BOISE, Idaho — Ohio State has its ideal “Revenge Bracket.”
But there is one exception carved out, at least for Andrew Dakich.
There are plenty of familiar faces for the Buckeyes in a region that seems as if it was made solely for them to seek retribution. But none of them resonates quite the same as their biggest rival and the chance for a possible Final Four berth to be on the line against Michigan — and the program where Dakich used to play before transferring across enemy lines for his final season.
“I saw Michigan,” Dakich told Land of 10 before practice at Taco Bell Arena. “I noticed it, and that would obviously be a ways away in the Elite Eight. That would be a special matchup. Both teams, we split the games against each other this year and the history of the rivalry speaks for itself.
“I’m looking forward to the first round, but if we’re both fortunate enough to make it, I’d be very excited about it.”
That matchup might go down as one of the most memorable in the storied history between the two programs. Of course, there’s a long way to go for both teams, starting Thursday with No. 5 seed Ohio State facing a solid South Dakota State squad in the first round of the West Region.
After that, the tests will only get stiffer — and potentially will be a second chance to pass them against a few opponents who knocked them off previously.
Gonzaga is likely going to be waiting in the second round and already has a lopsided, dominant win over the Buckeyes to its credit this season. Top-seeded Xavier could loom down the road for a game with much higher stakes than the preseason scrimmage between the two programs. And on the other half of the bracket sits North Carolina, also a proud owner of one of just eight victories over Ohio State this season.
“There are a lot of teams that we played or lost to in here, but the first one is obviously the most important,” said Dakich, who averaged 19 minutes per game for the Buckeyes this year. “We’re playing a really tough South Dakota State team who shoots the ball really well and doesn’t turn the ball over, so we have our hands full starting [Thursday].
“But we saw a lot of teams that we played in that region, including in a scrimmage. So we’re trying to call it the ‘Revenge Bracket.’”
It’s Michigan, though, that will always jump off the page first for the Buckeyes. And that goes double for Dakich, who remains close with his former teammates and coach John Beilein, and will be pulling for the Wolverines in any game that doesn’t personally involve him.
“Those are my guys,” Dakich said. “Not just my teammates, those are my friends away from the court who I lived with. We stayed in touch and they had their early struggles and were trying to figure out their own identity. They got it rolling, so I’m happy for them. I can’t not root for them because I know what kind of guys they are and the work they have put in. I’ve had numerous conversations with Coach Beilein throughout the year about how he’s proud of me and thinks this was a great fit for me.
“It’s hard for me not to root for them even though I’m in scarlet and gray.”
A spot in the Final Four would obviously be enough for Dakich in that hypothetical matchup.
The rest of those guys wearing those colors can still enjoy the rivalry and the revenge factor to its fullest.