No. 1 Ohio State (19-13) vs. No. 8 UNC Asheville (23-9)
Tuesday, March 18, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Value City Areana (19,049)
Tickets: Call 1-800 GO BUCKS or online at

Ohio State enters the 2008 MasterCard NIT with a 19-13 overall record. Thad Matta, head coach of the Buckeyes, will lead Ohio State against first round opponent UNC Asheville (23-9). Ohio State is the No. 1 seed. The Bulldogs are the No. 8 seed. The winner of the game between the Buckeyes and UNC Asheville will take on the winner of the game between California, the No. 4 seed, and New Mexico, the No. 5 seed. The second round NIT games will be played March 21, 22 or 24.

The Buckeyes and Bulldogs have met just once previously, a 93-59 Ohio State victory Dec. 4, 1993 in Columbus. UNC Asheville is a member of the Big South Conference. The Bulldogs enter the game with the Buckeyes with a 23-9 overall record after a 10-4 league mark, which tied Winthrop, the Big South Conference Tournament Champions and NCAA automatic qualifier. Ohio State is 6-0 against Big South teams all-time. The Buckeyes are 1-0 vs. Coastal Carolina and UNC Asheville and 2-0 vs. Radford and Virginia Military Institute. The Buckeyes defeated VMI 90-57 Nov. 25 at St. John Arena this season.

Ohio State is making its eighth appearance in the NIT all time. Overall, the Buckeyes have a 13-7 record in NIT postseason tournament competition. Ohio State won the event in 1986, 73-63 over Wyoming, and advanced to the finals in 1988 before a loss to Connecticut 72-67. The Buckeyes last played in the NIT in 2003, a loss to Georgia Tech in Atlanta (72-68).

Ohio State has appeared in eight NIT postseason events since 1979.
The Buckeyes are 1-0 vs. UNC Asheville in the all-time series and 6-0 vs. current members of the Big South Conference.
New Mexico is coached by Steve Alford, former University of Iowa head coach and Indiana alum.
The Buckeyes are 1-1 all-time against New Mexico and 15-10 vs. Mountain West Conference foes. Ohio State is 7-9 against California and 32-34 vs. the PAC 10.
Thad Matta is making his first postseason NIT appearance as a head coach. In eight seasons his teams have advanced to postseason play seven times. Ohio State was ineligible in 2005.
Six Big Ten teams were selected to participate in the 2008 NCAA and NIT tournaments. Wisconsin, Michigan State, Indiana and Purdue will compete in the NCAA while Ohio State and Minnesota will play in the NIT.
Ohio State is one of 15 teams in 2007-08 that qualified for either the NIT (5) or the NCAA (10). The Buckeyes were 8-11 vs. teams who qualified for postseason, 4-1 vs. the NIT field and 4-10 vs. the NCAA qualifiers.
Ohio State is 13-3 in Value City Arena this season. VCA will play host to the first NIT game in the 10-year history of the facility. The Buckeyes are 61-6 overall at VCA under Thad Matta and 64-6 in Columbus, which includes two wins at St. John Arena and one at Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus.
The Buckeyes began the year in the preseason NIT with wins over Green Bay and Columbia in Columbus before traveling to New York for games against Syracuse and Texas A&M. The Buckeyes defeated the Orange 79-65 and then fell in the title game to the Aggies 70-47.

Six teams that won the regular season and/or postseason league titles in their respective conferences played Ohio State this season. The Buckeyes defeated Coppin State of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, 47-39 Dec. 10. The Eagles won their league tournament to qualify for the 2008 NCAA Tournament last weekend. Ohio State downed UMBC Dec. 29 in Columbus, 92-83. The Retrievers won both their regular-season and the America East Conference championships to secure the league’s automatic bid to the 2008 NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes took on Atlantic Coast Conference champion and No. 1-ranked North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge Nov. 28 (L 66-55) in Columbus and then traveled to meet No. 10 Butler, the Horizon League regular season and tournament champions (L 65-46) in Indianapolis Dec. 1. Another road game at Southeastern Conference champion and No. 4-ranked Tennessee (L 74-69) set the stage for Ohio State’s lone matchup with No. 8 Wisconsin (L 58-53) in Columbus Feb. 24. The Badgers won the regular season and Big Ten tournament titles. Ohio State also defeated Horizon League runner up Cleveland State 80-63 Dec. 18 in Cleveland.

Senior Jamar Butler was named 2008 First Team All-Big Ten by the league media and to the second team by the conferences coaches March 3. Butler ended the regular season averaging 14.6 points and 6.0 assists to lead the Buckeyes. He has made 86 3-pointers to become Ohio State’s all-time leader in that category along with his school record 549 career assists. Koufos, a third team All-Big Ten selection (coaches and media) and All-Freshman Team honoree (coaches), contributes 13.8 points and a team-leading 6.8 rebounds a game. He also has blocked 59 shots on the year to lead the Buckeyes and had a team-high 182 field goals. Another Ohio State freshman, Jon Diebler, was selected as the Buckeyes’ Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree.

Jamar Butler was named the Big Ten Player of the Week March 3 after he led Ohio State to a pair of wins over ranked opponents to close out the regular season. In wins over No. 15 Purdue (3/4) and No. 17 Michigan State (3/9), Butler averaged 22.5 points while making 58 percent of his field goals (11-19) and 100 percent of his foul shots (16-16). He also connected on 7-of-12 3-pointers (.583). Butler set the Ohio State record for games played (134) in the start vs. the Spartans March 14 in the 2008 Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. The weekly honor is the second of the season for an Ohio State player. Freshman Kosta Koufos earned the honor in November.

Seven members of the Ohio State men’s basketball program were recognized before the final home game of the regular season against Michigan State March 9. Othello Hunter, Matt Terwilliger and Jamar Butler along with managers Anthony Calo, Levi Robinson, Kevin Rohrbacher and Matt Ullmer took part in pregame ceremonies along with members of their respective families. Over the last four years, the senior class has won a school record 100 games, two regular-season Big Ten titles, the 2007 Big Ten Tournament title and has appeared in two NCAA tournaments, including the 2007 NCAA National Championship game.

When Ohio State battled No. 19 Michigan State for the second time in less than a week March 14, the game marked the fifth ranked opponent in six games for the Buckeyes. The stretch started with No. 11 Wisconsin Feb. 24 (L 58-53). No. 12 Indiana (L 72-69) followed Feb. 26. Ohio State then traveled to Minnesota (L 71-57) and returned home for wins over No. 15 Purdue (80-77 OT March 4) and No. 17 Michigan State (63-54, March 9). Ohio State ended the season vs. five ranked foes in seven games a season ago.

The Buckeyes are 9-7 all-time in Big Ten Tournament play since the event began in 1998. The Buckeyes were the No. 5 seed in 2008 and have won five of the last seven league tournament games.

Year (seed) W/L Opp. (seed) Score
1998 (11) L Indiana (6) 71-78
2000 (1) L Penn State (9) 66-71
2003 (8) W Iowa (9) 66-64
  W Wisconsin (1) 58-50
  W Michigan St. (5) 55-54
  L Illinois (2) 59-72
2004 (9) L Indiana (8) 69-83
2005 (6) W Penn State (11) 72-69
  L Wisconsin (3) 49-60
2006 (1) W Penn State (8) 63-56
  W Indiana (5) 52-51
  L Iowa (2) 60-67
2007 (1) W Michigan (8) 72-62
  W Purdue (5) 63-52
  W Wisconsin (2) 66-49
2008 (5) L Michigan State (4) 60-67

Jamar Butler has played in all but one game in his Ohio State career, a total of 134. Senior classmate Matt Terwilliger has made 113 appearances during his career. The pair will go down as the winningest Buckeyes all-time with 100 victories. Seniors on the 1963 team finished with 98 career wins for the second-most wins in school history, three NCAA championship game appearances, the national title in 1960 and four Big Ten titles, which includes three outright titles from 1960-62. Seniors on the 1964 and 1992 teams each finished their careers with 89 victories. The 1964 seniors also had four league titles (two outright in 1961 and ’62) to go with two NCAA title game appearances those same years. The 1992 veterans had two Big Ten titles (one shared) and made three NCAA tournament appearances. To date, Butler and Terwilliger have back-to-back outright league championships and two NCAA tournament appearances, including an NCAA title game experience and school-record 35 wins a year ago.

Total Wins 4-year Career *Seniors
100 2005-08 Jamar Butler, Matt Terwilliger
98 1960-63# Richard Reasbeck, Douglas McDonald
89 1961-64# Donald Flatt, LeRoy Frazier, Donald DeVoe, Gary Bradds
89 1989-92 Jamaal Brown, Steve Hall, Chris Jent, Bill Robinson

#Freshmen were not eligible during period
*4-year players in Ohio State program (Freshman and Varsity rosters)

Two future Ohio State men’s basketball student-athletes were named to the 2008 McDonald’s All-America squads Feb. 27. William Buford and B.J. Mullens will represent Ohio State and the nation’s top high school recruits March 29 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis. Buford, who will be a freshman guard for the Buckeyes next year, will represent the East team in the McDonald’s event in 2008. The 6-5 guard was named Ohio State Mr. Basketball, played for Libbey High School in Toledo, Ohio, the state runner-up in Division II. Mullens, a 7-1 center from Canal Winchester (Ohio) High School, will represent the West. Mullens, who was the runner up in Ohio’s Mr. Basketball balloting, also signed with the Buckeyes last November and will be a freshman next season. Both Mullens and Buford were First Team All-Ohio selections. Thad Matta, Ohio State head coach, has added a total of five McDonald’s All-Americans to the Buckeye men’s basketball program in his four years in Columbus. Twelve past and future Buckeyes have been associated with the annual event. Four McDonald’s All-Americans were a part of Ohio State’s 2006-07 squad that finished 35-4 overall, 15-1 in Big Ten Conference play, won the league regular-season title outright and played for the NCAA national title vs. Florida last April. Ivan Harris, Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., and Daequan Cook, all former McDonald’s All-Americans, played for the Buckeyes last season. Clark Kellogg (1979), Perry Carter (1987), Treg Lee (1987), Jim Jackson (1989), Charles Macon (1992) and Greg Simpson (1992) all played for Ohio State after playing in the McDonald’s All-American game. Harris played in the 2003 event while Oden, Conley Jr. and Cook played in the 2006 contest.

Senior Jamar Butler moved to the No. 26 spot on the all-time scoring list at Ohio State with 11 points vs. Michigan State last Friday in Indianapolis. With a minimum of one game remaining, he has a chance to move into the Top 25 to end his career. He averages just more than 14 points per game this season and has amassed 1,224 career points. Reaching his average the next time out would give him 1,238 career points, good enough for the No. 25 position behind No. 24 Ron Stokes (1982-85) with 1,240.

Senior Jamar Butler set the career assist record at Ohio State with six helpers at Northwestern Feb. 13. At the 2 minute, 52 second mark of the second half, Butler fed freshman Jon Diebler for a 3-pointer that put Ohio State up 57-42. The bucket was Butler’s sixth assist of the game and No. 517 of his career (549). Kelvin Ransey (1977-80) is No. 2 with 516. Butler has connected on 224 career 3-pointers and owns the Ohio State record for made 3s in a career as well. He passed Brent Darby (2000-03) and Scoonie Penn (1999-2000) with a 4 of 8 effort from long range against VMI Nov. 25. Butler ranks No. 1 all-time in 3-pointers attempted (605) and No. 8 in career 3-point shooting percentage (224-605/.370).

No Ohio State men’s basketball coach has won 20+ games in each of the first four years as head coach. Of the 13 head coaches in Ohio State history, nine have recorded tenures of four or more years. Only Fred Taylor (1959-76) won 20 or more games in four-consecutive years (1960-63/25, 27, 26, 20, respectively). Matta’s teams won 20 games in 2005, 26 in 2006, 35 a season ago and are 19-13 with at least one game remaining this season.

Thad Matta has guided the Buckeyes to 100 victories in 135 games at Ohio State. In eight seasons as a head coach, Matta has never failed to reach the 20-wins plateau in one season at Butler (24 wins), three at Xavier (26 wins each year) and three at Ohio State (20, 26, 35). He has averaged 25 wins over his career for a total of 202 after a 63-54 win vs. Michigan State March 9. With 19 wins to date this season he has eclipsed the 200 mark for his career and reached the 100-win mark at Ohio State, a total only four previous head coaches have reached at Ohio State of the 13 who have led the men’s basketball program (Fred Taylor/297, Harold Olsen/260, Eldon Miller/174 and Randy Ayers/124).

Senior Jamar Butler scored a game-high 21 points at Michigan State Jan. 15 to reach 1,000 career points as a Buckeye (1,224). He became the 43rd Ohio State men’s basketball player to reach the milestone. Brent Darby was the last guard to reach 1,000 points for the Buckeyes. He did so from 2000-03 and stands No. 21 on the all-time scoring list with 1,368 career points. Butler moved to the No. 26 spot in career scoring at Ohio State with 11 in the recent matchup with Michigan State. Next up is No. 25 Larry Siegfried (1959-61) with 1,228. Butler made the first four foul shots against Minnesota Jan. 26 before a miss ended a school-record streak at 38-consecutive foul shots. It broke the Ohio State record for consecutive makes set by Sean Connolly as a sophomore (25) in 2000-01. He has currently made 22-consecutive foul shots after a miss at Minnesota.

Butler’s Made FT streak

Coppin State (12/10/07) 1-2*
Presbyterian (12/15/07) 1-1
Cleveland State (12/18/07) 0-0
Florida (12/22/07) 2-2
UMBC (12/29/07) 9-9
at Illinois (1/3/08) 8-8
Northwestern (1/6/08) 0-0
Iowa (1/9/08) 0-0
at Purdue (1/12/08) 4-4
at Michigan State (1/15/08) 6-6
at Tennessee (1/19/08) 3-3
Illinois (1/22/08) 0-0
Minnesota (1/26/08) 5-7#

*Made second attempt // # missed fifth attempt

Senior Jamar Butler rates No. 1 nationally in free throw percentage at 94.2 percent (81-86). He is No. 25 nationally in assists per game (5.9 apg./189 total). As a team, Ohio State is No. 11 defensively in field goal percentage defense (.385) and rates No. 3 in fewest personal fouls committed per game (14.4).

As a head coach, Thad Matta’s teams have played in the NCAA event in six of eight years. The 2004-05 Ohio State team, Matta’s first in Columbus, was held out of the event by the university but nonetheless finished with a 20-12 record and a win over No. 1 and previously unbeaten Illinois in the regular season finale.In six seasons as an assistant coach, Matta was part of five NCAA tournament appearances at Miami (Ohio), Western Carolina and Butler. The 1998-99 Butler squad played in the postseason NIT, advancing to the second round.

When it comes to conference tournaments, Matta’s teams regularly play in the title game. As an assistant, Matta helped Western Carolina to the Southern Conference title in 1996 and Butler to the Mid-Western Collegiate Conference championship in 1998 and 2000. As a head coach, Butler won the MCC in 2001 with Matta at the helm. Xavier won the Atlantic 10 in 2002 and 2004 and in four chances at Ohio State, Matta has directed the Buckeyes to the title game twice, winning the 2007 event. Matta has been associated with nine regular-season conference champions, including five as a head coach.

The Buckeyes have had at least one player record a double-double in 10 games this season and are 7-3 in those games. Ohio State is 526-250 alltime when a player records any combination of 10 or more points, rebounds, assists, steals or blocks. Ohio State is 128-51 in games when at least two Buckeyes manage a double-double (3x this year vs. Northwestern, UMBC and Tennessee) and 14-1 when three Buckeyes do so in a single game (once this year vs. UMBC). Senior Jamar Butler handed out 11 assists and grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds in the Northwestern win Jan. 6 (62-51). It is the first time an Ohio State player recorded a double-double without scoring 10 or more points. According to Stats, Inc., Butler’s double-double without scoring a point has not been done in Division I since the 1996-97 season.

In four seasons at Ohio State, Thad Matta’s Buckeyes have had at least one player record a double-double in 49 games. Ohio State is 41-8 in those games, including victories in 32 of the last 36. Two players managed double-doubles four times vs. Davidson in 2006 in the opening round of the NCAA tournament when J.J. Sullinger (13 pts./13 rebs.) and Terence Dials (19/13) led Ohio State to a 70-62 victory and this season against Northwestern (Jan. 6) when freshman Kosta Koufos (17/12) and Jamar Butler (11 assts./10 rebs.) helped secure the victory (61-52); at Tennessee (Othello Hunter 17 pts./14 rebs; Evan Turner (21/10) and at Michigan (Koufos 18/11; and Turner 16/11). Ohio State had a rare outing vs. UMBC earlier this year when three Buckeyes (Hunter, 13/10; Butler, 22/12 assts.; Koufos, 22/12) recorded double-doubles in the same game, a feat accomplished just 15 times in OSU history (14-1 record).

Jamar Butler turned in one of the better individual performances in Ohio State history with his 32 points, a career high, at Illinois Jan. 3 in a 74-58 Ohio State victory. He scored 15-consecutive points in the second half to turn an Ohio State deficit (37-36) into an insurmountable lead (51-39). Butler’s 15-consecutive points scored in a game are the most since Michael Redd scored 17-consecutive points in a 30-point effort at Wisconsin Jan. 2, 1999, a 78-74 Ohio State victory. Butler followed the Illinois effort with an 11-assist, 10 rebound double-double in the home win (62-51) vs. Northwestern Jan. 6.

Thad Matta, now in his fourth season as head coach of the Buckeyes, has an overall win percentage of .741 (100-35) after 134 games at Ohio State. That winning mean is the highest among the 11 head coaches in the history of the Ohio State men’s basketball program with three or more seasons on the sidelines. Matta’s 45-21 record in Big Ten regular-season play (.682) also has produced the highest winning percentage in conference play among any previous Ohio State coach. Fred Taylor (1959-76) is second in both overall win percentage (.653/297-158) and Big Ten win percentage (.608/158-102) in 18 seasons.

Jamar Butler is the first Ohio State guard to reach 500 assists (549/school record), 200 made 3s (224/school record) and 100 steals (131). He reached 1,000 career points (1,224) and became Ohio State’s 43rd player in the 1,000-point club with a 21-point effort at Michigan State Jan. 15. He currently is No. 26 all-time in career scoring.

The quarterfinal game Friday was just the second time Ohio State and Michigan State have met in the Big Ten tournament. In 2003, the Buckeyes edged the Spartans 55-54 also in the quarterfinals. The two games are the only times Ohio State and Michigan State has met on neutral courts.
The matchup against the 19th-ranked Spartans was the fifth nationally-ranked opponent for the Buckeyes in their last six games (2-3).
Ohio State and Michigan State split their regular-season series with the Buckeyes winning 63-54 in Columbus (March 9) and the Spartans winning 66-60 in East Lansing (Jan. 15).
Ohio State is 9-7 all-time in the Big Ten tournament.
The teams went into halftime tied at 30 after Jamar Butler hit a 3-pointer with five seconds remaining. It was the fourth time this season the Buckeyes have been tied at the half with a 1-3 record in those games.
The Ohio State defense held Michigan State scoreless for a span of 4:33 (from 2:57 left in 1st half to 1:36 into 2nd half), during which the Buckeyes went on a 7-0 run.
The Buckeyes took their first lead of the game (32-30) at 19:50 of the second half on a David Lighty lay-up.
Freshman Kosta Koufos led the Buckeyes in scoring with 19 points, including a team-high 13 points in the first half on 5-of-8 shooting. He was 8-of-13 FG shooting for the game, including 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. Koufos also had two blocked shots and five rebounds.
Koufos had double-digit points for the 14th time in the last 15 games.
With his two blocked shots, Koufos moved into third in the OSU freshman records with 59 blocks.
Senior Matt Terwilliger made his second-consecutive start vs. Michigan State. They are the first two starts of his career.
With his start vs. the Spartans, Butler became the all-time leader in career games played at Ohio State with 134, surpassing the record set by Jerry Francis (1986-89).
Butler was a perfect 3-of-3 from the free-throw line to extend his made FT streak to 22. For his career, he has converted on 29-of-29 FT against Michigan State.
Butler had four assists for a total of 189 assists this season, the second-most in a season for Ohio State. Butler owns the OSU career assists record with 549.
With his 11 points, Butler moved up one place in career scoring at Ohio State, standing at No. 26 with 1,224. He surpassed John Havlicek (1960-62) at 1,223 points.
After going scoreless in the first half, senior Othello Hunter scored 10 points in the second on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting. He had a span of 3:34 when he scored eight points in a row (3 FG, 2 FT).
Hunter led the Buckeyes with five blocks, just one shy of his career high, and seven rebounds.
The 9 minutes played by sophomore P.J. Hill were the most for him since he played 9 minutes vs. Michigan State (Jan. 15).
For the second-consecutive game, the Buckeyes had four players with double-digit points: Koufos (19), Lighty (12), Butler (11) and Hunter (10).
Michigan State entered the game shooting 48.6 percent on the season, but the Buckeyes held them to 36.7 percent (22-of-60).
Ohio State had a 30-22 advantage in points in the paint, including a 20-8 margin in the second half.

Upper Sandusky (Ohio) High School retired the No. 23 during ceremonies Dec. 8 to honor star guard Jon Diebler, a freshman on the Ohio State men’s basketball team. Diebler led the nation in scoring as a senior in 2006-07 with 41 points a game. He owns the career-scoring record in the state of Ohio with 3,208 career points.

Kosta Koufos, a freshman forward from Canton, Ohio, led Ohio State to a 2-1 record the week of Nov. 26, which included a win over No. 21 Syracuse at Madison Square Garden in New York. Koufos averaged 18.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and recorded six blocks for the Buckeyes to earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors. He set a career high with 24 points against the Orange and then recorded his first-career double-double with 22 points and 14 rebounds in a home victory over VMI at St. John Arena Nov. 26. Koufos connected on 50 percent of his shots from the field for the week and hit 69 percent (9-13) against the Keydets.

Freshman Kosta Koufos averaged 17 points and 7.0 rebounds in the two NIT Season Tip-Off games in New York. The 7-0 forward also blocked four shots and made 3-of-5 3-pointers. Butler, a preseason All-Big Ten selection, averaged 15.5 points while knocking down 55 percent of his 3-point attempts (6-11). He scored 13-consecutive points for the Buckeyes in the first half vs. Texas A&M Nov. 23 and led the team at the event with seven assists and four steals. Both Koufos and Butler were named to the all-tournament team.

In an 11-day stretch starting with the NIT Season Tip-Off games in New York, Ohio State’s roster of 13 players played in three of the most storied venues in college basketball history. The NIT games were played in Madison Square Garden, tabbed the world’s most famous arena and the host of countless college basketball games. The Buckeyes next played in St. John Arena, the home of Ohio State basketball from 1956-57 to 1997-98. St. John has hosted 579 Ohio State men’s basketball games in which the Buckeyes have won 428 (.739 winning pct.). After playing No. 1 North Carolina Nov. 28 in Ohio State’s current home, Value City Arena, the Buckeyes took on No. 16 Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The facility was used to film the movie “Hoosiers” and has been the home court for the Bulldogs since 1928.

Nine Ohio State men’s basketball games sold out for the 2007-08 season. Games vs. North Carolina (19,049), Florida (19,049), Illinois (19,049), Minnesota (19,049), Michigan (19,049), Indiana (19,049), Wisconsin (19,049), Purdue (19,049) and Michigan State (19,049) sold out.

Ohio State is 3-3 in preseason NIT appearances after the pair of victories in Columbus Nov. 12-13 and a split in New York (Nov. 21, 23) to open the 2007 season. The Buckeyes first participated in 1989. DePaul downed Ohio State Nov. 15, 1989, 71-53. Ohio University defeated the Buckeyes 78-67 in Ohio State’s last appearance (Nov. 16, 1994).

Kyle Madsen, a sophomore from Dublin, Ohio, played in a game Nov. 12 that counted for the first time in more than two years. The Dublin Coffman High School graduate played at Value City Arena in the 2005 Ohio High School Boys Basketball Tournament before going to Vanderbilt for the 2005-06 season. He redshirted in his first year in Nashville, Tenn., before transferring to Ohio State, where he had to sit out the 2006-07 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. He played in both games Nov. 12-13 in the opening rounds of the NIT Season Tip-Off and scored a career best six points vs. Texas A&M in the finals.

Ohio State opponents North Carolina (No. 1 in ESPN/USA Today and No. 1 in the AP polls), Tennessee (4/4), Indiana (22/20), Michigan State (19/19), Wisconsin (8/6), Butler (12/10) and Purdue (17/16) give the Buckeyes one of the strongest schedules nationally.

Ohio State played one game this season in St. John Arena, the home court of the Buckeyes from 1956-57 through 1997-98. Because of a scheduled event over the Thanksgiving weekend at Value City Arena, Ohio State faced Virginia Military Institute (W, 90-57) at St. John in just the second men’s basketball game played at the venue since the opening of Value City Arena for the 1998-99 season. Overall, the Buckeyes own a 428-151 record at St. John for a winning percentage of .739. More than 6.6 million fans have witnessed Ohio State men’s basketball games in the historic venue.

More than 2.5 million fans have passed through the doors at Value City Arena since the facility opened for business in 1998-99 for men’s basketball. Ohio State fans have ranked among the Top 10 nationally in attendance in five of the nine years the facility has played host to the men’s basketball program. Buckeye fans have been treated to 61 home wins in the last four years under Thad Matta, including a school-record 18-0 campaign a year ago.

Thad Matta is familiar with the situation he finds the Ohio State men’s basketball team facing in 2007-08, his fourth in Columbus as head coach of the Buckeyes.

One starter returns from a record-setting 2006-07 season that ended with Ohio State winning a school-record 35 games, advancing to the program’s ninth Final Four, appearing in the NCAA title game, winning its second-consecutive outright Big Ten regular-season title and the program’s first postseason league tournament championship.

Senior Jamar Butler, who guided the Buckeyes to an outright league title as a sophomore in 2005-06, is the lone holdover among the starters from a year ago. He was in a similar position as a junior and will be sufficiently equipped to lead the Buckeyes again this season.

Butler will have support from three other returning letterwinners. Seniors Matt Terwilliger, Othello Hunter and sophomore David Lighty all are back after significant contributions to Ohio State’s run toward the NCAA title a year ago.

For the second-consecutive season, Thad Matta has recruited one of the nation’s top incoming freshman classes. Five Buckeyes will be playing as rookies on a college campus. A sixth, sophomore Kyle Madsen, is eligible to compete after spending his freshman season as a redshirt at Vanderbilt and a transfer year at Ohio State a year ago. He will have three years of eligibility in Columbus. Another newcomer, junior college transfer P.J. Hill, also will have three seasons to play as a Buckeye.

Matta attracted a mix of size and skill in the 2007 class.

Jon Diebler, a 6-6 guard from Upper Sandusky (Ohio) High School, is the most prolific scorer in Ohio High School history. He led his team to the state title game as a senior after winning the championship as a sophomore. He scored 3,208 points as a prep standout. His average of just over 41 points a game as a senior not only led the state of Ohio but was the top scoring average nationally a year ago.

Kosta Koufos, a 7-0 post player from GlenOak High School in Canton, Ohio, gives the Buckeyes several options. He can perform well in the paint but is equally comfortable shooting 3-pointers, a rarity for a player of his exceptional size. His rebounding and ability to block or alter shots also will contribute significantly to Matta’s game planning strategy this year.

Dallas Lauderdale will play center at 6-feet-8-inches. His size, strength and general physical build is expected to add depth to the Buckeye frontcourt, which will be much deeper this season. Lauderdale, who competed against Koufos on several occasions while playing for Solon (Ohio) High School, has the size and strength to handle the rigorous Big Ten battles down low.

Evan Turner is a 6-6 guard from Chicago, where he starred for St. Joseph’s High School, one of the premier high school programs in the state of Illinois. With long arms and a wiry frame, he adds rebounding assistance as well as a scoring touch and an ability to get to the basket.

Eric Wallace was the last freshman recruit to commit to the Buckeyes for this season. He is likely to become a fan favorite with his exceptional leaping and acrobatic dunking ability. A native of Winston-Salem, N.C., Wallace also will be looked upon to rebound and contribute defensively. He played at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy a season ago.

P.J. Hill, a junior college transfer from Minneapolis, joined the Buckeyes during the summer and will have three years of eligibility in Columbus. He played for one season at Midland (Texas) College, the 2007 National Junior College Athletics Association National Champions.

Hill (6-1, 160) was a point guard for the 29-8 Midland squad that won the NJCAA title for the first time since 1982 when Spud Webb played for the Chaparrals. Hill averaged 6.5 points and nearly three assist a game a season ago. He played his high school basketball at Minneapolis North.

Sophomore David Lighty spent part of last summer playing for the United States Under-19 World Championship team that traveled to Serbia in July. Lighty was named team captain before the team began play in the event. The U.S. squad won the silver medal going 8-1 overall after a loss in the final (74-69) to tournament host Serbia.

Lighty started all nine games, averaged 23.7 minutes, second on the team, and shot 69 percent (31-45) from the field. He averaged 8.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in his first international competition. Lighty is the only sophomore returning from the 2006-07 squad that featured three Ohio State freshmen drafted in the first round of the 2007 NBA Draft (Greg Oden, No. 1/Portland, Mike Conley Jr., No. 4/Memphis and Daequan Cook, No. 21/Philadelphia).

Ohio State will make four trips to the state of Indiana in 2007-08. Traditional trips to West Lafayette and Bloomington to take on Big Ten foes Purdue and Indiana, respectively, will be supplemented by a pair of trips to Indianapolis against Butler (Dec. 1) and to participate in the Big Ten tournament in March (13-16). Indianapolis will be the host city of the annual league postseason tournament for the next five years.