COLUMBUS, Ohio — This much is known: Ohio State basketball will play in the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
What is less certain is where the Buckeyes will dance for the first time since the 2014-15 season. There are three prime locations for Ohio State among the eight cities that will host the first two rounds, with Detroit, Pittsburgh and Nashville all in the rotation in 2018. But the Buckeyes have a different geography problem — those sites also happen to be close to a slew of better teams. Instead, the Buckeyes could find themselves relegated to San Diego, Dallas or Boise, Idaho.
The following teams are in Ohio or states that border Ohio and are ranked ahead of the Buckeyes in the most recent AP Top 25: No. 2 Michigan State, No. 3 Villanova, No. 4 Xavier, No. 8 Purdue and No. 11 Cincinnati. As the NCAA notes, proximity is key for top teams: “Teams will remain in or as close to their areas of natural interest as possible. A team moved out of its natural area will be placed in the next closest region to the extent possible. If two teams from the same natural region are in contention for the same bracket position, the team ranked higher in the seed list shall remain in its natural region.”
As such, Villanova is virtually a lock to end up in Pittsburgh, and Xavier could play there, too, if it finishes as a No. 1 seed. Michigan State is likely to end up in Detroit, and Purdue would likely be assigned either Detroit or Nashville. Auburn, another top team, is also a strong possibility for Nashville.
All of those teams figure to be No. 1-3 seeds, which means that they will be paired against No. 6-8 seeds. At this point, the Buckeyes appear trapped in the No. 4-5 range.
Ohio State NCAA Tournament projections, Feb. 24
|CBS Sports||No. 5||San Diego|
|USA Today||No. 4||San Diego|
|Washington Post||No. 5||Dallas|
The projections listed above reflect an unfortunate reality for the Buckeyes. Though there are a number of sites close to Ohio, there are also quite a few teams likely to earn a higher seeding that are also near those cities.
Ohio State still will have a manageable path to the Sweet 16, but it likely will begin more than 1,000 miles from home.
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