Buckeyes Welcome Champs Back To Campus

This year's Ohio State men's basketball team has not seen highlights from the program's lone national championship team. Instead, they will get the chance to see history up close and in person this weekend as the 1960 Buckeye squad makes a visit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their title.

William Buford has not seen any film of Ohio State's 1960 national championship team, but that has not affected his thoughts for the squad.

"I heard they were real good though," he said with a smile.

The sophomore guard for the Buckeyes has had a chance to find out up close this weekend as the program's lone championship team is making a return visit to Columbus to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its 75-55 victory against California. Not only will they be honored at halftime of OSU's game against Minnesota (1 p.m., CBS), but they had the opportunity to mingle with this year's team as well as paying fans during a banquet celebration last night.

Junior center Dallas Lauderdale said he was planning to use the situation to his advantage.

"It's real special," he said. "They did what we're trying to do. They went through everything we're going through and they conquered it. It's going to be special to get the knowledge and the advice and everything from them."

That year's team featured the likes of Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and a reserve by the name of Robert Knight – better known as Bob. Both Lauderdale and Buford listed Knight as one person they were looking forward to speaking to.

"Even though we've seen him broadcasting games, I'm exited to have a conversation with him, talk to him and see what he has to say about us and our team," Lauderdale said.

For Havlicek, it will not mark his first return to OSU during head coach Thad Matta's tenure. The first-team All-American as a senior spoke with the Buckeyes during Matta's first season the night prior to his team's home contest against a nationally ranked Wisconsin team.

The final the next day: Wisconsin 64, OSU 56.

"We went out and played the worst game we played ever," Matta said. "I remember as the game was winding down saying to myself, ‘Jeeze, Mr. Havlicek got to see this today.'

"He won't be speaking to the team (before the Minnesota game), but we're excited to have him back."

As Buford pointed out, this generation of players feels removed from the program's lone championship team. This week, Matta said he is preaching a few things about that group of players to his current team.

The key lesson is the fact that not only did Havlicek and Lucas help lead the Buckeyes to a title, but they also helped them reach the title game in the next two seasons only to fall short to Cincinnati in consecutive title games.

Matta's 2006-07 squad fell to Florida in the national championship game, but the ensuing season saw OSU miss the tournament entirely and capture the NIT championship instead. The Buckeyes have not won an NCAA Tournament game since.

"In our short time here we've been in that position of playing for the national championship," the coach said. "I know how those guys that played in that game are revered. To have the championship trophy is truly special. I think our guys have a very good appreciation and understanding for who is going to be here."

Of course, the 1960 team had the advantage of keeping players for longer than one year. Matta's title-appearance team lost three freshman to the NBA, while each of his next two teams lost one freshman apiece.

Lucas, on the other hand, was a three-time Big Ten player of the year and a two-time pick as the most valuable player in the Final Four. He averaged 24.3 points and 17.2 rebounds during his three seasons in Columbus and departed as the school's all-time leading scorer.

"It's staggering," Matta said of Lucas' production. "It's amazing. I've heard for many, many years that Coach Knight … said he's the best ever to play in the Big Ten. To average for a career 17 rebounds is mind-boggling. I don't know if we average that many as a team."

For the record, the 2009-10 OSU squad is averaging 33.7 boards a contest.

So the members of the 1960 title team will be in attendance for the game against the Golden Gophers. Matta said his hope is that his players take note of more than just the national championship under their belts.

"As I told our guys, you look at across the board what these guys went on and accomplished in life, it's really amazing," the coach said. "I'm excited to have them back."

Even Havlicek.

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