It’s no secret that the Ohio State Buckeyes are largely known across the nation as a football school. However, throughout NCAA history, it may surprise some that the Buckeyes rank sixth in the nation with 10 final four appearances. This trails only the elites in UNC (20), UCLA (17), Kentucky (17), Duke (16) and Kansas (15). This year, OSU will make their 29th official appearance in the NCAA Tournament, this time as an 11-seed — the lowest seed the school has had in the 64-team format dating back to 1985.
The Buckeyes have made the NCAA Tournament in both of their first two years under head coach Chris Holtmann, having made the big dance nine times in a 10-year span from 2006-15 under previous head coach Thad Matta. With a rich history of successful basketball, just how has Ohio State fared during March Madness under these two head coaches over the past decade and a half?
2006: No. 2 Seed, upset in Second Round by No. 7 Georgetown
Thad Matta first arrived on campus in 2004, with his initial OSU team being ineligible because of sanctions levied against his predecessor, Jim O’Brien. However, Matta would make the 2006 tournament to start his run of nine NCAA appearances in 10 years. Ohio State won Matta’s first ever game in the tournament, knocking off No. 15 Davidson 70-62 on the strength of 19 points apiece from Terence Dials and Ron Lewis.
Matta was not so lucky in his second game, as his team was taken down rather handily by the No. 7 Georgetown Hoyas. Dials again put up 17 and Jamar Butler added 12 points including 2-of-3 from deep, but it was no match for Georgetown’s NBA-bound duo of Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green, who combined for 39 points as the Buckeyes were bounced from the Big Dance. The Hoyas went on to lose to the eventual champion, No. 3 Florida.
2007: No. 1 Seed, lost Championship Game to No. 1 Florida
Ohio State’s 2007 NCAA Tournament run was much more successful. Coming in as the top seed in the South region, the Buckeyes quickly dispatched No. 16 Central Connecticut before entering a Second Round thriller against No. 9 Xavier. With three seconds to go in regulation and his team down three, Ron Lewis knocked down a buzzer beater from deep beyond the arc to send the game into overtime, which OSU would go on to win 78-71.
The theatrics did not stop there, as the Buckeyes found themselves down 49-32 at half against No. 5 Tennessee in the Sweet 16. After trailing by as many as 20, Ohio State rallied back to beat the Vols 85-84, led by Chris Lofton’s 24 points. OSU went on to roll over No. 2 Memphis 92-76 to advance to the Final Four, where they got a rematch with Georgetown. This time, it was the Buckeyes coming away victorious, as Mike Conley and Greg Oden led Ohio State to a 67-60 victory.
OSU earned its first national title game appearance in 45 years, but it faced the daunting task of taking on defending champion Florida. Oden led all scorers with 25 points and Conley added 20 of his own, but as a team the Bucks went just 4-of-23 from beyond the arc. The Gators, possessing such NBA talents as Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah, were too much for Ohio State, coming away with a 84-75 victory.
2009: No. 8 Seed, lost in First Round to No. 9 Siena
After missing the 2008 NCAA Tournament (but winning the NIT instead), Matta’s team very briefly returned to the Big Dance. Evan Turner did all that he could to try and advance the Buckeyes into the second round, dropping 25 points with nine rebounds and eight assists. However, with almost no help behind him, Ohio State lost a 74-72 double-OT contest against the Siena Saints to force an early tourney exit.
2010: No. 2 Seed, upset in Sweet 16 by No. 6 Tennessee
Ohio State had slightly more success the following year, entering the tourney as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest region. After cruising past UC-Santa Barbara and Georgia Tech, the Buckeyes ran into trouble against Tennessee. With the Vols leading by a point in the final minute of the game, Brian Williams got a tip-in to fall to put UT up three. Evan Turner, who put up 31 points in the contest, had his last-second three-point attempt blocked as OSU was bounced from the NCAA Tournament.
2011: No. 1 Seed (overall), upset in Sweet 16 by No. 4 Kentucky
At 31-3, the Buckeyes entered the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. After taking down Texas-San Antonio with ease, Ohio State routed George Mason 98-66 in the second round. David Lightly went 9-of-10 from the field en route to a 25-point performance with Jared Sullinger and William Buford adding 18 points apiece as OSU shot 61 percent from the floor as a team. It seemed as though everything was going right for the Buckeyes, until they went up against Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
John Calipari had his boys ready to play in Newark, NJ. Josh Harrellson scored 17 points and DeAndre Liggins added another 15, but it was the Wildcats’ defense that sparked their victory as they held Ohio State to under 33 percent shooting from the floor. Sullinger had 21 points, but it was Buford coming up just short on a three-point attempt at the buzzer as the Buckeyes fell 62-60 to an eventual Final Four team.
2012: No. 2 Seed, lost in Final Four to No. 2 Kansas
Largely featuring the same core from the year prior, Ohio State cruised through the opening rounds of the tournament, defeating Loyola 78-59 before knocking off No. 7 Gonzaga 73-66. The Buckeyes then faced off with a pair of Big East teams, starting with a 81-66 win over No. 6 Cincinnati. Deshaun Thomas, as he did for much of this tournament, led OSU with 24 points and six rebounds against the Bearcats.
Ohio State then had to take on No. 1 Syracuse in the Elite Eight. The Buckeyes got a full team effort in this one, as four guys finished in double-figures, led by Jared Sullinger’s 19 points and seven boards. After the two teams went into half tied at 29 apiece, the Bucks outplayed the Orange in the second period to come away with a 77-70 victory.
They were not so lucky in their Final Four game, however, as their shooting struggled mightily against the Jayhawks. As a team, they hit under 34 percent of their shots from the floor, with William Buford tying to lead all scorers at 19 points along with Kansas’ Thomas Robinson.
Despite the poor shooting, Ohio State was able to keep it a game and even led at half by nine. They would be unable to overcome their shooting woes, however, as the Buckeyes went on to lose 64-62.
2013: No. 2 Seed, upset in Elite Eight by No. 9 Wichita State
After back-to-back Sweet 16s and a Final Four appearance, Ohio State made yet another run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Following an easy win over Iona, the Buckeyes found themselves in a close contest with No. 10 Iowa State. Tied at 75 apiece, Aaron Craft knocked down a three just before the buzzer to win it 78-75, advancing OSU to the Sweet 16 where they would take on No. 6 Arizona.
All of a sudden, I'm having some really good memories of the NCAA Tournament. https://t.co/RnUpprsU74— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) March 17, 2019
Craft’s game-winning shot continues to haunt Iowa State fans to this day, as evidenced by LGHL’s recent conversation with Wide Right & Natty Lite:
It was another crazy finish against the Wildcats, this time with Ohio State and Arizona tied at 70-70 before a LaQuinton Ross three-ball with two seconds remaining again gave the Buckeyes a late win.
The good mojo ran out against the No. 9 Shockers, who had already taken down No. 1 seed Gonzaga in the second round. Deshaun Thomas had another show-out performance, dropping 21 points with five rebounds, however he went 0-of-6 from three-point range. In fact, as a team Ohio State knocked down only five three-pointers in 25 tries, a big reason for their struggles. Despite having no standout scorers, led by Malcolm Armstead’s 14 points, Wichita State was able to take advantage of the Bucks’ poor shooting as they upset the No. 2 seed 70-66.
2014: No. 6 Seed, upset in First Round by No. 11 Dayton
After numerous tourney appearances in a row where the team won multiple games, the 2014 NCAA Tournament was just a one-stop experience for Ohio State. Sam Thompson had a game-high 18 points for the Buckeyes and Aaron Craft added 16 points of his own, however it would be Craft’s layup in the closing seconds that came up short as OSU was knocked out 60-59 in the First Round for the first time since 2009.
2015: No. 10 Seed, lost in Second Round to No. 2 Arizona
Ohio State made the tournament in 2015 almost solely because of the play of D’Angelo Russell, who averaged 19.3 points per game for a 24-11 Buckeye squad. As he had already become accustomed, Russell single-handedly led his team to victory in their first round matchup with VCU. With a game-high 28 points, Russell was able to out-duel the Rams and drag OSU into the second round with a 75-72 win.
Perhaps out of gas after his first round heroics, Russell played extremely poorly against Arizona, going just 3-of-19 from the field with only nine points. Sam Thompson attempted to pick his team up with 18 points of his own, but without a good night from Russell, Ohio State just never stood a chance against the No. 2 Wildcats. Led by 19 points apiece by T.J. McConnell and Gabe York, Arizona pummeled the Buckeyes 73-58.
2018: No. 5 Seed, lost in Second Round to No. 4 Gonzaga
After Matta missed the NCAA Tournament in his final two years as Ohio State’s head coach, Chris Holtmann would take his place, and after leading Butler to three-straight tourney appearances, Holtmann got the Buckeyes back into the big dance in his very first season.
OSU had a tough opener against South Dakota State, whose Mike Daum scored a game-high 27 points. However, Ohio State’s trio of Keita Bates-Diop, Kam Williams and C.J. Jackson all scored over 20 points apiece as they led the Bucks to a 81-73 win. Bates-Diop led the team with 24 points and 12 rebounds.
The Buckeyes kept it close in their second round game with No. 4 Gonzaga, but the raging hot Bulldogs were too much for Holtmann’s squad. Bates-Diop again gave it his all, scoring 28 points with four makes from downtown, but Gonzaga matched it with 28 points from Zach Norvell Jr. while adding another 25 points from Rui Hachimura on 9-of-11 shooting. In the end, Ohio State just didn’t have enough scoring to keep up with the Zags, and fell 90-84 in Idaho.
Which Thad Matta or Chris Holtmann tournament team is your favorite?
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