Wednesday night, Ohio State will take to the court at Value City Arena with the chance to advance to the semifinal round of the MasterCard NIT Tournament. Standing in the way between the Buckeyes and a trip to New York City is a team that is located just a 90-minute drive away: The Dayton Flyers.
After a season that saw injuries to key personnel cripple what should have been an NCAA Tournament-type season, the Flyers finished seventh in the Atlantic 10 with an 8-8 conference record. They, too, are seeking a berth in the NIT's final four and a chance to play under the lights at Madison Square Garden.
This will mark the first time these two schools have squared off in nearly 20 years, when OSU defeated Dayton 104-76 in a road game played Dec. 17.
But according to Matta, fans should not be expecting any sort of intra-state rivalry to spring up on an annual basis. Just don't expect the fourth-year coach to be particularly forthcoming when it comes to the reasons why.
Asked if he would like to play Dayton during the regular season, Matta responded with, "I don't know."
Asked then if he likes playing intra-state match-ups like Wednesday night's game, Matta said simply, "It depends."
"It depends on a lot of things," he said.
Things like television contracts, to begin with. Or the expanded Big Ten conference schedule, which now forces all teams to play 18 conference games a season not including the Big Ten tournament.
Matta was quick to point out that his teams at OSU have featured a fair share of Ohio teams on their yearly schedules. Earlier this season, OSU faced Cleveland State – a team Dayton defeated in the first round of the NIT – on a neutral court in Cleveland.
Last season, the Buckeyes hosted CSU, Kent State and Youngstown State during the regular season and faced off against Xavier in the NCAA Tournament and played Cincinnati in a neutral-site, regular-season game played at Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse.
After the Buckeyes dispatched the Bearcats, UC head coach Mick Cronin said his team had been making overtures to OSU for yearly matchups but found them met with indifference.
"Overtures have been going on for years," Cronin said. "I've made mine. If they don't want to play, that's fine."
The game between OSU and UC was the first in 44 years.
As the biggest university in the state, the Buckeyes are the veritable Goliath in the equation. A victory against one of the Davids scattered around the state would likely do little to enhance OSU's reputation, while a loss would go a long way toward knocking the Buckeyes down.
Senior forward Matt Terwilliger said he does not view a game against an Ohio team as any different from any other game the team plays. However, he recognized that Wednesday night's matchup with the Flyers could be a different type of game.
"I kind of feel like it's the same as playing any other team," he said. "I try to keep rivalry stuff out of games, but I definitely recognize the intensity that will be in this game. I'll approach it like any other game."
Matta said he feels that same approach is shared among both the Buckeyes and the Flyers, who had less than 48 hours to prepare for the game. OSU managed to practice just one time in preparation for Dayton.
"I think it's (unique) … to the people who have time to sit around and think about it," Matta said. "I would assume for us and Dayton, it's, ‘Lets get prepared and let's play.' There isn't a lot of time to talk about the last time we played or both teams being in the state."
When it comes to football, OSU schedules at least one Ohio team a season to fill out its non-conference schedule. The Buckeyes have CSU on the schedule for the 2009-10 schedule, but Matta said he was unsure if any Ohio teams will be featured next season.
Apparently, it all adds up to a headache for Matta.
"The reason we don't play Ohio teams is so I don't have to answer all these questions all the time," he said with a laugh. "There is a possibility that we could, but I don't know who it would be right now."