Ohio State basketball won’t have to worry about whether it will be playing in the NCAA Tournament — the Buckeyes are safely in after falling short in each of the previous two seasons. There is, however, the matter of seeding. And while it’s great news for the program that Ohio State has punched its ticket with certainty, the Buckeyes’ late-season swoon has all but assured them of an imperfect outcome when it comes to assessing seeding, opponents and location.
To understand where the Buckeyes are in the NCAA Tournament picture, it’s worth considering how they got here. With a new coach in Chris Holtmann and a makeshift roster, Ohio State was widely picked to finish anywhere from 11th to dead-last 14th in Big Ten preseason projections. A tough first month included losses to Gonzaga, Butler and Clemson, but Big Ten play arrived and the Buckeyes found their way.
Ohio State won 17 of 19 games from December to mid-February, surviving a bunched-up schedule necessitated by the Big Ten playing its conference tournament a week earlier than normal. But the season ended as it began, with Ohio State looking like it didn’t have enough depth. The regular season ended with two losses in the last four games, and the Buckeyes were bounced from the conference tournament in the quarterfinals when Penn State dealt them a third loss in as many matchups.
The dream of a conference championship (in the regular season or tournament) was done, and so was Ohio State’s one-time dream of earning a No. 3 or No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State NCAA Tournament seeding projection
Ohio State will most likely be ranked as a No. 5 seed by the selection committee, but there is also the potential to fall to No. 6. The Buckeyes are 24-8 overall with a 15-3 record in conference play, but the conference mark may not carry as much weight because the Big Ten is not as strong as in past seasons. Most bracket projections list the Buckeyes as a No. 5 seed. While it’s possible to sink lower, that wiggle room doesn’t work both ways. Bracket analysts believe there’s no shot of Ohio State rising to a No. 4 seed, and Holtmann acknowledged that in the days leading up to Selection Sunday.
Ohio State NCAA Tournament potential sites
While a No. 5 seed is still far above what anyone predicted for the Buckeyes this season, it would almost certainly have the Buckeyes packing their bags for a trip to the West Coast. Any projection of Ohio State as a No. 5 seed has been slotted into either the San Diego or Boise, Idaho, sites.
There are three prime locations for Ohio State among the eight cities that will host the first two rounds, with Detroit, Pittsburgh and Nashville, Tenn., all in the rotation in 2018. But the Buckeyes have a different geography problem — those sites also happen to be close to a number of better teams. Those sites will likely go to some geographically proximate No. 1-3 seeds such as Villanova, Purdue, Xavier, Cincinnati, Michigan State, Michigan, Auburn or Tennessee. And since those teams will be paired opposite a No. 6-8 seed, Ohio State is likely to end up elsewhere.
Ohio State NCAA Tournament potential opponents
If the Buckeyes are indeed a No. 5 seed, they could find themselves in a tricky situation. The 5-12 matchup is always a popular upset pick, and with good reason. Since the NCAA Tournament went to 64 teams in 1985, a No. 12 seed has defeated a No. 5 seed 47 times — more than 35 percent of all such matchups.
The teams most commonly projected as Ohio State opponents have been Loyola-Chicago and South Dakota State. Loyola-Chicago and South Dakota State have already won their conference tournaments.