COLUMBUS — Barring an a momentous collapse during the next month, Ohio State basketball will be playing in the NCAA tournament.
Earning a preferential regional site, though, will take some work.
This season’s tournament has first- and second-round sites in Detroit and Pittsburgh, both easy drives for Ohioans – but a pile-up of nearby teams exists at the top of the polls. The selection committee pairs high seeds with close sites when possible, yet it’s likely the No. 14 Buckeyes will miss out on either Pittsburgh or Detroit.
Currently, five of the top six teams in the most recent Associated Press poll play in Ohio or a state that borders it.
With no opening-round site along the East Coast this season, current No. 1 and Big East favorite Villanova would go to Pittsburgh if it earns a No. 1 seed, and possibly even if it doesn’t.
Further, Purdue and Michigan State – currently ranked third and fourth, respectively – are good bets to start the tournament in Detroit.
No. 5 Cincinnati or No. 6 Xavier could play their way into being a No. 1 seed, but one of them likely would go to Pittsburgh if they are still ranked in the top 15 of RPI.
There are four regional sites east of the Mississippi River this season: Detroit, Pittsburgh, Charlotte, and Nashville.
With the ACC likely to nab two bids to Charlotte and the SEC champion penciled in for Nashville, the Buckeyes’ options would be limited, even if they finish second in the Big Ten, where they are now.
As of now, CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm projects the Buckeyes to be a No. 6 seed playing in Dallas. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has Ohio State as a four seed more than 2,000 miles away from Columbus in Boise, Idaho.
At 20-5 overall and ranking 20th in RPI, Ohio State only can improve its tournament location if it keeps winning. The Buckeyes can help their case with a win at Purdue, which they play Wednesday.
Unless the Buckeyes manage to win the Big Ten, however, they could be looking at long trip to start the NCAA tournament.
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