COLUMBUS, Ohio — The NCAA Tournament is officially underway, and for the second straight year the Ohio State men’s basketball team is on the outside looking in. So what better time to reminisce about the good old days of Buckeyes basketball, particularly as it pertains to the past 13 years under Thad Matta?
The Ohio State head coach may be entering a make-or-break season, but it wasn’t long ago he was responsible for what many consider to be the golden era of Buckeyes basketball.
With that in mind — and without anything else to watch when it comes to Ohio State on the hardwood — let’s take a look back at the top-five March Madness moments of the Thad Matta era.
Evan Turner’s makes half-court buzzer-beater to beat Michigan, 2010
OK, so technically, this moment happened in the Big Ten Tournament and not the actual Big Dance. Nevertheless, it’s too memorable to ignore.
Facing Michigan in its first matchup of the 2010 Big Ten Tournament, only 2.2 seconds separated the Buckeyes from staying alive and an early exit. That’s how much time was remaining on the clock when Wolverines guard Manny Harris hit an 11-foot jumper to break a 66-all tie and give Michigan a 2-point advantage.
Fortunately for Ohio State, it had the eventual national player of the year on its side.
After receiving an inbounds pass from David Lighty, Evan Turner raced as far up the court as he could before heaving shot from near half court as time expired. As the ball swished through the hoop, Turner’s hand remained in the air as a 69-68 victory allowed the Buckeyes to live to see another day.
After surviving an overtime matchup with Illinois in the semifinals, Ohio State went on to beat Minnesota in the finals, winning the first of what would be two straight Big Ten Tournament championships. For their efforts, the Buckeyes earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling to sixth-seeded Tennessee.
Ohio State beats Syracuse to advance to Final Four, 2012
In both 2010 and 2011, Ohio State entered the NCAA Tournament with a top-two seed, but failed to advance past the Sweet 16 in either year. For the Buckeyes, the third time would ultimately prove to be the charm.
Entering the 2012 tournament as the No. 2 seed in the East Region, Ohio State defeated its first three opponents — Loyola (Md.), Gonzaga and Cincinnati — with relative ease before advancing to face No. 1-seeded Syracuse in the Elite Eight. With Orange star center Fab Melo sidelined because of academic issues, the Buckeyes beat Syracuse 77-70 to advance to their first Final Four since 2007.
After falling short the previous two seasons, Ohio State, led by a trio of sophomores in Jared Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft, finally advanced to college basketball’s biggest stage. That, however, would be as far as the Buckeyes would get, blowing a 13-point lead in what would wind up a 64-62 loss to Kansas in the Final Four.
Aaron Craft’s buzzer-beater vs. Iowa State, 2013
With Sullinger off to the NBA and William Buford out of eligibility, 2013 was supposed to be a rebuilding season of sorts for Ohio State.
Somebody forgot to tell Craft and Thomas.
After making a late-season run to win the Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeyes entered the 2013 NCAA Tournament as the No. 2 seed in the West Region. Ohio State beat Iona handily in the opening round, but found itself in a closer-than-expected contest with No. 10 seed Iowa State in the round of 32 in Dayton, Ohio.
After blowing a 13-point lead, the Buckeyes found themselves tied with the Cyclones at 75 with less than 30 seconds remaining. Despite not being known for his long-range shooting, Craft opted to heave a 3-pointer as the clock expired, swishing the shot through to send Ohio State to a program-record fourth straight Sweet 16.
After beating No. 6 Arizona in the Sweet 16, the Buckeyes would fall short of a second straight Final Four appearance, losing to No. 9 Wichita State 70-66 in the Elite Eight.
Greg Oden’s game-saving block vs. Tennessee, 2007
Of all the NCAA Tournament runs in Ohio State history, there may not be one as memorable as the Buckeyes’ 2007 journey to the national championship game.
Only it almost never happened, as arguably the most-talented team in Ohio State history found itself on the ropes multiple times, including a Sweet 16 matchup against Tennessee.
After falling behind by as many as 17 points, the top-seeded Buckeyes fought back to tie the game, and a Mike Conley Jr. free throw gave Ohio State an 85-84 lead with 6.5 seconds remaining on the clock.
The Volunteers, however, weren’t done yet as guard Ramar Smith raced up the court with a chance to send the Buckeyes home. The only problem was 7-foot center Greg Oden — who battled foul trouble throughout the game — was there waiting for him, swatting away Smith’s would-be game-winner to send Ohio State to the Elite Eight — and eventually, the national title game.
Ron Lewis’ buzzer-beater to beat Xavier, 2007
The Buckeyes wouldn’t have even been in a position to beat Tennessee if not for Ron Lewis’ heroics a round earlier.
After beating Central Connecticut in the tournament’s opening round, Ohio State found itself on the ropes against Matta’s former team, Xavier, which held an 11-point lead on the Buckeyes with less than 8 minutes remaining and a 9-point advantage under the 3-minute mark.
Ohio State, however, rallied, despite Oden fouling out in the game’s final 10 seconds. With the ninth-seeded Musketeers leading by 2 with 9.3 seconds remaining on the clock, forward Justin Cage split a pair of free throws, giving the Buckeyes one last look at tying the game.
Lewis would make the most of the opportunity, sinking a 3 to send the game to overtime, where Conley scored 11 points and Ohio State walked away with a 78-71 victory.
On a team most remembered for its freshmen, it was Lewis who was responsible for arguably the most memorable moment in Buckeyes’ tournament history.