NCAA Tournament Seed Irrelevant for Determined Buckeyes

By Kyle Rowland on March 19, 2014 at 9:15a

College basketball’s regular season stretches four months with thousands of games contested. Yet, it’s often the final weeks that are most significant. And sometimes a loss works out in your favor. Imagine that.

Conference tournaments contain little value to a segment of coaches, while another subset believes they’re the almighty. The Big Ten Tournament has been kind to Ohio State over the years, and it worked out that way again in 2014. But not because the Buckeyes won the championship or even reached the title game.

Instead, a loss to Michigan in the semifinals appears to have kept them close to home. Isn’t that interesting? If Ohio State had played in the championship game for a sixth consecutive season, it likely would have been a 4 or 5 seed with a ticket to Spokane, Wash., or San Diego.

Southern California is nice in March – or any other time of the year – but traveling three time zones after three games in three games is less than ideal.

“I thought we’d be a 5,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta told reporters Sunday. “As many Big Ten teams that got in, how it was explained to me, we might have gotten bumped, which is fine.

“San Diego’s so nice. But I always say that’s why I chose an indoor sport.”

So Tuesday afternoon, sixth-seeded Ohio State boarded a plane, flew 62 minutes to Buffalo, N.Y., indulged on a delectable dinner and remained on the same sleep schedule.

In eight NCAA Tournament appearances under Matta, the Buckeyes’ first week games have been played in Dayton (twice); Lexington, Ky.; Milwaukee; Cleveland; Pittsburgh and Buffalo. The combined distance from those six cities is fewer miles than it took Ohio State to travel to Los Angeles for the regional last season.

After four years of being a 1 or 2 seed, Ohio State’s in foreign territory – and not because Canada is just across the border from Buffalo’s First Niagara Center. The possibility of a one-and-done experience is real. The 6-11 game has been filled with upsets, and the Buckeyes fit the model of a team who could get beat by an underdog.

“We know whatever seed we get, wherever we’re placed in the NCAA Tournament, there’s no such thing as an easy opponent,” junior forward Sam Thompson said. “We have to bring our best basketball for 40 minutes if we want to have success in the tournament. Whether we have a 2 next to our name or a 6 next to our name, that doesn’t change.”

“San Diego’s so nice. But I always say that’s why I chose an indoor sport.”– Thad Matta

The importance doesn’t change either. But the obvious underlying theme is the all-Ohio matchup. It’ll certainly raise the intensity for Dayton, a school Ohio State routinely opts against scheduling in the regular season. The Flyer bench has three former Buckeyes – head coach Archie Miller, assistant coach Kevin Kuwik and leading scorer Jordan Sibert. They’ve won 10 of their last 12 games and enter the tournament brimming with confidence. 

Count Matta among the group who believes seeing an in-state foe with a chip on its shoulder will benefit the Buckeyes.

“There won’t need to be a wakeup call,” he said.

Both teams’ rosters are filled with Ohioans, several players know each other and even the head coaches speak regularly. Facing a friend is an old hat for Matta, who’s 12-4 against former assistants. He’s also been successful against former rivals. Matta’s recorded a 2-0 record against Cincinnati and Dayton, Xavier’s two nemeses.

Once the game is underway, though, Matta said the person in the other coach’s box is irrelevant. What’s not irrelevant is Ohio State’s path to Memphis and the South Regional Semifinal. It’s a one-game-at-a-time mindset, but coaches have no choice than to peek ahead due to the short turnaround, though Matta took the coachspeek angle.  

“I know we got Dayton, Syracuse and Western Michigan. That’s all I saw,” he said. “I don’t even know where we go if we win games to be honest with you.”

Surviving Dayton would likely bring forth a rematch of the 2012 Elite Eight when Ohio State beat Syracuse. The Orange would once again have a home-court advantage, just three hours from their campus in Upstate New York. But unlike two years ago, the Buckeyes don’t have the components to counter Jim Boeheim’s famed and effective zone defense.

Ohio State’s three-point shooting ranks near 300th nationally.

“I just hope I see it,” Matta said of the Orange’s zone. “We need a good three-day prep for Dayton.”

Six seed or not, it’s still the month of dreamers – a time where even 13-19 Cal Poly or tiny Texas Southern ponder the possibilities.

“I don’t know if you have that one dominant team where you say, ‘They should win the national championship,’” Matta said. “I think the tournament is wide open. I still can’t get over that a guy (Warren Buffet) is willing to pay a billion dollars if somebody gets it right. It must be pretty up in the air. You’re going to see some crazy things.”

For Matta, a national championship would only net $180,000, not a cool billion. Elation would supply the remaining $999,820,000. 


Comments Show All Comments

Crumb's picture

It is a very wide open tournament this year, nothing would surprise me. Especially from our Buckeyes. It wouldn't surprise me if they got bumped in the first round or went all the way, it's just been that kind of a year.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

+1 HS
Buckeye.383's picture

Couldn't agree more. Should be a fun tournament to watch!

Born, raised, educated, and will die a Buckeye ~ BuckeyeNation

Pa_snoborder's picture


One shall stand, One shall fall. -Optimus Prime

-1 HS
Pa_snoborder's picture

Consistent with their performance in the B1G tourney it wouldn't scare me at all if they immediately get down 10-12 points. Seems they only get fired up playing from behind. Thus I think the lower seed benefits them, a high seed, as in the past, does this team no good. I'm certainly gonna miss craft, I'm sad he never won a championship. But championship alone a life does not make, and he will go on and be a leader in whatever he does. O-H-I-O!!

One shall stand, One shall fall. -Optimus Prime

+2 HS
Buckeye in the ATL's picture

Last year's semi win over Arizona was the epitome of how we played the season and we did it with the same four guys who have struggled with free throws and 3's during this Big Ten season.  Watching the replay I couldn't believe the difference.  IMO last year's Craft, Ross, LSJr and Thompson knew DT was going to get his 26 so their confidence remained high in their respective shot selections etc, but not having that "go to" guy this year turned production in the other direction.  We just need confidence.  Thank God our D has been solid this year.  

Now, on to Buffalo and beyond; if the refs allow our BT style of physical play, we stay out of foul trouble, and we resemble our true selves then we've got a shot at a deep run.  Watch out IF we get past the Orange.

O H 

Buckeye in the ATL

+1 HS
FrontOfficeJT's picture

The Buckeyes and Dayton should be a good game will be a coin toss if both bring their A game.



OSUFlash's picture

If this team makes it to the sweet 16 that would be a huge accomplishment in itself. We left these guys for dead a month ago and maybe an NIT team if they were lucky. In reality I see us barely getting by Dayton and then getting hammered by Cuse.

Next up, the Spring Game!


nburns18's picture

Anything can happen. A trip to the Elite 8 is not out of the question. 

"You win with people." -Woody Hayes

DoubleB's picture

The joys of March Madness. This team is talented enough to make a deep run... and inconsistent enough to get bounced in the 1st round.


+1 HS
AngryWoody's picture

Isn't it crazy that this is one of the "worst" Buckeye basketball teams of the last decade and we're still a 6 seed? #BuckeyeProblems

Our Honor Defend!

+2 HS
Toilrt Paper's picture

The only way this team wins a game this year is if Smith plays at the level everyone thought he would. Heck if he just played at the level he played at last year it would help.

Go1Bucks's picture

Geez, your enthusiasm and optimism are making me all weepy.

Go Bucks!

Josh P's picture

We need Scott to continue playing amazingly.  Him at that level along with Craft is a top 3 backcourt pairing.  

BuckeyeSouth's picture

Please, please, please make it to Memphis so I can see the game in person.  

Champions.  Undisputed.  

Seattle Linga's picture

First year in a long time that there is not a vaulted favorite that has made an unbelievable run. I'm still upset about our 2006 team - I think we win the tourney every year since that game. 

+1 HS