Bob Hunter commentary: Matta sticks to formula with dull schedule

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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Postcards from the edge:

Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta has a nonconference scheduling formula that works for him and he sticks to it, which means that fans hoping for some terrific home games in November and December seem destined to be disappointed.

Matta looks for a neutral-site game in a tournament (Notre Dame in New York’s Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21) and plays two other major conference teams, including one in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. When that game is at home, as it is this year against Maryland on Dec. 4, he plays the other one on the road, at Marquette on Nov. 16.Mix in a Mid-American Conference team at home, Ohio University on Nov. 12, and a dreary parade of scrubs, and you’ve pretty much got the nonconference schedule.

Although it’s a downer for fans to pay for a seemingly endless succession of “games” that don’t have the entertainment value of a Brady Bunch rerun, trying to blame these nonconference stinkers for the Buckeyes’ poor shooting against Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament is ridiculous.

Matta would play Kentucky, Duke and Kansas every year if he thought it would guarantee him a spot in the Final Four.

• Now that Gary Player has appeared nude in ESPN the Magazine, I can scratch No. 1,678,453 off my list of people I hoped to see nude. If you think that’s only because I couldn’t come up with any other names, you’re wrong. Rest assured that Newt Gingrich ranks behind the buff 79-year-old professional golfer.

• If the American League operated the way some minor leagues do, the Cleveland Indians would be in position to qualify for the postseason by winning the first half. Their first half concluded on Monday with a half-game lead over the Detroit Tigers.

With Major League Baseball constantly looking for ways to add teams to the postseason regardless of their legitimacy, this would do the trick. The Pittsburgh Pirates would have made it last year. They had a two-game lead over the eventual division champion Cincinnati Reds at the halfway point, and they finished with their record 20th consecutive losing season.

• After the Blue Jackets selected Austrian forward Marko Dano on Sunday with their third first-round draft pick of the NHL draft, a reporter from another local outlet guaranteed on Twitter that the team would make the playoffs. I shut Twitter down 10 seconds after that. Coincidence?

• When the Atlantic Coast Conference welcomed Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Notre Dame this week, it reminded me that all of the league-hopping might force us to adjust our perceptions more in basketball than football.

A friend recently spoke of what a downer it must be for Cincinnati to know that Xavier is in the new Big East while the Bearcats are in the old Big East, now the American Athletic Conference.But it’s also important to remember that even though the new Big East is strong — Butler and Creighton entered with Xavier — when the league was at its height in basketball, Connecticut (now in the AAC), Boston College (ACC), Syracuse and Pitt all were major players.Creighton ain’t Syracuse.

• Sorry to see longtime fan favorite Tyler Wright leave the Blue Jackets, but if John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen thought he belonged in another job, their judgment should be respected. In pro sports, winning trumps nostalgia.

• As a follow-up to Rob Oller’s excellent column on the foolishness of mock drafts, the foolishness of predraft rankings and the TV pundits who treat them like gospel also deserve a nod. It helps to remember that if some clueless team had drafted eventual sixth-round pick Tom Brady in the first round of the 2000 NFL draft, the pundits would have rolled their eyes, shook their heads sadly and described it as a reach.

Experts.

Bob Hunter is a sports columnist for The Dispatch.

bhunter@dispatch.com

@dailyhunter

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