Rob Oller
Columbus Dispatch

Three days before Christmas and Thad Matta’s holiday was about to disintegrate. Ohio State had just dismantled Miami University by 29 points in Nationwide Arena. The Buckeyes were 12-1 and rolling. Matta stood to leave the postgame news conference and ...

No one noticed. Matta sat back down, able to conceal the agony. He has become adept at masquerading his misery. The Ohio State basketball coach has suffered from back pain since age 15. Such chronic ache presents two options. Either complain about it constantly, a path that eventually wears out friends and family. Or learn to manage it. Matta manages it.

But this time? This time the throbbing created not just pain but doubt. While many Ohio State fans entered the New Year predicting a trip to the Final Four, Matta wondered if Miami had been his Final One.

“I went through a three-week stretch this season where I thought I was done,” Matta said Tuesday in Value City Arena, where the Buckeyes had just finished practicing for a national semifinal against Kansas on Saturday.

That is no exaggeration. A back that buckles is like a broken-down car in Montana. When it goes, that’s it. You sit. In Matta’s case, he reclined.

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