Buckeyes Ready To Dance

After a one-year break from NCAA Tournament play, the Ohio State Buckeyes will get a chance to take part in the dance this season. After losing to Purdue in the Big Ten tournament's title game, the Buckeyes heard their names called live on national television -- albeit for a bit lower seed than they had hoped.

INDIANAPOLIS – This time one year ago was a time of uncertainty for Jon Diebler and the Ohio State Buckeyes.

After putting together a 19-13 record that included a loss in the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes sat in a room at the Jerome Schottenstein Center and waited in vain for their names to be called for the NCAA Tournament. It was an awkward silence that then fell over the room as 65 teams not named Ohio State saw their names appear on television as having been invited to the Big Dance.

Then a freshman, Diebler and his fellow Buckeyes who would return for another year made a vow that they would not experience that feeling again.

"We've been saying all year there's no way we're going back to the NIT," Diebler said. "It's been motivation all year for us, especially the guys on last year's team. We knew we let a year slip away."

They made good on that vow. The Buckeyes will take part in the NCAA Tournament after a one-year absence, drawing a No. 8 seed in the Midwest bracket.

OSU's opening-round matchup against No. 9 seed Siena from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will be played Friday just a short drive from Columbus in Dayton, Ohio.

The Saints actually have more NCAA Tournament wins than the active scholarship members of the OSU roster do: as a No. 13 seed in last year's tournament, they knocked off No. 4 seed Vanderbilt before falling to No. 12 seed Villanova. At the same time, the Buckeyes were making a run through the NIT.

OSU head coach Thad Matta said he is aware of those facts.

"I've heard a lot about them throughout the course of the season," he said. "They're a very worthy opponent."

The Buckeyes played one foe from the MAAC this season, defeating Iona by a 71-53 margin Dec. 20. It marked the first game they played without junior forward David Lighty, who suffered a fractured foot in the team's previous game and is likely out for the rest of the season.

Siena swept the season series with Iona this season, winning a 69-68 game at home Jan. 26 and beat the Gaels on their home court by a 75-60 score Feb. 16. The Saints had a tough non-conference schedule, losing to Tennessee, Pittsburgh and Oklahoma State. Ironically, all three of those teams will also be playing in Dayton, albeit in a different cluster.

The winner of the OSU-Siena game will likely earn the unenviable task of playing the country's top-seeded No. 1 seed in Louisville in a Sunday game.

After a run in the Big Ten tournament that ended with a four-point loss to Purdue in the title game, the Buckeyes were hoping for a higher seed. Entering the day's action, OSU was projected as high as a No. 6 seed by some analysts.

Falling to a No. 8 seed was a snub that will motivate the Buckeyes, junior point guard P.J. Hill said.

"We hoped for maybe a higher seed," Hill said. "Losing this game kind of set us back. If we had won this game we probably would've had a higher seed. We thought we were a for-sure seven (seed), but they gave Boston College the seven seed.

"It's definitely motivation. People still sleep on us and call us the underdog so we're going to ride that wave."

The Eagles will play No. 10 seed USC in Minneapolis on Friday in the Midwest bracket. In all, seven Big Ten teams made the tournament.

Regardless of the road his team might have to face in the tournament, Matta said he is pleased to have a game so close to home. The Buckeyes played two games in Dayton in the 2006 NCAA Tournament, defeating Davidson before falling to Georgetown in the second round.

"That's great," he said. "I love the fact that we're in Dayton. I love the fact that we are close (to home)." So, too, are the Buckeyes, who now have a chance to see what the tournament is all about. "I'm just happy to get in," sophomore center Dallas Lauderdale said. "We know they're a great team. We've just got to come in and do work, play like we know how to play, feed off of how we played in this tournament and play well."


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