No. 1 Seed Out Of Reach For OSU?

Despite winning a portion of the Big Ten - viewed as the nation's best conference - Ohio State seems to be an outsider in the quest to achieve one of the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 seeds. Thad Matta, however, is just fine with that.

Ohio State's coaching staff never took the time to step back and analyze its path to the Final Four as the NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed a year ago.

With programs like North Carolina, Syracuse, and Kentucky all standing in Ohio State's way of reaching the pinnacle of college basketball, the difficulty of what the top-seeded Buckeyes' would have had to accomplish speaks for itself.

"It didn't look like the No. 1 overall seed, did it?" assistant coach Jeff Boals told BSB.

Perhaps that's why Thad Matta isn't getting worked up about the Buckeyes' potential seed this year. The Big Ten, though regarded as the top conference in the nation, doesn't seem to be in line for any of the tournament's No. 1 seeds.

The Big Ten is the nation's only conference that has three programs in the Associated Press poll's top 10, but the three teams that tied for the conference championship – Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan – all project to be no better than No. 2 seeds.

Whether any of the top three Big Ten teams will earn a top seed remains to be determined – the 68-team NCAA Tournament field will be announced Sunday – but winning the Big Ten Tournament seems to be a must for any of them to garner consideration.

"We did a nice job of beating each other up through the course of (the season)," Matta said. "You didn't have that dominating performance by anyone in the league as 13-5 won it. It speaks how well top to bottom the conference is."

Both Ohio State teams Matta has led to No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament have had dominant performances during regular season runs that led to the outright Big Ten championship.

A year ago, the Buckeyes lost only two regular season games before winning both the conference's regular season and tournament crowns. The Buckeyes, an overwhelming favorite to advance to the Final Four, fell to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

In 2006-07, Matta's team lost only one game in Big Ten play before earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes went all the way to the NCAA championship game before falling to Florida – another No. 1 seed – in Atlanta.

Matta has also had experience with No. 2 seeds and the head coach, who's had mixed results when garnering one of the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament, hasn't found a tangible difference between the two placements.

"I haven't seen (a difference) if there is and we've been a one and a two twice and I can't say for sure – ‘Oh, that second game was so much easier being a one seed,'" Matta said. "I don't know if there is a huge difference in it."

On the surface, the logic seems to be fairly simple. If the Big Ten is indeed the nation's best – and deepest – group, the top team from that conference should be rewarded with one of the easier paths in the NCAA Tournament.

Matta, however, isn't holding out hope that will come to fruition, even if Ohio State earns the Big Ten Tournament title.

"From what I've just gone through, I'd say yes," Matta responded when asked if the best Big Ten team deserves a No. 1 seed. "I don't know if it would happen. The one thing I've always said is how other teams in the country would do going through a regular Big Ten season, but there's probably too much hypothetical involved in it.

"I know, just lobbying for the Big Ten, the different styles you face from night-to-night, the arenas we play in, that sort of thing, is it is a great challenge. But if one of the three of us wins the conference championship, I can see validity in it. I don't know if it will happen, though."

Top-ranked Kentucky and No. 2 Syracuse both seem to be locks for two of the four No. 1 seeds this year. Those teams, both currently 30-1, have enjoyed dominant regular season results that would warrant top seeds.

The remaining two seeds still seem to be up for grabs, though Ohio State and Michigan State – two teams that appeared in those spots in projections earlier in the season – currently seem to be on the outside looking in.

The three teams that tied for the Big Ten title all went 1-1 against each other and lost five times during conference play. The NCAA Tournament selection committee takes only an overall approach to each team's total body of work.

Ohio State's coaching staff isn't going to waste time thinking about seeding, as it is something completely out of their control. It's all about advancing in the conference tournament and waiting to hear their fate.

"It's all about matchups," Boals said. "That's all it is about."

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