Buckeyes Still NCAA Worthy

By Jeff Rapp, March 18th, 2019

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann is an even-keeled guy who doesn’t tend toward hyperbole. But he made it very clear on Selection Sunday that the Buckeyes being named in the NCAA Tournament field of 68 was “huge.”

Holtmann was fairly confident after OSU bested league rival Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament 8-9 game that the Buckeyes were in good position to be included in the Big Dance. However, as he put it, “absolute paranoia” set in after that, a churning feeling that worsened as the NCAA Selection Show unfolded on St. Patrick’s Day.

Eventually, though, the words “Ohio State” emerged. The Buckeyes (19-14) were indeed in the field – an 11-seed in the Midwest Regional. They’ll face 6th-seeded Iowa State, the Big 12 Tournament champion, on March 22 (9:50 p.m. Eastern, TBS) in Tulsa, Okla.

As the entire bracket was unveiled, it turned out that a record-setting eight Big Ten schools have were chosen: Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue and Wisconsin along with Ohio State. Holtmann will be headed to the tourney for the second time in as many seasons as OSU coach.

The matchup with Iowa State will be the seventh all-time. The Buckeyes and Cyclones last squared off in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, a 78-75 Ohio State victory in Dayton, Ohio.

Ohio State will make its 29th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and enters with a 50-27 record all-time in it, including a 5-4 mark while playing in the Midwest. OSU has advanced to 10 Final Fours and finished as the runner-up four times (1939, 1961, 1962, 2007). The program’s sole national championship came in 1960.

That kind of run isn’t very likely for a team that struggled most of the second half of the season and never could quite get to 20 wins. However, the Buckeyes do have a pretty good historical track record of making the Sweet 16, accomplishing that feat on 14 occasions. Doing so this time would mean a win over the red-hot Cyclones and, mostly likely, third-seeded Houston.

Sophomore Kaleb Wesson paces Ohio State with 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest while senior C.J. Jackson adds 12.2 points per game and a team-best 113 total assists. Junior Andre Wesson scores 8.8 points per game while freshman Luther Muhammad averages 8.0 points per contest.

Iowa State knocked off No. 17 Kansas, 78-66, in the Big 12 championship game on March 16. Senior guard Marial Shayok leads four Cyclones averaging double digits in scoring at 18.6 points per game while sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton chips in with 13.5 points a game. Freshman guard Talen Horton-Tucker scores 12.1 points per game and junior forward Michael Jacobson averages 11.5 points and a team-best 6.0 boards per contest.

Ohio State went 3-11 in the 2018-19 season against teams advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes earned wins over Cincinnati, Minnesota and Iowa and dropped three games to Michigan State, two to Maryland and Purdue and one each against Syracuse, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.