With that in mind, BuckeyeSports.com turns an eye to the past with this compilation of the greatest hits the Buckeyes have had in the now 12-year-old Big Ten tournament.
2002 – No. 2 seed; finals victory against Iowa
The Buckeyes, sporting freshly shaved heads, bucked their recent trend in the tournament, sweeping through the tournament on the way to an 81-64 championship win against Iowa in the first-ever tournament in Indianapolis.
Ohio State, a four-way co-champion of the league with Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois in the regular season, had entered having lost three games in a row in Big Ten tournament play, including two upset losses the past two seasons in the quarterfinals while playing as the better seed.
"One of the things we talked about was doing well in this tournament because we have not had much success in this tournament the last couple of years," head coach Jim O'Brien said. "We didn't want to just settle for the fact that we're co-champs and used it as a little bit of a rallying cry."
Before OSU's triumph, the tournament was the Luke Recker Show, as the talented senior put the Hawkeyes on his back and hit last-second shots to down Wisconsin in the quarterfinals and his former squad, Indiana, in the semifinals.
His luck ran out against OSU though, as the ninth-seeded Hawkeyes could not turn his 21 points into a victory. Boban Savovic led all scorers with 27 while Brent Darby chipped in 14. The Buckeyes did not trail in the second half.
"It's a terrific milestone for our program and I couldn't be any prouder of the way our guys played against a very determined and very talented Iowa team," O'Brien said.
"We wanted to win it," Darby said. "That was the main thing. We came in here, we weren't about to win one game and go home."
Even athletic director Andy Geiger was pleased.
"I don't love this tournament," he said. "I love it today."
The Buckeyes opened the tournament with their third win against rival Michigan on the season, a 75-68 triumph in the quarterfinals. Five Buckeyes hit double figures, led by 14 points from freshman Terence Dials. The Buckeyes opened up a 15-2 lead and never trailed against the 10th-seeded Wolverines.
A day later, OSU advanced to the finals with a 94-88 win against third-seeded Illinois. Darby finished with 23 points while senior Brian Brown had 27 and made 12 of 13 free throws.
The Fighting Illini, featuring players like Luther Head, Brian Cook, Frank Williams, Cory Bradford and Robert Archibald, had won nine in a row coming in, prompting one commentator to say he would be "shocked" if Illinois lost again in the tournament.
"We replayed that comment for our guys a couple times earlier today," O'Brien said.
The Buckeyes later would have to vacate the wins because of the scandals that eventually cost O'Brien his job.
2003 – No. 9 seed; finals loss to Illinois
Ninth-seeded Ohio State rebounded from a sleepy 14-13 regular season to shockingly get to the finals before being bounced by a superior Illinois team, 72-59, in Chicago.
Still, O'Brien was proud of an injury-plagued team that came together during its final, last-ditch chance at an NCAA tourney bid.
"These kids really came together here in Chicago," he said. "They kept giving, giving, giving. We went down swinging, and I think that's a good trait for these kids."
The Buckeyes opened the tourney with a tough 66-65 win against eighth-seeded Iowa. Darby had 18 points, while Sean Connolly added 15 and Velimir Radinovic 14. The Buckeyes opened the second half with a 36-20 run to open a late 59-47 lead, but Iowa rebounded to tie the score at 64 before Darby's layup with 1.8 seconds left won the game.
"We just put the ball in the hands of our best player," O'Brien said before turning to a joke. "Sounds pretty sophisticated, doesn't it?"
Ohio State's reward for the win was a quarterfinal matchup with the No. 1 seed, Wisconsin. Bo Ryan's Badgers turned a 30-25 halftime deficit into a 36-31 lead 2:50 into the half, prompting O'Brien to call a timeout and deliver a red-faced sermon to his struggling team.
"The watered-down version doesn't exist," O'Brien said of what he bellowed during the timeout.
OSU responded with a 9-0 run and hung on to post a 58-50 win. Connolly made 5 of 7 three-pointers to lead the Buckeyes with 21 points, while Darby added 16.
The Buckeyes needed a little magic to defeat fifth-seeded Michigan State to get to the finals. An ugly game – the teams combined to make just 31 of 91 shots – came down to little-used reserve Charles Bass, who banked in a free throw with 6.1 seconds left to give the Buckeyes a 55-54 win.
"I wanted to foul (Bass) because he hasn't made a free throw or shot a free throw all year," Izzo said. "I wasn't going to let an 85-percent free throw shooter (in Darby) shoot two free throws."
Chris Hill missed a 13-foot jumper going the other way that would have won it.
"Our kids, the last couple of days, just stayed together," O'Brien said. "This was a terrific, terrific, terrific win for our guys."
The luck ran out a day later against No. 2 seed Illinois in the finals. The Fighting Illini opened a second-half lead as big as 22 points and an OSU rally could get the Buckeyes no closer than nine during a 72-59 loss.
Darby had 27 points while Connolly and Radinovic each had 12. Matt Sylvester, Shun Jenkins, Bass, Brandon Fuss-Cheatham, Emonte Jernigan and Zach Williams combined for eight points on 4-of-16 shooting in a combined 82 minutes.
2006 – No. 1 seed; finals loss to Iowa
Head coach Thad Matta's senior-laden Buckeye squad grabbed the Big Ten outright championship in his second year but could not pull off the same feat as Jim Foster's OSU women's team, which won both the conference regular-season and tournament titles.
Instead, the male Buckeyes had to settle for the regular-season version after a 67-60 loss to second-seeded Iowa in Indianapolis in which the Hawkeyes finished the game on a 15-3 run.
"I think it was pretty obvious we ran out of gas there down the stretch," Matta said. "We just didn't have enough to finish it off with nine scholarship players here. But I couldn't be prouder of the effort these guys brought and the intensity we played with."
The Buckeyes advanced to the finals with a 52-51 semifinal victory against fifth-seeded Indiana. Roderick Wilmont led IU with 16 points but missed a short rebound attempt with seconds to play. Sullinger, who had to be taped up after he was cut by an elbow from Earl Calloway, came down with the rebound as time expired.
OSU set the final score when senior Matt Sylvester made a layup with 36 seconds to play after taking a pass from Terence Dials after a backdoor cut.
"I told (Terence) after the game, I've been giving him assists for five years now, it's about time he gave me one," Sylvester said.
The Buckeyes opened the tourney with a 63-56 win against Penn State, which entered the tournament as the eighth seed. A year after erasing a 15-point second-half PSU lead, the Buckeyes had to make another comeback, this time chipping away at a 42-30 deficit after intermission.
The Buckeyes took the lead for good on a layup by senior Je'Kel Foster with 4:54 remaining that made the score 52-51.
"I think the competitive nature really took over," Matta said. "It's a tremendous environment here in Indy. I think they decided they were going to make the plays, and we were a little more active."
Ron Lewis led the Buckeyes with 17 points while Dials had 13 and Sullinger, Butler and Sylvester had nine apiece. Columbus native Jamelle Cornley had 18 for Penn State and Geary Claxton had 12 and 12 for a double-double.
2007 – No. 1 seed; finals win against Wisconsin
A Buckeye team ranked No. 1 in the nation was helped by contributors both young – in freshmen Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. – and old – seniors Ron Lewis and Ivan Harris – as it swept through the final Big Ten tournament in Chicago with wins against Michigan and NCAA tourney squads Purdue and Wisconsin.
"I think it was a statement," Conley said. "Three games in three days is a tough thing to do."
The triumph was punctuated by a title-game win over Wisconsin. Though OSU needed a last-second shot to beat the Badgers in Value City Arena during a No. 1 vs. No. 2 clash that was the season's penultimate game, the Buckeyes had less trouble this time around thanks to a 66-49 victory over the No. 2 seed.
Ohio State kept Wisconsin to a field-goal percentage of 36.8 percent (21-57) and a three-point percentage of 17.4 percent (4-23). Kammron Taylor had 15 points for UW but league player of the year Alando Tucker had just 10. The two combined to make 10 of 31 shots from the field.
"We knew that Tucker and Taylor were going to try to take the majority of their shots," Matta said. "The big thing was the activity we could create to force them out a little bit farther."
Ohio State scored 40 points in the second half to pull away to the win after taking a 26-20 lead into the break. Oden was limited to just 22 minutes because of foul trouble, but he finished with 12 points and pulled in 10 rebounds. Conley topped all scorers with 18 points and Lewis chipped in 17.
The semifinal win for Ohio State came against fifth-seeded Purdue. The star was Oden, who finished with 17 points, a Big Ten tournament record 19 rebounds, and one putback dunk over Carl Landry that ignited the crowd and sent Oden screaming down the court with arms outstretched.
"I don't know what I did," Oden said. "I was just yelling. I enjoyed it."
Lewis (13 points), Conley (11) and Harris (10) also hit double figures the Buckeyes, who finished the game on a 21-9 run after Lewis and Harris said some key words in the huddle during a timeout with the Buckeyes trailing 43-42.
The Buckeyes opened the tournament with a 72-62 win over the No. 8 seed and rival Michigan, the squad with which OSU had closed the regular season six days earlier. Oden had 22 points while Lewis finished with 16 and Conley had 13 to go with six assists.
Michigan hit five three-pointers during a nine-minute second-half stretch to close OSU's lead from 42-32 to 52-49, but Oden scored five points over the next two possessions to kill the Wolverines' rally.
As his team cut down the nets after the win over Wisconsin, Matta had a proclamation that turned out to be true, as his team was about to embark on a run that would culminate in the national championship game appearance.
"This basketball team's not done yet," the coach said.