Uncommon Underdog

When Ohio State takes the court tomorrow it will be as the lowest seed in program history. Head coach Thad Matta, however, knows a bit about being the underdog.

When 10th-seeded Ohio State opens NCAA Tournament play against seventh-seeded VCU tomorrow the Buckeyes will be in the unfamiliar role of tournament underdog, sort of.

The odds makers projected Ohio State as a one-point favorite over the Rams when the betting lines opened and the Buckeyes (23-10) have since moved to a four-point favorite. In terms of seeding, however, Ohio State is projected to lose to the Rams tomorrow in Portland, Ore.

“The seeding doesn’t mean much,” senior Shannon Scott said. “We know we’ve got to play a team and beat them to advance. We’re a 10-seed, I don’t think any of us care about that. We’re happy to be in the tournament and we just want to play our best ball.”

While the team may not care about the number next to their name, it is historically significant. It is the lowest seed that Ohio State has had in program history (dating back to 1979 when the tournament began seeding teams).

It also matches the lowest seed that a Thad Matta coached team has ever received as the current Buckeyes head coach piloted Butler to a 10-seed in his first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2001.

Matta has experience winning as a higher seed, having gone 4-4 in NCAA Tournament games against teams projected to win by seeds. The coach did say that the approach is not the same when coaching Ohio State as a 10-seed than it was in his first go around with Butler.

“There is a difference,” he said. “The last thing I showed that Butler team, the night before the game one of the stations had gotten a hold of the Wake Forest players being interviewed and they’re like, ‘Butler, Butler? I’m not sure where it is.’”

That obviously is not an option this year as Ohio State is a nationally known program regardless of its seed.

While Matta has done well coaching a lower seeded team, current Buckeyes have played in just one tournament game as the lower seed, a win over top-seeded Syracuse as a two-seed in 2012. The current Buckeye seniors were freshmen on that squad.

Matta said he doesn’t mind if the Buckeyes approach their game with VCU with an underdog mindset.

“So having that mental toughness, you have to lean on your seniors in this one in that uniqueness of keeping that fire going the whole time form warm-ups to that final horn,” the coach said. “Some of the teams that I’ve had that have done well in the tournament have had a little bit of a chip on their shoulder in terms of wanting to do something special. Hopefully our guys will have that chip.”

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