A human being can feel as tiny as a carpenter ant inside Ohio Stadium with its 100,000-plus seats, but to Jake Withers there’s no place more comfortable than home whether it’s playing lacrosse or starting the next chapter of his life as a college graduate.
Withers received a degree in economics yesterday, but as he sat with his classmates in the stadium his mind had to wander about what would be happening next Sunday on the same turf.
The Buckeyes (13-4) got much respect from the NCAA tournament selection committee last night by getting the third overall seed as an at-large team. They will host former East Coast Athletic Conference rival Loyola of Maryland (10-5) in a first round game at 5 p.m.
“I like playing on turf in front of your fans,’’ Withers said. “There is no other place I’d want to play than the Ohio Shoe. We welcome all comers. We know we can play against any team in the country, and we showed that against Maryland on Saturday.’’
Maryland (12-3), which defeated Ohio State 10-9 for the Big Ten tournament championship on Saturday, received the No. 1 overall seed. The Big Ten dominated the top eight seeds with Johns Hopkins being seeded sixth and Penn State seventh.
Ohio State coach Nick Myers speculated before the selection show on ESPNU that the team’s first round opponent would be Air Force, Yale or Marquette. The ESPNU broadcasters were surprised the committee pitted the Buckeyes against a conference champion.
If Myers was disappointed, he didn’t show it.
“We’ll roll up our sleeves and prepare and make it all about us,’’ he said. “You work hard for the opportunity to host a home game in the first round. We understand that every matchup is great, and this one is no different. Loyola is Patriot League champion.’’
Myers pointed to a schedule that included victories over five teams that made the NCAA tournament, Marquette, Towson, Denver, Johns Hopkins and Maryland, for molding the Buckeyes into a tournament team.
“We scheduled a very firm non-conference schedule and in the Big Ten we played a ranked team for seven or eight weeks,’’ he said. “To get an at-large bid as a three seed speaks of the strength of the Big Ten. We have good balance. We like this group.’’
This is the sixth appearance in the NCAA tournament for Ohio State. It won first-round games in 2015 against Duke, in ’13 against Towson and in ’08 against Cornell.
Attacker J.T. Blubaugh watched the victory over Towson when he was a senior at DeSales.
“We’re excited,’’ Blubaugh said. “Just sticking together as a team is the most important thing. We have all the pieces. We do everything as a team. What happens in practice this week is what is going to define our success.’’
Tyler Pfister, a senior co-captain and midfielder from Upper Arlington, expects the home fans to give the team a lift. The attendance was 2,384 for the Big Ten tournament championship game against Maryland at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
“This is huge for us,’’ Pfister said. “We don’t take for granted playing in front of Buckeye Nation. We’ve played against (Loyola) in the ECAC and we know they play hard.’’