The round of 32 sits in this weird spot in March Madness. There's a chaos that comes with the first round, and a general glee at watching teams that you didn't even know existed take on the blue bloods of college basketball. And of course the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and so on are all very serious business and help make sense of the national championship picture.
But the round of 32, which doesn't even have a cool name, just kind of sits there at the end of the first weekend of action. It's anxiety embodied in the form of 16 make-or-break games that showcase some teams starting their drive for glory and others that accidentally caught the bumper of the car they were chasing and now don't know what to do with it.
The key word here is expectations.
Many did not expect Ohio State to be in this situation. I sure as hell didn't, not as of Friday afternoon or the week before that or the month before that, going back preeeetty much all the way to right after the shine of the opening win against Cincinnati wore off the team.
But here they are, in a round of 32 game against Houston for a chance to sneak their way into the Sweet Sixteen, which means the game has changed. Having got here, I want Holtmann and company to go even further. You gotta beat the weekend.
It isn't easy. In the 16 times that the Buckeyes have gotten to the second round of the NCAA tournament since it expanded to 64 teams in 1985, Ohio State is an even 8-8 in games that would send them to the Sweet Sixteen. Here are some notable matchups:
Taking a 10 point lead into halftime against the Hoyas, Ohio State ended up losing this game by three due to a ridiculous 53 second half points from their opponents. Georgetown guard Charles Smith had 22 points off the bench, including going 5-7 from beyond the arc. The Buckeyes ultimately fell 79-82.
DETROIT MERCY, 1999
I included this one because it's weird; I've literally never heard of Detroit Mercy (they're in the Horizon League and Dick Vitale once was their head coach) and Ohio State absolutely blew their doors off, 75-44. Detroit Mercy was a 12 seed that had upset UCLA in the first round, and the Buckeyes were having none of it. Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd had 15 points each, and aside from the prerequisite One Dude Who Scores All Of The Points For A Mid-Major, no one for Detroit Mercy was in double figures.
Again! This time it was 52-70. Matt Terwilliger got a rebound, but if he hadn't he would've gotten a four trillion. Shoulda just let it go dude.
Ron Lewis was the hero here, as he hit a three with just a few seconds left to send the game into overtime. Ohio State won, and marched on to the national championship game. We won't talk about that.
IOWA STATE, 2013
I wrote about this one last week, and it was an Aaron Craft special. Captain Rosy Cheeks balled out the entire game, and ended it with a dagger right in the heart of the 10th seeded Cyclones.
This one hurt a little bit. With Keita Bates-Diop having an incredible season and a favorable draw, if the Buckeyes had been able to get past Gonzaga it seemed like they might be able to make a run to the Elite Eight or the Final Four. KBD ended up with 28 points, but Ohio State just could not stop Rui Hachimura or Zach Norvell, Jr., who combined for 53 points.
However it shakes out, tonight is going to be part of the great tapestry that is rising expectations from an unexpected place. Hopefully Holtmann and company can push the Buckeyes into a winning record as they beat the weekend.