The NCAA tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 and has since gone even further, adding play-in games starting in 2001. Since that time, Ohio State has done pretty well in its tourney opener.
The Buckeyes have made the show 16 times in that span and have amassed an impressive 14-2 in the round of 64 and both losses (2001, 2009) came in overtime.
The 2001 team lost 77-68 as a No. 5 seed in overtime to 12th-seeded Utah State. The Aggies erased a five-point halftime deficit and outscored the Buckeyes 17-8 after regulation. Ohio State committed an absurd 21 turnovers and Boban Savovic and Brian Brown each fouled out. Bernard Rock and Tony Brown combined for 35 points to lead Utah State.
The other opening loss came fairly recently. The No. 8 Buckeyes fell in double overtime to No. 9 Siena, 74-72. Once again Ohio State led by five at the half before faltering. You probably won’t be shocked to hear the Buckeyes were 7/25 from the arc that night because awful long-range shooting has typically been Ohio State’s recipe for disaster in the postseason (Oh, hi 2007 national championship game!)
Today’s game marks only the fourth time Ohio State hasn’t been a fifth seed or better in the round of 64. They will take the floor in Buffalo against Dayton this afternoon as the No. 6 seed in the South Region. The Buckeyes had previously never been a sixth seed in a 64-or-more-team field.
The 1987 team won 91-77 as a No. 9 seed over No. 8 Kentucky behind Dennis Hopson’s 32 points. Unfortunately, those Buckeyes lost a heartbreaker to top seed Georgetown in the round of 32, 82-79. In 1990, Ohio State was the eighth seed in an overtime win over No. 9 Providence, 84-83. And then there was the aforementioned loss to Siena in 2009.
Since the expansion to 64 teams (and beyond), the Buckeyes have a not-too-shabby 31-16 overall record in the NCAA tournament. It all started in 1985 with a 75-64 win as a No. 4 seed against No. 13 Iowa State. The Scarlet & Gray were 1-1 that year, falling to No. 5 Louisiana Tech in the second round.
This marks the sixth consecutive season Thad Matta has led the Buckeyes into the dance. His team was a No. 9 seed in the Siena loss, but since then Ohio State is 11-4 in the tourney and was a first or second seed the last four years, winning its first game by an average margin of 22 points.
Those last four opening game sacrificial lambs have lacked the excitement of playing an in-state team like Dayton. The names are pretty forgettable — UCSB, UTSA, Loyola (Maryland) and Iona. The Flyers are a much more enticing opener.
Aside from those mentioned above, Ohio State’s first-day victims include Towson State (1991), Mississippi Valley State (1992), Murray State (1999), Appalachian State (2000), Davidson (2002, 2006), and Central Connecticut State (2007).
The wait is almost over to find out whether Dayton becomes another victim in the round of 64 or if the Flyers can become just the third team in the modern era to force the Buckeyes into a one-and-done in the opener.