Representing the Ohio State University, the Buckeyes are part of the NCAA’s Division I. As part of the Big Ten Conference, the Buckeyes have appeared in NCAA tournaments many times and have a history that goes back 120+ years.
Today we’re checking out that history, along with the record of accolades that the Buckeyes have. Naturally, we’re talking about the NCAA because March Madness is here. If you can gamble on college basketball games, you should look at March Madness odds.
The first generations of the Buckeyes, from 1898 to 1958, aren’t that eventful. They failed to make a sustained run and wouldn’t compete well in the Big Nine (later Big Ten) Conference.
Early success came from head coach Harold Olsen, who took the reins in 1923 and led OSU through 24 seasons. In his first year, they hit the first conference championship and then made an appearance at the first-ever NCAA championship tournament in 1939. It wasn’t their time yet, as the Oregon Webfoots (now Ducks) beat them.
The 1960 NCAA Championship
With several other coaches carrying the Buckeyes through an uneventful ‘50s, things changed when coach Fred Taylor joined the program. Having set an 11-11 record for the 1958-59 season, nobody expected anything special.
Then, next year, Taylor’s coaching and the performance of future All-American Jerry Lucas took the Buckeyes all the way to the championship. They faced the California Golden Bears and beat them 75-55 in the last game. To date, this is the Buckeyes’ only NCAA championship tournament victory.
While Taylor’s teams would put in five more appearances, he left the program in 1976 with no new titles and an abysmal 6-20 record for the season. Many coaches followed, though they only made conference champion twice and NCAA brackets eight times.
The 2002 Big Ten Tournament Championship
Their next big accolades would come in the 2000s, after the 1997 hiring of coach Jim O’Brien. Over seven seasons, the Buckeyes under O’Brien had four where they won over 20 games, with two regular-season co-championships in the Big Ten.
The highlight of this period was 2002, where the Buckeyes fought to the top of the Big Ten Tournament and beat the Iowa Hawkeyes to win. The Buckeyes also appeared in the NCAA tournament four times in a row – a school record – though they didn’t get any wins.
Unfortunately, O’Brien’s tenure ended in controversy after NCAA rule violations were handed down. Star player Boban Savovic, who was a large part of the program’s success, may have received improper benefits.
The Modern Buckeyes
While they haven’t been to the NCAA championship finals after 1960, the modern Buckeyes have appeared in NCAA tournaments many times since. From 2004 to 2017, coach Thad Matta oversaw the Buckeyes through 337 game wins, the most in the school’s history.
Matta’s first season immediately showed his talent as a coach, where the Buckeyes made a 20-12 record. They also hit the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, but the Wisconsin Badgers got the better of them.
They later made the NCAA tournament as #2 seed, though they were outed in the second round. The next year, in 2007, they would have more luck by making it to the NCAA tournament as #1 seed. This was due to talented players Greg Oden and Mike Conley, Jr. They beat the Memphis Tigers and the Georgetown Hoyas (who beat them last year) to face the Florida Gators at the finals, where the Gators won 84-75.
With Oden and Conley, Jr. passing to the NBA, the next year was spent rebuilding. They did rack up an NIT title, however, becoming #1 seed and beating the UMass Minutemen 92-85.
Evan Turner was the new Buckeyes player turning heads, setting many records for the Big Ten during the 2009-10 season, namely for making Player of the Week. They beat the Big Ten Tournament again and entered the NCAA tournament as the #2 seed. They made it to the Sweet Sixteen before losing, but Turner became National Player of the Year.
With Turner moving on, the Buckeyes’ remaining roster still managed to turn heads by going undefeated at 13-0 and becoming #2 in the nation for their Big Ten Conference performances. They ended with 29-2 (16-2 in the Big Ten) and faced the Penn State Nittany Lions for yet another Big Ten Tournament win.
In the 2011-12 season, they’d go further to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament before getting knocked out by the Kansas Jayhawks in a very close game – 64-62. They would make the Elite Eight next year, but the Wichita State Shockers knocked them out.
Since 2017, Chris Holtmann has coached the team with Kaleb Wesson heading the team. Unfortunately, they haven’t made it past the NCAA’s second round and the pandemic interfered with their playing seasons a lot.
That’s the story of the Buckeyes so far. While they haven’t had much luck recently, they have proven that the program can carry a team to the NCAA tournament finals and win. Hopefully, this can translate into more championship titles for the program in the future.
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