Friday afternoon in Chicago’s United Center, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said he felt pretty good about his team’s chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

Following two days’ worth of waiting and undoubtedly a few nerves, he was proven correct. The Buckeyes earned a No. 11 seed in the Midwest region, where they will face No. 6 seed Iowa State in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday. 

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The game will set up a rematch between the Buckeyes and the Cyclones, who met in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Dayton, Ohio. Ohio State won that game, 78-75, on a last-second three-pointer from Aaron Craft.

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After having missed out on March Madness for two years, this now marks the second straight season in which the Buckeyes have been selected for the NCAA Tournament and the 11th time in the last 14 years. It is the second time they have been a double-digit seed and the lowest in program history: as a No. 10 seed in 2015, Ohio State beat No. 7 seed VCU 75-72 in overtime before losing to No. 2 seed Arizona 73-58 in Portland, Oregon.

For coach Chris Holtmann, it marks his fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Including his three years with Butler, Holtmann is 5-4 in the tournament and has never failed to win at least one game, reaching the Sweet Sixteen once in 2017. Last season, the fifth-seeded Buckeyes beat South Dakota State in Boise, Idaho, before falling to Gonzaga in the second round.

After starting the season 12-1 and climbing as high as No. 13 in the Associated Press poll, the Buckeyes lost five straight Big Ten games to open January, marking their longest losing streak since they dropped 17 straight games from Dec. 28, 1997-February 21, 1998.

Feels like March #Team120 | #SelectionSunday pic.twitter.com/delvZWg5gz

— Ohio State Hoops (@OhioStateHoops) March 17, 2019

From there, they rallied to win four of their next five games and were 16-7 overall and 6-6 in the Big Ten before losing three of their next four entering a home date with No. 22 Iowa. Behind a breakout, 29-point performance from freshman Justin Ahrens, the Buckeyes blasted the Hawkeyes, 90-70, and seemed set for a strong close to the season until a suspension to leading scorer and rebounder Kaleb Wesson threw a wrench into the plans. 

With Wesson out for the final three games of the season, the Buckeyes never led for one second and entered the Big Ten tournament in need of at least one win to feel safe. They got that with a 79-75 defeat of Indiana with Wesson back in the lineup, then lost to No. 1 seed Michigan State 77-70 the next day to enter postseason play at 19-14 overall.

Iowa State went 23-11 overall this season and won the Big 12 tournament with a 78-66 win against Kansas. The Cyclones won three straight games in the tournament after finishing the regular season on a three-game losing streak.

In all, Ohio State is 56-31 in the NCAA Tournament and has won at least one game in six of its last seven appearances.

 

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy