Ohio State has a rich NCAA Tournament tradition through the years including appearing in four of the first eight Final Fours. The Buckeyes return this season to college basketball’s version of the Promised Land, taking on Kansas on March 31 in the national semifinals at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
It will mark the program’s 11th trip to the Final Four, the sixth most in tournament history.
North Carolina and UCLA are tied for the most Final Four appearances with 18 each. Next is Kentucky, which this season makes a 15th trip to the Final Four to tie Duke for third most, while Kansas will be making trip No. 14 this year.
Ohio State began making Final Four treks in 1939 – the NCAA Tournament’s inaugural year – and has appeared in three consecutive Final Fours on two occasions. The Buckeyes were among the tournament’s final four teams from 1944 through 1946 and made three straight trips again in 1960-62.
The 1960 appearance resulted in the program’s only national title, including a 75-55 blowout of defending champion California in the championship game.
Here are brief recaps of Ohio State’s previous 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament’s Final Four.
1939 – The first-ever NCAA Tournament featured an eight-team field consisting of seven conference champions and one independent. East region teams were Brown, Ohio State, Villanova and Wake Forest, while Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Utah State represented the West.
Quarterfinal matches weren’t close with each advancing team winning by double digits. The same held true in the semifinals as OSU rolled to a 53-36 victory over Villanova while Oregon easily dispatched Oklahoma by a 55-37 final.
In the title game, held in Patten Gymnasium on the Northwestern campus in Evanston, Ill., the Howard Hobson-coached Ducks scored a 46-33 win over the Buckeyes to capture the title. Ohio State took a measure of solace when All-America forward Jimmy Hull was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
1944 – Ohio State made a return trip to the tournament as part of an eight-team field that also featured Catholic, Temple and Dartmouth in the East region as well as Iowa State, Missouri, Pepperdine and Utah from the West.
The Buckeyes drew Temple in the quarterfinal round and dealt the Owls a 57-47 loss at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Back at the Garden for the semifinals, OSU wasn’t quite as fortunate, falling to Dartmouth by a 60-53 final.
The Big Green went on to lose a 42-40 decision to Utah in the championship game. The Utes were led by freshman Arnie Ferrin, who was named the tournament MVP. Ferrin went on to become the only four-time All-American in Utah history and led the team to the 1947 NIT title as a senior.
1945 – The 1945 tournament was filled with legendary coaches including Adolph Rupp of Kentucky, Henry Iba of Oklahoma A&M, Howard Cann of NYU and Harold Olsen of Ohio State. Each would later be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
The Buckeyes were joined in the East region by Kentucky, NYU and upstart Tufts University while the West was represented by Arkansas, Oklahoma A&M, Oregon and Utah.
OSU got past Kentucky in the quarterfinals by a 45-37 score, but the Buckeyes dropped a 70-65 overtime thriller to NYU in the semifinals. The Violets advanced to the championship final, where they lost a 49-45 final to Oklahoma A&M. The Cowboys’ 7-foot center Bob Kurland, who won Olympic gold medals with the U.S. basketball team in 1948 and 1952, was the tournament MVP.
1946 – The Cowboys and Kurland were back to defend their title in ’46 and were joined in the West region by Baylor, California and Colorado. Meanwhile, Ohio State was making its third straight tournament appearance and was part of an East region that included NYU, North Carolina and Harvard.
The Buckeyes rolled to a 46-38 win in their quarterfinal match with Harvard but came up short again in overtime in the semis, losing a hard-fought 60-57 decision to North Carolina. Meanwhile, A&M (now known as Oklahoma State), sailed through Baylor and Cal before notching a 43-40 win over the Tar Heels in the championship final.
Kurland repeated as tournament MVP and Iba claimed his second straight national championship. That was a first-ever feat in the NCAA Tournament and would not be repeated until a Bill Russell-led San Francisco won back-to-back titles in 1955 and ’56.
The 1946 tournament marked the first time that losers of the national semifinal games played one another for a third-place trophy. Ohio State captured that honor with a 63-45 victory over Cal, thanks in part to 19 points from junior center Jack Underman. The third-place game would continue through the 1981 tournament.
1960 – Thanks to a strong class of high school stars signed in 1958, Ohio State made the first of three consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament championship game.
By 1960, the tournament had expanded to include 25 teams playing in four regions. The Buckeyes were included in the six-team Mideast region along with Georgia Tech, Miami (Fla.), Notre Dame, Ohio University and Western Kentucky.
Tournament teams were not seeded in those days, but OSU received an opening-round bye before facing high-scoring Western Kentucky, which was coming off a 107-84 pasting of Miami in the regional quarterfinals. But the Hilltoppers had no answer for Ohio State sophomore center Jerry Lucas, who totaled 36 points and 25 rebounds during a 98-79 victory. Lucas’ point total remains an OSU record for an NCAA Tournament game.
The Buckeyes went on to coast to an 86-69 victory over Georgia Tech in the regional finals, giving the team its first trip to the Final Four in 14 years. OSU then proceeded to run roughshod over its opponents, first taking a 76-54 decision over NYU before blowing away defending national champion California by the 75-55 score in the title game.
Lucas was named tournament MVP after averaging 24.0 points and 16.0 rebounds in four games.
1961 – With Lucas returning along with junior classmate John Havlicek and senior captain Larry Siegfried, Ohio State was a heavy favorite to repeat as the national champion. The Buckeyes, who entered the tournament with a perfect 24-0 record, were placed in a Mideast region that included such perennial heavyweights as Kentucky and Louisville as well as such underdogs as Morehead State, Ohio University and Xavier.
Following a first-round bye, OSU had some difficulty with Louisville before scoring a 56-55 squeaker over the Cardinals. The regional final was a much more comfortable affair as the Buckeyes got 33 points and 30 rebounds from Lucas during an 87-74 win over Kentucky. The rebound mark established another OSU record in an NCAA Tournament game for Lucas.
In the national semifinal game against St. Joseph’s, coached by the famed Dr. Jack Ramsay, the Buckeyes ran away with a 95-69 victory. But two days later, they were denied a second straight title when Cincinnati landed four players in double figures and scored a 70-65 upset win.
Lucas was again named the tournament’s most valuable player after averaging 24.5 points and 18.3 rebounds during his four games.
St. Joseph’s won the third-place game with a 127-120 win in four overtimes over Utah. No NCAA Tournament game has since gone to four overtimes. The victory was later vacated when St. Joseph’s was rocked by a gambling scandal.
1962 – The Buckeyes were determined to avenge their only loss from the year before and sailed into the 1962 tournament fresh off a third straight Big Ten title and a 23-1 regular-season record.
OSU found some familiar faces in the Mideast region as Western Kentucky and Kentucky again qualified for tournament play. But neither team from the Bluegrass State could get past the Buckeyes as the Hilltoppers dropped a 93-73 decision in the semifinals before the Wildcats were victimized in the regional finals by a 74-64 decision.
Those victories sent Ohio State back to the Final Four, and the team sailed through Wake Forest, 84-68, in the semifinals. But Lucas sustained an injury in that contest and wasn’t his normal self for the championship game rematch with Cincinnati. The OSU star still accounted for 11 points and 16 rebounds, but the Bearcats got 22 points and 19 boards from center Paul Hogue to win a surprisingly easy 71-59 decision.
Despite the fact he averaged 18.0 points and 15.0 rebounds during the tournament, Lucas was denied a third straight MVP trophy as the award went to Hogue, who had averaged 29.0 points and 19.0 rebounds in the Final Four.
1968 – Legendary head coach Fred Taylor appeared in his fourth and final Final Four, guiding an overachieving team to a tie for the Big Ten championship.
The Buckeyes were back in the Mideast region, joined by the likes of Bowling Green, East Tennessee State, Kentucky, Marquette and Florida State. OSU received a first-round bye despite going only 18-7 during the regular season. Its first tournament action came in the regional semifinals and resulted in a 79-72 win over East Tennessee State.
That set up a regional final vs. Kentucky, and the Buckeyes squeezed out an 82-81 victory thanks to a combined 45 points and 19 rebounds from senior forward Bill Hosket and sophomore center Dave Sorenson.
Unfortunately for Ohio State, it ran into a North Carolina buzz saw in the national semifinals and bowed with an 80-66 loss. The Tar Heels went on to lose a 78-55 decision to UCLA in the title game, giving the Bruins their fourth national championship in five years. Lew Alcindor (who later became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) was named tourney MVP.
The Buckeyes took home the third-place trophy following an 89-85 win over an Elvin Hayes-led Houston team. Junior forward John Howell scored 26 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in that game for OSU while Hosket added 19 points and 17 boards. Hayes had game-high totals of 34 points and 16 rebounds for the Cougars.
1999 – Ohio State ended a 31-year Final Four drought with an improbable postseason run by a team that had finished with an 8-22 record the year before.
The NCAA Tournament had undergone lots of changes since the Buckeyes had been away, including an expansion to include 64 teams. OSU entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed in the South region and opened with double-digit victories over Murray State (72-58) and Detroit (75-44) before bouncing No. 1 seed Auburn by a 72-63 final.
That set up a regional final vs. third-seeded St. John’s, and the Buckeyes scored a 77-74 victory over the Red Storm to earn a trip to the Final Four in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The magical postseason run ended there, however, with a 64-58 loss to eventual champion Connecticut. The Buckeyes were victimized by a cold second half from the floor as they made only 8 of 33 attempts (24.2 percent). Ohio State guards Michael Redd and Scoonie Penn totaled 15 and 11 points, respectively, in the title game but shot a collective 10 for 31 (32.2 percent) for the contest.
Five years later, Ohio State’s feel-good march to the Final Four as well as most of the team’s victories from 1999 through 2002 were vacated due to NCAA violations committed during head coach Jim O’Brien’s tenure.
2007 – Third-year head coach Thad Matta put together a team that featured several veterans and a mix of talented freshmen, and that formula propelled the Buckeyes all the way to the national championship game.
Ohio State carried a 30-3 record into the tournament, earning a No. 1 seed in the South region. An opening-round 78-57 rout of Central Connecticut preceded a pair of heart-pounding victories – a 78-71 overtime win over Xavier followed by an 85-84 victory over Tennessee to get to the regional finals.
There, the battle-tested Buckeyes took out second-seeded Memphis, getting 22 points from senior guard Ron Lewis during a 92-76 decision to advance to the Final Four at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
During the national semifinals, Ohio State scored a 67-60 win over Georgetown before the postseason ride ended with an 84-75 loss to defending national champion Florida in the title game. Freshman center Greg Oden totaled 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Buckeyes while freshman point guard Mike Conley Jr. added 20 points, six assists and four steals.
The loss was especially bitter because the Gators had defeated the OSU football team three months earlier to capture the national title in that sport.
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