Matta Pleased with Ohio State Draw in East Region
By Brandon Castel
INDIANAPOLIS — Ohio State coach Thad Matta did not have much time to look at his bracket in the East Region, where the Buckeyes will be the No. 2-seed behind Syracuse, but he has to be a lot more pleased than he was a year ago.
The second-seeded Buckeyes will take on No. 15-seed Loyola (Maryland) Thursday in Pittsburgh at the Xcel Energy Center, but their road to New Orleans for the Final Four looks much more manageable than it was last March, when they were the No. 1 overall side.
“I like our positioning. 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.”
Three teams that were in Ohio State region a year ago, Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina, are among the four No. 1-seeds in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats, who knocked the Buckeyes out of the tournament in the Sweet 16, are the top overall seed, and Ohio State was the No. 7-seed overall (and the third two-seed) according to CBS.
Michigan State received the fourth No. 1-seed after knocking off Matta and the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament title game Sunday.
“I was honestly happy to see Michigan State get a No. 1-seed,” Matta said.
“Just in terms of what we’ve all been through here and in 18 games (in the Big Ten).”
No. 7 Ohio State, a regular-season co-champion of the Big Ten, will play the winner of seventh-seeded Gonzaga and No. 10-seed West Virginia on Saturday, if they get past a Loyola (24-8, 13-5) team that won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament.
“I don't (know much about Loyola), but ironically, (OSU assistant) Dave Dickerson worked with Jimmy Patsos, the coach at Loyola, for a long time at Maryland,” Matta said.
“I assume they run some of the same stuff (they did at Maryland). I know Dave did at Tulane, so hopefully we have some familiarity with it.”
The Buckeyes should have plenty of familiarity with a few of the teams in their Region, where the Buckeyes would play in Boston, Mass. if they advanced to the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament.
Conference rival Wisconsin was given a No. 4-seed in the East Region, and the Buckeyes could end up facing in-state foe Cincinnati if they reach the second weekend of the tournament.
“Wow,” Matta said when informed of OSU's possible matchups.
“Two Big East teams. Hmm.”
Actually, there are three Big East teams in the region, including West Virginia and former UC coach Bob Huggins. The Buckeyes could face the Mountaineers on Saturday, if WVU can get past Gonzaga, but they first half to worry about playing on Thursday just four days after losing in the conference tournament title game.
“Coming off of this, it's probably a little easier to play on the Friday-Sunday setup,” Matta said.
“But we'll try to do a little something different this time.”
Ohio State players are scheduled to take their finals this week, and they may have to take some of them on the road. The Buckeyes will leave for Pittsburgh on Tuesday regardless of when they are scheduled to play Thursday.
Game times have not yet been announced.
Ohio State’s region features No. 1-seed Syracuse vs. 16-seed UNC Asheville, an 8-9 matchup of Kansas State and Southern Miss and the dreaded 5-12 game between Vanderbilt and Harvard.
The fourth-seeded Badgers will face 13-seed Montana. Cincinnati, the 6-seed, will get 11th seeded Texas and No. 3-seed Florida State plays 14-seed St. Bonaventure, who knocked off Xavier to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
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