COLUMBUS -- Ohio State won on Sunday night without having to play a game, thank goodness. Playing games has been a challenge for this squad since the calendar turned to 2019.

Still, the Buckeyes earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament. This is fun stuff, and shouldn't be taken for granted.

Case in point, be sure to enter our Source Mania NCAA Bracket Challenge for a chance to win up to 20 prizes including a new car.

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Larry Phillips is the Managing Editor of Knox Pages.

Make no mistake, OSU has little chance of doing anything in the Midwest Regional, the event's toughest draw. No one is, or should realistically be, setting such expectations. But getting an opening-game boot here, with the lowest NCAA Tournament seed in school history, is better than an NIT assignment every single year.

So congratulations to coach Chris Holtmann, who lost the 2018 Big Ten Player of the Year, Keita Bates-Diop, but still found a way to reach the sport's showcase in 2019. That means something to recruits. It means maintaining momentum in the program. 

The Buckeyes (19-14) earned the No. 11 seed in the Midwest Regional in Tulsa. Holtmann's squad is slated to face No. 6 seed Iowa State (23-11)  at approximately 9:45 p.m. Friday night on TBS. It's a matchup dotted with similarities.

Like Ohio State, the Cyclones are a wildly inconsistent bunch. It's a high-scoring offensive team that has four starters averaging double figures. Yet Steve Prohm’s club lost five of its last six regular season games, including three straight defeats (averaging 15 points per debacle) to finish the campaign.

Then, inexplicably, Iowa State reversed course and roared through the Big 12 Tournament for the school's fourth crown over the past six years, thumping 17th-ranked Kansas in the title game. Senior guard Marial Shayok, a transfer from Virginia, was selected the tournament's Most Valuable Player.

Ohio State enjoyed a spectacular start to the season, going 12-1 with wins over Cincinnati, Creighton and UCLA. Then the wheels fell off. In January the Buckeyes went 1-6. They ended the season with three straight losses as center Kaleb Wesson sat out each of those contests on suspension.

OSU can win this game, thanks to a solid defense. But as always Wesson must avoid foul trouble, provide a presence on the glass, and chip in a double-double effort, for the Buckeyes to advance.

The OSU-Iowa State survivor returns Sunday to play the winner of third-seed Houston and 14th-seed Georgia State. The Cougars are ranked No. 11 in the polls.

HISTORY: This is the seventh all-time meeting between the two teams. Ohio State is 6-0 against the Cyclones. Their last encounter came in the third round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, a 78-75 Buckeye victory in Dayton.

Ohio State makes its 29th appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2019. Overall, OSU has a 50-27 record all-time in NCAA Tournament play. The Buckeyes have advanced to play in 10 Final Fours, have finished as the runner up four times (1939, 1961, 1962, 2007) and own one title (1960). Ohio State finished third four times (1944, 1945, 1946, 1968).

The Buckeyes played in four-consecutive NCAA “Sweet 16s” from 2010-13, a school record. Ohio State last accomplished three-consecutive “Sweet 16s” from 1960-62. The Buckeyes have made 14 “Sweet 16” appearances in NCAA Tournament play.

BUCKEYES: Wesson, a sophomore, paces Ohio State with 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per contest while senior C.J. Jackson adds 12.2 points per game and a team-best 113 total assists. Junior Andre Wesson scores 8.8 points per game.

KNOW YOUR FOE: Big 12 Tournament champion Iowa State knocked off No. 17 Kansas, 78-66, in the championship game Saturday. Shayok leads four Cyclones averaging double digits in scoring at 18.6 points per game while sophomore guard Lindell Wigginton chips in with 13.5 points a game. Freshman guard Talen Horton-Tucker scores 12.1 points per game and junior forward Michael Jacobson averages 11.5 points and a team-best 6.0 boards per contest.

OSU'S NCAA TOURNEY RECORD BY REGION

In East: 14-9 (.609)

In South/Southeast: 9-4 (.692)

In Midwest: 5-4 (.556)

In West: 7-5 (.583)

BUCKEYES IN NCAA PLAY

The 2018-19 Buckeyes have nine games of NCAA experience and five starts entering the 2019 Tournament. Jackson, Andre Wesson, Kaleb Wesson and Musa Jallow have each played two games while Keyshawn Woods played in one while at Wake Forest. Jackson and Kaleb Wesson each have a pair of starts while Woods started his lone game. Jackson averages 19 points and four rebounds in his two games. 

OSU IN POSTSEASON

After the 2019 Big Ten Tournament, the Buckeyes enter the 2019 NCAA Tournament 37 total appearances and 20 starts of postseason experience on the roster (combined conference and NCAA Tournament games).

Woods has appeared in seven postseason contests, including five starts, averaging 10.4 points per game while C.J. Jackson has started all six of his postseason games, averaging 13.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Andre Wesson averages 6.2 points and 2.3 boards in six postseason games, including two starts, while his brother, Kaleb, has started all five of his postseason appearances, averaging 6.4 points and 4.4 boards a game. Jallow has two starts in four postseason appearances, going for 2.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per game, while Kyle Young, Justin Ahrens, Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington Jr. have each played in two postseason games off the bench.

HOLTMANN IN NCAA TOURNAMENT

Holtmann, the 2018 Big Ten Coach of the Year, has led his teams to four-consecutive NCAA Tournaments (three at Butler and one at Ohio State), going 5-4 in NCAA Tournament contests. Holtmann’s teams have one at least one game in each Tournament appearance. 

OSU VS. NCAA TOURNAMENT TEAMS

Ohio State went 3-11 in the 2018-19 season against teams advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes earned wins over Cincinnati, Minnesota and Iowa and dropped three games to Michigan State, two to Maryland and Purdue and one each against Syracuse, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin.

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