Times Square. It’s Sunday evening, but nonetheless the crowds are out in full force enjoying mild temperatures under clear skies. A left on 8th Ave leads the bus behind the team hotel. The team has arrived in Times Square.
Touchdown (finally). Ohio state landed in New Jersey just a little behind schedule. The team will deplane and board a bus destined for Times Square. The flight was uneventful and lasted about an hour and 15 minutes.
Plane problems have caused a delay in travel plans for the Buckeyes. The team had a meal of burgers and chicken sandwiches after practice and will now watch the NCAA Elite Eight game between Texas and Memphis while waiting to depart for New York. The expected departure time is now about 4 p.m.
The Buckeyes are in the middle of the last practice session on the Ohio State campus for the 2007-08 season. The Buckeyes will depart for New York City at about 2:45 p.m. from Value City Arena. The team will take a charter plane to New Jersey and then bus over to the Marriott Marquis on Times Square, the home hotel for the four remaining teams in the 2008 MasterCard National Invitation Tournament. Ohio State opens play in the event at about 9:20 p.m. Tuesday against Mississippi. Florida and UMass open semifinal competition at 7 p.m. Both games are televised by ESPN2. Ohio State is scheduled to arrive at the hotel about 6 p.m. and will then gather for a team dinner at a Brazilian steak house before meetings later tonight.