Buckeyes Get A Title Reminder

The games do not start until Friday for Ohio State, but the Buckeyes will not have to wait that long for a reminder of what they are playing for. In this article, see what sort of memento right inside the team's locker room has the Buckeyes remembering what they are playing for.

MILWAUKEE – If Ohio State had any doubt about what it is playing for, the Buckeyes got a visible reminder upon arriving at their locker room. Immediately upon entering where OSU will prepare for its first-round NCAA Tournament games sits a glass trophy case.

Among the awards on display behind the glass is a 1977 NCAA championship trophy, an honor earned that season by Marquette. But for sophomore guard William Buford, it was not the first time he had ever seen such a trophy.

"When I went on my visit to Michigan State (while being recruited), that's when I saw one," he said.

It is that sort of history that head coach Thad Matta and his players are hoping to change this March. After earning a No. 2 seed in the East bracket, the Buckeyes arrived in Milwaukee on Wednesday night and are preparing for Friday's tip against UC Santa Barbara (9:45 p.m., CBS).

Earlier this season, OSU honored the lone national championship team in school history. That came back in 1960.

Since then, 15 Big Ten teams have reached the title game. Indiana has won three national titles and the Spartans have brought home two.

Now with a roster that features four ironmen and two rotating centers, the Buckeyes are hoping to make it back to the title game for the first time in three seasons.

As they filed into their locker room at the Bradley Center, most of the players took note of the trophies.

"It snapped in my head that ‘you're here to get a trophy,' " junior guard Evan Turner said. "It definitely adds to your hunger after getting cut in the first round last year."

Recent tournament history has not been kind to OSU. Last year, the Buckeyes went out in a double-overtime loss to Siena. One year before that, they missed the tournament entirely and ran to a NIT title instead.

Returning all but one player from last year's team, OSU set the bar high this season. The goals were laid out in the early going: win the Big Ten, capture the conference tournament trophy and then win the NCAA Tournament.

At this point in the season, two out of three ain't bad.

"We wanted to prove that we were the best in the Big Ten," Buford said. "That was just a piece of what we wanted. We want the big prize, which is a national title. It felt pretty good (to win the conference tournament), but we weren't too much stuck on it."

Head coach Thad Matta said he did not notice the trophies as he entered the locker room, adding that he would not use them as any sort of motivation for his players. The Buckeyes also share the locker room with Pitt, which captured a No. 3 seed in the West and also is playing in Milwaukee.

Junior Dallas Lauderdale might have summed it up best. As the Buckeyes filed into the locker room with each player wearing headphones, the starting center casually regarded the display case with a sense of purpose.

"We went straight forward and focused," he said. "Everybody had their music on and we were focused. We'll do what we have to do."

Matta said that is what he has been preaching to his players with postseason play upon them.

"They're a fun group of guys," he said. "They're a bunch of guys who get along well. The big thing for them is have an understanding of when we walk out here to practice, you practice. When you deal with the media, you deal with the media. When it's time to play the game, you play the game."

And when it's time to win trophies…

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