Yes, the Buckeye State is a loudly and proudly a gridiron state, but that doesn't mean "The Heart of it All" doesn't know a thing about the round ball, either.
No, the sport doesn't quite hold the reverence here as it does in, say, our neighbor to the west, but the amount of talent produced on Ohio hardwoods can match up with just about anyone out there.
Ohio State has a long history of great in-state basketball players from Jerry Lucas to Jimmy Jackson to Jared Sullinger – with plenty of other studs in between – and the Buckeyes have been a player on the national basketball scene plenty of times throughout the program's history.
There are also programs with a lot of tradition scattered throughout the state, including in the southwest corner, where Cincinnati, Dayton and Xavier are serious about their hoops. Then, from Cleveland State's famous 1986 Sweet 16 run to Ohio University's similar run two years ago, a number of other programs have great teams and memorable moments to hang their hats on.
And every once in a while, those teams end up playing Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament. This will be the fifth time the Buckeyes match up against a foe from the Buckeye State in the NCAA Tournament, and each previous installment has been pretty memorable.
With OSU and Dayton set to tip things off this afternoon in Buffalo to open one of the best sports weekends of the year, we look back on some history when it comes to Ohio State and its in-state brethren in the Big Dance.
2012 Sweet 16, Ohio State 81, Cincinnati 66
The third-seeded Buckeyes broke through a barrier, getting past the Sweet 16 after losing in that round in two consecutive seasons, by overcoming a game Bearcats team by an 81-66 margin in Boston.
"I couldn't be happier for this team," head coach Thad Matta said. "If you would have told me in November this team was going to win 30 games, I would have said there's no way. And to their credit, they've done a great job of putting us in this position."
The matchup between the two schools two hours away was just the 10th all-time and just the second in 50 years, but the helter-skelter Buckeyes emerged victorious, jumping out to a huge lead, giving it all away early in the second half and then pulling away again.
The Buckeyes led 37-25 at halftime behind 20 first-half points by Deshaun Thomas, who found plenty of room to operate in Cincinnati's zone defense, but the Bearcats switched to a man-to-man defense to begin the second half and ripped off a 19-6 run to open the stanza to take the lead.
Just when it looked like the Bearcats might pull away thanks to a 52-48 lead at the under-12 media timeout, Ohio State's defense stiffened. Cincinnati managed just one point on its next 10 possessions as the Buckeyes put together a 17-1 run that firmly tilted the scales back toward the Scarlet and Gray.
Aaron Craft put Ohio State ahead for good with a jumper that made it 53-52 with 10:23 to play, and back-to-back threes by Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Craft were part of a 10-0 run that finished off the Bearcats.
"We lost a lot of close games like this where some guys punched at us and we kept backing up," Craft said. "But from the Big Ten tournament on, we try to stand out ground as much as possible. We understand that these are great teams that are going to go on runs. It's going to happen. We just can't get too down on ourselves, try to stay as positive as possible, and it worked today."
Thomas finished with 24 points while Jared Sullinger had 23 to go with 11 rebounds. Smith made 7 of 8 shots – including 3 of 4 threes – and had 17 points, while Craft chipped in 11. OSU also forced 18 Cincinnati turnovers.
Cashmere Wright had 18 and Sean Kilpatrick 15 – including eight in a row early in the second half – to lead UC.
Ohio State would go on to beat top-seeded Syracuse two days later and advance to the Final Four in New Orleans.
2007 Round of 32, Ohio State 78, Xavier 71 (OT)
In a game that will almost assuredly never be forgotten in Buckeye lore, Ron Lewis made a huge three to send the game to overtime and top-seeded Ohio State used the momentum to down Xavier by a 78-71 score.
The Buckeyes – led by the Thad Five of Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook, David Lighty and Othello Hunter as well as veterans Lewis, Ivan Harris and Jamar Butler – were never supposed to lose to the ninth-seeded Musketeers, but Thad Matta's former employer held a 62-59 lead with less than 10 seconds left and a chance to ice the game from the free-throw line.
But Justin Cage missed a free throw that would have iced the game, allowing OSU a final chance. Conley pushed the ball up the floor and found Lewis, who rose from 22 feet and delivered the purest stroke of his career, swishing the trey with 2.0 seconds left on the clock.
"I was just trying to get an open look," Lewis said. "I told Mike before we even left the huddle just to give me the ball."
That sent the game to overtime, where Conley took over, scoring seven straight points and 11 overall in the extra frame to push the Buckeyes to the win.
That OSU was even in the game for Lewis' shot was surprising considering the team trailed 59-50 with less than three minutes to play, but a Butler three and a steal by Conley that led to a three-point play for Lewis pulled OSU back in it.
"They kept battling," Matta said afterward. "We've been here before, and that's what I love about this team."
Lewis had 27 points, finishing 4 of 5 from beyond the arc, while Conley added 12, Oden had 14 with 12 rebounds and Butler had 13 points.
Cage led Xavier with 25 points. The Musketeers were coached by Sean Miller, a former Matta assistant and the brother of current Dayton coach Archie Miller.
Ohio State went on to make the national championship game, thanks in part to another amazing rally in the Sweet 16 vs. Tennessee, before losing to Florida in the national title game.
1962 NCAA championship game, Cincinnati 71, Ohio State 59
In a rematch of the previous season's title game, Cincinnati took advantage of an injury to OSU's Jerry Lucas and pulled away to its second consecutive national title, 71-59.
Top-ranked Ohio State was in its third consecutive crowning match, but an injury to Lucas in a semifinal win vs. Wake Forest hampered the cause in the title game. Lucas still had 11 points and 16 rebounds in the championship contest, but the Bearcats were led by 22 points and 19 rebounds from center Paul Hogue.
The No. 2 Bearcats led 37-29 at halftime and head coach Fred Taylor's Buckeyes were unable to overturn the advantage in the second half. Part of that was because OSU made just 36.3 percent (24 of 66) shots from the field.
Gary Bradds had 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, but the rest of the team couldn't get it going. Lucas was just 5 of 17 from the field, John Havlicek made 5 of 14 shots and Mel Nowell was 4 for 16.
1962 NCAA championship game, Cincinnati 70, Ohio State 65 (OT)
Despite losing Oscar Robertson from the season before, the No. 2 Bearcats hung with the defending national champion, undefeated and top-seeded Buckeyes, taking the title match in overtime by a 70-65 score.
The teams were deadlocked at 61 after time expired, but Cincinnati's size helped win the day for first-year head coach Ed Jucker. Bob Weisenhahn made 8 of 15 field goals and had a team-high 17 points, while Hogue had nine. Tom Thacker added 15 points for UC while Tony Yates had nine.
On the Ohio State side, Lucas had 27 points – going 10 of 17 from the floor – to go with 12 rebounds and was named the tournament's most valuable player. Larry Siegfried chipped in 14 but OSU got off just 50 shot attempts compared to 64 for the Bearcats. Havlicek was just 1 for 5 with four points.
The game was delayed repeatedly as the consolation contest before it went into four overtimes.
Because of the more regional nature of the NIT these days, the Buckeyes have faced more Ohio teams in that tournament, including Dayton in the only postseason matchup between the schools in 2008.
That game recap can be read here, as Ohio State pulled away from the Flyers to a 74-63 victory in Value City Arena in the quarterfinals of the NIT. The Buckeyes trailed by a point at halftime in front of split crowd of scarlet and gray as well as red and blue before opening up a margin as big as 18 points in the second half.
Then, in a 10-year span from 1984-93, the Buckeyes faced in-state foes in the NIT five times. Included in that run was a 65-62 win at Ohio that kicked off a run to the NIT title in 1986. Ohio State also posted an 86-80 victory against Cleveland State in the second round of the 1988 NIT on the way to finishing second that season.