Thad Matta didn’t know what implications the Big Ten Tournament’s championship game would have on NCAA Tournament seeding before the game, but it turns out Ohio State was battling Michigan State for the final No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.
The Spartans, who beat the Buckeyes 68-64 in the Big Ten Tournament championship game Sunday evening in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, earned the final No. 1 seed in the West Region when the NCAA Tournament bracket was announced.
Ohio State was awarded the No. 2 seed in the East Region and will face Loyola (Md.) on Thursday at Pittsburgh. The top seed in the Buckeyes’ region is Syracuse. Seeded third is Florida State, which won the ACC tournament, and Big Ten foe Wisconsin is seeded fourth.
“I was honestly happy to see Michigan State get a No. 1 seed in terms of what we’ve all been through here and in 18 games (in the Big Ten),” Matta said. “I like our positioning here, too.”
The Buckeyes’ first matchup comes against a Greyhounds (24-8) team that won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament. If the Buckeyes advance, they’ll play the winner of the matchup between No. 7 Gonzaga (25-6) and No. 10 West Virginia (19-13).
Syracuse plays No. 16 UNC Asheville to open up the tournament, while No. 8 Kansas State plays No. 9 Southern Mississippi. No. 5 Vanderbilt will play No. 12 Harvard and the Badgers face No. 13 Montana.
The Seminoles will open the tournament against No. 14 St. Bonaventure and No. 6 Cincinnati plays No. 11 Texas, a team that was on the bubble heading into Sunday evening’s selection show.
“We just are ready to play,” sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas told BSB. “We didn’t get the tournament championship today, but we know now is the real time of the year when it is one-and-done. If we lose, we go home. I think we’re ready for that challenge.”
Ohio State, who will travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, will take its final exams early Monday morning. Matta hopes all the academics will be in order before the Buckeyes begin their trek in the NCAA Tournament.
The Buckeyes were the No. 1 overall seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament and its company in the East Region consisted of Syracuse, Kentucky, and North Carolina. All three of those teams achieved a No. 1 seed this year.
“I think that is an incredible thing when you stop and think about it,” Matta said. “We were a No. 1 seed last year and now we’re a two. I just hope it speaks volumes about where our program is and the job our players are doing.”
The Buckeyes won four-consecutive games heading into Sunday, including a dramatic 72-70 win over Michigan State in East Lansing a week ago to grab a share of the team’s third-consecutive Big Ten title.
Ohio State fell in the Spartans in the rematch a week later, causing them to come up a game short of its third consecutive Big Ten Tournament title. Matta, however, knows the Buckeyes must quickly turn the page toward the final phase of the season.
“We have a young basketball team in there and they have to understand it is a new season,” he said. “We’ll learn from this and most importantly we'll have to learn from this basketball game.
“One of the things coming into this weekend, I wanted to see our guys coming off an emotional win last Sunday, just the preparation we had, the energy we had, and the mind-set we had. I was pleased, not with the outcome today, but with the way we played, but with the way guys handled themselves.”
Follow Me on Twitter and find us on Facebook.