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Published: Monday, 3/15/2010

Buckeyes draw UC Santa Barbara

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

INDIANAPOLIS - Big Ten tournament and regular season champion Ohio State will move on to Milwaukee Friday in search of additional championship hardware.

The Buckeyes learned Sunday night they have earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and will play No. 15 seed University of California Santa Barbara in a Midwest Region first-round game at the Bradley Center.

"We're very excited about our opportunity in the NCAA tournament, and getting the No. 2 seed is a big deal for us," Ohio State junior Jon Diebler said. "But every team in the tournament is good, otherwise they wouldn't be there, so we have to be ready and be at our best."

The Buckeyes (27-7) would face the winner of No. 7 seed Oklahoma State and No. 10 seed Georgia Tech on Sunday, if they get past the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara (20-9).

"We're real excited, because it's pretty close to home, and there are a bunch of good teams in there, so it is going to be a challenge, and a lot of fun," sophomore William Buford said after the Buckeyes beat Minnesota 90-61 yesterday to win the conference tournament championship.

Last year the Buckeyes stayed very close to home in the NCAA first round and played in the University of Dayton Arena, but the heavily scarlet and gray crowd on hand there did not make a difference as Ohio State lost a double-overtime thriller 74-72 to tiny Siena.

The Buckeyes were a No. 8 seed, with Siena a No. 9. Evan Turner had 25 points and nine rebounds in that game, but Siena's Ronald Moore hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to give Siena the win.

"How we did last year, losing in the first round like that, we don't want to have that happen again," Buford said. "We'll get some rest, study up on Santa Barbara, and be ready to go on Friday. Nobody is thinking about anything beyond that first game."

Ohio State coach Thad Matta said that his team has final exams this week, and will work in some rest and practice time before departing for Milwaukee.

"From this stage on, just the excitement, the atmosphere of college basketball elevates," Matta said. "We've got to shift our minds to Santa Barbara. I don't think there's any easy way - I just hope we're playing our best basketball right now, as we move forward."

The Buckeyes are joined in the Midwest Region by overall No. 1 seed Kansas, as well as Georgetown, Maryland, Michigan State, and Tennessee.

This will be Ohio State's 26th trip to the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes have advanced to the Final Four 10 times, but won the national title just once - the Jerry Lucas-led 1960 team.

In 2007 the Buckeyes advanced all the way to the national championship game behind Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. before losing to Florida.

Since the 1999 Ohio State team lost to Connecticut in the Final Four, only the 2007 squad has advanced beyond the second game in the NCAA tournament.



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