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In latest NCAA Tournament projection, Joe Lunardi has Ohio State as part of 'last four in'

Andy Backstrom01/20/23
Article written by:On3 imageAndy Backstrom

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Ohio State basketball by Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Ohio State has lost five games in a row and now finds itself on the early stages of the NCAA Tournament bubble in late January. (Graham Stokes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

COLUMBUS — Losers of five straight, Ohio State is reeling right now. Not only are the Buckeyes dropping in the Big Ten standings and the receiving votes section of the AP Poll, but they’re also slipping in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s NCAA Tournament projections.

Not including the COVID-19-affected 2019-20 season, during which Ohio State was 21-10 before everything shut down, the Buckeyes have made the NCAA Tournament every season Chris Holtmann has been head coach. Holtmann is in his sixth year but is in danger of missing out on March Madness after starting the year 10-3, including 2-0 in Big Ten competition.

Ohio State is listed as part of Lunardi’s “last four in” in his Friday updated projection for the 68-team field. The Buckeyes are first among the “last four in,” just narrowly missing out on a bye in this projection. Joining them in that category is West Virginia, Northwestern and Oklahoma.

That puts Ohio State as an 11-seed participating in the First Four. At the moment, the Buckeyes are projected to play West Virginia for a chance at the 64-team bracket. That matchup would serve as a reunion for Ohio State starting guard Sean McNeil, a grad transfer who played three seasons with the Mountaineers.

A win over West Virginia in the First Four would pit the Buckeyes against projected six-seed Providence in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Denver. As it stands in Lunardi’s eyes right now, the winner of that game would play the winner of Gonzaga-Seattle for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

Here’s the seeding of every Buckeyes NCAA Tournament team since Holtmann took over for the 2017-18 season:

  • 5th seed (2017-18), second-round loss to Gonzaga, 90-84
  • 11th seed (2018-19), second-round loss to Houston, 74-59
  • 2nd seed (2020-21), first-round loss to Oral Roberts, 75-72 (OT)
  • 7th seed (2021-22), second-round loss to Villanova, 71-61

Ohio State is still looking for its first Sweet Sixteen appearance since 2013.

But, first, the Buckeyes just need to earn a bid to The Dance. Lunardi currently projects 10 Big Ten teams to make the NCAA Tournament, two more than every other conference.

For Ohio State, getting to March Madness starts with snapping its five-game losing streak, which is tied for the longest in the Holtmann era. The Buckeyes will have a chance to do that Saturday afternoon at home against Iowa, although the Hawkeyes will enter The Schottenstein Center with a four-game win streak.