OSU-UC: It's About Time

Ohio State and Cincinnati are convenient prospective rivals in basketball. But for many reasons unknown to the public, it's taken over 44 years for the two to finally meet. That drought will come to an end on Saturday, and "it's about time," says Kyle Lamb. He chimes in with his thoughts on the meeting.

The time it takes to travel from the University of Cincinnati to The Ohio State University is about an hour and 40 minutes up or down I-71, plus or minus a few because of traffic. Despite the proximity, it's taken over 44 years for these two intrastate non-rivals to clash.

That's all coming to an end this Saturday afternoon. Ironically, the two teams will break the drought that's spanned nearly half a century at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, when the Buckeyes and Bearcats meet in the Wooden Tradition.

Although the game is a couple of decades late, it's being met with plenty of anticipation. The luster is less this season with Cincinnati's transition to new head basketball coach Mick Cronin, but the importance is not.

There's no real answer as to why these two powers haven't met on the hardwood since the 1962 National Championship game, won by the Bearcats 71-59. There's been plenty of conjecture, a plethora of excuses and a lot of uncertainty, but the bottom line is that the two universities never saw eye-to-eye as to when, where and under what circumstances their basketball teams would play one another.

All-time, the series is tied at four games apiece, but considering neither Thad Matta nor Cronin were alive the last time these two teams met, that's nothing more than ancient history. A majority of fans of either institution barely are old enough to stroll that far down memory lane to recall a game that occurred four decades ago.

The "reasons" for the Buckeyes and Bearcats missing one another have been documented. Some say Ohio State didn't want to grant a home-and-home to Cincinnati when Andy Geiger was the athletic director. Others say Ohio State was using the reported graduation percentage of Bob Huggins' program as an excuse. Some may suggest it was as simple as Jim O'Brien not wanting to risk being considered as the second-best program in Ohio.

Of course, these reasons (or excuses) only explain the last 10 years or so. It does not account for the 30 years prior, coming off two exciting clashes in 1960 and 1962 that could have fueled a historic rivalry ever since.

What's done is done. No one is able to rewrite history. It's a shame it took until Dec. 16, 2006 before they finally renew their previous 8-game series in what feels like the prehistoric ages.

What's worse is that the usually illogical NCAA took many steps to do what the schools' own athletic directors could not or would not do - match the two teams against one another.

Of course, the attempt failed. But it wasn't for a lack of trying.

In 2002, Cincinnati was a No. 1 seed in the West region while Ohio State was a 4-seed. Both teams missed the opportunity to play one another by losing to UCLA and Missouri in the second round respectively.

In the 2000 NCAA Tournament, Cincinnati was a No. 2 seed with Ohio State a No. 3 seed, both in the South region. Again, both teams suffered losses in the second round that would have provided a chance for the two teams to meet in the Sweet Sixteen. Ohio State tripped up against 6-seed Miami (Fla.) with Cincinnati being upset by No. 7 seed Tulsa.

It was another close call back in 1992. Cincinnati made the Final Four by virtue of an 88-57 victory against Memphis. The Bearcats would have met the Buckeyes in the National Seminfinal if Ohio State had taken care of business. The Buckeyes lost to arch-rival Michigan in the Southeast regional final 75-71 in overtime, leaving the two one game short.

There probably have been an abundance of close calls over the years. Whether it's fate, bad luck or something else, it just hasn't come to fruition.

Unless someone steps up and confesses to being a roadblock in the series renewal, the situation will have to remain blameless in the public's eye. For both Ohio State and Cincinnati fans wanting to see the two teams clash annually, this was a good start thanks to new OSU AD Gene Smith and Matta - who both have put a higher emphasis on the prospective rivalry.

It's unfortunate to those fans that will drive three hours (or in some cases more) to see the two teams in another state, spend about two hours to pack up and go home. Hopefully it won't be another 44 years until the play again. After all, for as long as an ordinary game takes, either team could make the drive up or down I-71 and play anywhere, any time.

Forty years to play 40 minutes of basketball. It seems so simple and yet it's been so complicated.

But it's about time.

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