On Sunday afternoon we saw the end of the season for the Ohio State men’s basketball team. It’s not like the exit prior to the Sweet Sixteen wasn’t expected for the Buckeyes, though. As soon as the brackets came out last Sunday, many were calling for the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers to knock off Ohio State. A second-straight first round exit wasn’t in the cards for the Buckeyes, however, as they smothered the 10-seed in Pittsburgh on Friday.
Unfortunately, Ohio State wasn’t able to make the Sweet Sixteen for the first time under Chris Holtmann, as the Buckeyes fell to Villanova 71-61 on Sunday afternoon. While it was disappointing to see Ohio State fail to make the second weekend of the tournament, they showed some toughness against the Wildcats, battling back after falling behind by double digits. Now, Buckeye Nation will have to sweat out whether or not Big Ten Freshman of the Year Malaki Branham will return to Ohio State for a sophomore season, or declare for the NBA Draft.
Even though the loss to Villanova stings, especially because it denied us a Michigan-Ohio State Sweet Sixteen battle, the majority of Buckeye fans aren’t going to lose any sleep over it. There’s no doubt that the Wildcats were the better team and deserved to move on. The same can’t be said for some of Ohio State’s past NCAA Tournament losses. Buckeye shooty hoops fans have had to stomach some painful tournament defeats over the past 20 years.
Today’s question: Which Ohio State men’s basketball NCAA Tournament loss is the toughest to stomach?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: 2013 Elite Eight loss to Wichita State
There will be some that argue that the loss in the Final Four to Kansas a year ago was a lot harder to come to grips with, especially since the Buckeyes had the Jayhawks on the ropes. But let’s be honest, the 2012 Ohio State team wasn’t likely going to beat Kentucky and Anthony Davis in the title game. It would have been fun to see if Ohio State could have tested the Wildcats, I just highly doubt the Buckeyes would have won since Davis played out of his mind in the championship game.
The 2013 NCAA Tournament was the last one in which Ohio State has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. The Buckeyes entered the tournament as the 2-seed in the West Region. After taking care of business against Iona in their opening round game in Dayton, Ohio State survived against Iowa State 78-75 to earn a trip out to Los Angeles. Much like the game against the Cyclones where they won by three points, the Buckeyes defeated Arizona 73-70 at the Staples Center to set up an Elite Eight battle with Wichita State, who was the 9-seed in the region.
The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in the West Region was filled with upsets. The Shockers took down 1-seed Gonzaga in the round of 32, which left Ohio State as the only team seeded better than sixth in the region. It looked like the Buckeyes were going to be the beneficiaries of some upsets that would make their path to a second straight Final Four a lot easier.
Ohio State squandered their opportunity to add another Final Four appearance to the program’s record books though, as the Shockers did exactly that — shock the Buckeyes out of the gates. By the time the game reached halftime, Wichita State held a 35-22 lead. Ohio State did close the gap in the second half, pulling to within three points of the lead, but Thad Matta’s team couldn’t wrestle the game away from the Shockers.
For me this loss is harder to stomach than any other Ohio State NCAA Tournament loss since I moved to Columbus in 2005 since it was all right there for the Buckeyes. Ohio State was supposed to be the monster that was going to ruin Wichita State’s “Cinderella story”. Instead, Aaron Craft went 2-of-12 from the field and the Buckeyes trailed by as many as 20 points in the game.
Had Ohio State won, we could have possibly seen the Buckeyes take on Trey Burke and Michigan in the title game. What better drama would there have been than that? You couldn’t write a script any more perfect. Instead, a team with Shockers as a nickname took down one of the biggest athletic programs in the country. It also doesn’t help that since this loss, Ohio State has done nothing in the big dance. Hopefully whatever voodoo Wichita State put on Ohio State by beating them will soon be removed.
Meredith’s answer: 2021 First Round loss to Oral Roberts
There’s a lot of pain in losing in the championship game (remember Ohio State’s 2007 loss to Florida, fresh on the heels of the football team’s loss in the BCS Title Game, anyone?), but there are other emotions involved when the loss comes earlier than expected — in some cases, much earlier.
That’s why Ohio State’s first round exit in the 2021 NCAA Tournament to 15-seeded Oral Roberts is so painful, because it wasn’t just painful — it’s also embarrassing and shocking.
That’s not meant to take anything away from Oral Roberts: The Golden Eagles came to play and took advantage of an Ohio State team that shot 36% from the field and just 22% from range. However, as much as we need to give credit to the team that showed up more than the Buckeyes did that afternoon, it’s still a little humiliating to be one of a handful of two-seeds that have fallen to 15-seeds.
For anyone outside of the Ohio State fanbase, the win by Oral Roberts was what March Madness was all about. Heck, when St. Peter’s beat Kentucky Thursday night, we were all feeling the same excitement that comes when a vast majority of brackets get busted simultaneously. For those in the fanbase, though, it’s harder to look upon the upset with such fondness.
That loss hit particularly hard since the Buckeyes were so strong in the 2020-21 season, and fans were thirsty after a canceled tournament in 2020.
That being said, it did make a difference that Oral Roberts beat Florida in the second round and moved on to the Sweet Sixteen — at least the Golden Eagles turned out to be a Cinderella instead of a flash in the pan.
Going all the way to the Final Four or a championship is a long shot for any given team in the tournament field, but as a two-seed, one would reasonably expect to win at least one tournament game. It’s hard not to feel shortchanged in the circumstances, missing out on one more game in a season.