A No. 2 seed this year, Ohio State starts a run at a 10th Final Four when it plays 15th-seeded Loyola (Md.) on Thursday night in the second round of the East Regional. The Buckeyes (27-7) were a tri-champion of the Big Ten this season. Loyola (24-8) finished second in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and won the conference tournament to seal its second NCAA tournament berth, 22 behind the Buckeyes. Ohio State's Jared Sullinger was a first-team All-America last season as a freshman. He averaged 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds this season while earning All-Big Ten honors.
Thad Matta has taken the Buckeyes to the NCAA tournament six times in his eight seasons, and they have reached the round of 16 three times, including the national runner-up finish in 2007. Loyola is making just their second appearance and first since 1994, when they lost to Arizona in the first round, 81-55. The Greyhounds have won 12 of their last 15, including the MAAC championship, but shouldn't pose a threat to Ohio State. Loyola finished second in the regular season MAAC standings, two games behind fellow tourney participant, Iona. The Greyhounds only played one ranked team this season, which was Kentucky back on Dec. 22, a game they were down just six at halftime, before losing by 24.
Jimmy Patsos's squad scores roughly 68 PPG, but managed just 48 in their MAAC championship game 10 days ago. I know Sully is a great player and he is probably playing his last games as a Buckeye, but this team isn't going to win if he is taking every shot. William Buford and Deshaun Thomas took a combined seven shots in the second half Sunday, three of which were in the last :37 seconds of the game, while Sully took 16 shots in the second. If the Buckeyes can feed off of Sully's success, their balance should be more than enough to neutralize Loyola.
The Buckeyes can't have a good taste in their mouth after letting one slip away on Sunday. They want to put the recent tourney woes behind them and make a mark on OSU history. The stars are aligning for it to happen, so we can only hope they remain unselfish on offense and continue their solid work on D.