Buckeyes Get Home-Court Advantage in Dayton
INDIANAPOLIS—Ohio State suffered through a "neutral-site" tournament game in the wrong state Sunday afternoon, falling to Purdue 65-61 in front of a pro-Boilermaker crowd, barely an hour's drive away from West Lafayette.
But on the season's biggest stage this coming week, the Bucks will be feeling right at home.
The NCAA selection committee, mindful of the economic situation and trying to keep teams' travel costs down, placed the Buckeyes a few miles from campus with first and second round games in Dayton, Ohio.
After the Big Ten final, I spoke with several of the OSU players about the chance of playing NCAA games in-state, and they were excited to even entertain the possibility.
Especially freshman B.J. Mullens.
"I hope we play in Dayton," Mullens said. "Fans give a team confidence—they get up after a big three and really make it tough on the other team."
Jon Diebler agreed. "That would be awesome," he chimed in. "We'd get a great fan base in Dayton."
Obviously, the Buckeyes will need to improve after falling short against Purdue in their most recent outing. Especially on the glass.
In Sunday's game, the Boilermakers—not known for their rebounding prowess—dominated the boards 44-33.
Diebler said it's not a mystery what the most important thing is for his team to work on in practice this week:
If the Bucks can do the job on the glass this weekend, they could be a Sweet Sixteen club, especially the way Evan Turner (22 points and 10 boards) is playing.
OSU will meet Siena in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, setting up a possible matchup with top overall seed Louisville Sunday.
How's that for a reward, Rick Pitino? Win the regular-season Big East title. Win the postseason Big East title. Get the No. 1 seed in the Big Dance—and get served up to a hungry and improving Buckeye team in front of its faithful and vocal fan base.
At least one former Ohio State hoopster is happy for his former school too: CBS analyst Clark Kellogg.
Kellogg said he doesn't know yet which tournament site he and partner Jim Nantz will get sent to first, but he definitely has a preference.
"I hope it's Dayton," Kellogg said after learning where his alma mater would play. "I certainly wouldn't mind that."
Dallas Lauderdale said the Ohio State fans "inspire" the Buckeye players, and he looks forward to the chance to compete in-state this coming week. Even Sunday in a mostly hostile Conseco Fieldhouse, Lauderdale was thankful for a great fan base that traveled down I-70 to watch the Buckeyes try and win a tournament.
In the season's most important tournament, those fans won't have to travel nearly as far.
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