NCAA action is big all over the country but nowhere is it bigger than in Ohio today as Ohio State meets in-state rival Dayton today in second round action of the NCAA tournament. The two schools, located less than 75 miles from one another meet in Niagra Falls, New York of all places.
Such is life in the NCAA tournament as the Buckeyes and the Flyers provide what could be the most intriguing matchup of the tournament in the first couple rounds. For years Ohio State has been accused of avoiding playing all of their in state rivals, not just Dayton, so for the Flyers to get a chance to knock off the perceived big brother only adds to the motivation of trying to advance in the NCAA tournament. It would appear the NCAA tournament committee did no favors for the Buckeyes.
The sub plots extend farther than typical big brother little brother angle of a rivalry. Dayton Head Coach Archie Miller for instance was an assistant for three years under Buckeye Head Coach That Matta before taking over at Dayton so both coaches are obviously familiar with one another. Their relationship goes back over 20 years. Junior Guard Jordan Sibert is a former Buckeye himself having transferred from Ohio State two years ago and undoubtedly these players and schools are quite familiar with one another given their proximity.
As intriguing as all the off the court angles this game provides, there is plenty to talk about on the court that could make this game special. Ohio State is a six seed in the South Region and Dayton is an 11 seed and both teams are battle tested from tough basketball conferences. The Big Ten placed five other schools besides the Buckeyes in the Big Dance while Dayton was one of six Atlantic 10 schools to qualify for the tournament as well.
Dayton will not be in awe of Ohio State. They have been playing NCAA tournament caliber teams all year and have won 10 of their last 12 games. Ohio State on the other hand has lost three of their last six games including losses to Penn State and Indiana, neither of which was very competitive this season.
So maybe Dayton is exactly what Ohio State needs. Maybe Thad Matta has actually been given a gift here from the NCAA tournament committee. The Buckeyes have been struggling as of late and never really met expectations they had when the season began. Now they get a fresh start with a new agenda, a new place to play and new faces to play against.
Granted Dayton is not exactly a stranger but the teams rarely play one another anyway so Ohio State does have a new challenge in front of them. If Matta’s team needs an extra spark then playing the Flyers should solve that problem for them. Basketball fans in Ohio and across the country are taking notice as the big brother versus little brother story line dominates the focus of this game.
The story line continues that Dayton has been waiting for this moment for a long time. They finally get a chance to prove who has the best basketball team in the state of Ohio. The thing is, Ohio State gets that chance too. Ohio State wins a squeaker, 66-65.
Commentary by Mick Varner