Ohio State Buckeyes looking to build on Big Ten Tournament run as No. 2 seed in NCAA

Ohio State is going to play in the NCAA Tournament for the 34th time (including vacated appearances) and looking for national championship No. 2.

The Buckeyes are a No. 2 seed for the third time in program history and have the highest seed so far of the Chris Holtmann era.

ExploreBuckeyes one of three teams from Ohio in field of 68

Here are five things to know about the next trip to the Big Dance for Ohio State:

1. Their opponent is Oral Roberts.

The 15th-seeded Golden Eagles made the tournament with the automatic bid from winning the Summit League Tournament. They are 16-10 and finished fourth in the regular season standings but won three games in three days to earn their first Big Dance invitation since 2008.

Oral Roberts, a private school of about 3,000 students in Tulsa, Okla., has made five trips to the NCAA Tournament and come away with a pair of victories. The most recent win for the Golden Eagles was a 96-93 decision over Louisville in 1974.

2. Oral Roberts leads the nation in 3-pointers per game.

The Golden Eagles have made 294 treys in 26 games. The total is third in the country behind Alabama and Toledo, who both played more games, and their 11.3 per game leads the country.

At 38.9, ORU is eighth in the country in 3-point percentage and will be statistically speaking the best long-range shooting team Ohio State has faced.

Their lineup features Max Abmas, a 6-foot-1 sophomore guard who leads the nation in scoring at 24.2 points per game, and Kevin Obanor, a 6-8 junior forward who was fifth in the Summit League with 18.2 points per game.

Oral Roberts guard Max Abmas (3) shoots between Oklahoma State guard Keylan Boone (20) and guard Bryce Williams (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Stillwater, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Oral Roberts guard Max Abmas (3) shoots between Oklahoma State guard Keylan Boone (20) and guard Bryce Williams (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, in Stillwater, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Credit: Sue Ogrocki

Credit: Sue Ogrocki

The Buckeyes are 208th in 3-point percentage defense (34.1) this season.

3. Ohio State is looking to recharge after playing four games in four days at the Big Ten Tournament.

The Buckeyes won tight games against Minnesota, Purdue and Michigan before losing the championship game in overtime to Illinois on Sunday.

They ended up with a No. 2 seed, which was what was widely projected before they started the postseason but higher than expected when the season began.

“I think recovery is one of the biggest things right now, especially for the guys who spent as many minutes playing against these great teams,” point guard CJ Walker told reporters after the Big Ten title game. “Some guys are sore and banged up. Recovery will be big for us. Going into March, we need everybody to contribute at a high level.”

Whether or not they will have Kyle Young is uncertain. The senior forward missed the semifinals and finals in the Big Ten Tournament after taking an elbow to the head against Purdue on Friday.

“I don’t know yet on him to be honest with you,” Holtmann said Sunday. “I don’t know and I’m not sure when we’ll know specifically on him. He was with us. He was in the locker room today.”

ExploreThese area players are headed to the Big Dance

4. Holtmann conceded getting three wins at the Big Ten Tournament could provide a lift for his team.

The Buckeyes were riding high in the middle of February and projected to be a No. 1 seed, but they lost their last four games of the regular season to tumble to fifth in the Big Ten.

They snapped that streak with a win over Minnesota then got revenge on Purdue and knocked off regular season Big Ten champion Michigan on Thursday-Saturday.

“The guys tasted an opportunity to win a championship,” Holtmann said. “It was important for us to play well. As I had said, I didn’t think we played that poorly in that closing stretch other than in the Iowa game. We needed to raise our level and we did that.”

5. Ohio State is looking to win in the first round of the tournament for the third straight time and end a Sweet 16 drought that began in 2014 with Dayton’s upset of the Buckeyes in the round of 64.

“I’ll wait before I make too many postscripts about this team,” Holtmann said. “I am well aware of where we were picked early. I feel really good about this group, but we are still climbing. We just have to stay as positive as possible.”

His first two OSU tournament teams were seeded No. 5 and 11, respectively and won first-round games before losing to better-seeded teams in round two.

This time the Buckeyes will be the favorite if they get to the round of 32, where they would face No. 7 Florida or No. 10 Virginia Tech.

The path to the school’s 12th Final Four could include Baylor, the No. 1 seed in the region, and getting to the national championship game might require a third matchup with Illinois, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest.

“We know there are no guarantees in the tournament,” said Holtmann, whose program won the 1960 national championship and finished second the following two seasons with a lineup that featured Middletown legend Jerry Lucas. “We need to continue to find a way to do that. Every game is a challenge in the tournament. There are no easy ones.”

FRIDAY’S GAME

Ohio State vs. Oral Roberts, 3 p.m., CBS, 1410

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