When the 16-team bracket for the NCAA tournament was unveiled Sunday night, Ohio State scooped up the third seed, leapfrogging teams like Eastern College Athletic Conference rival Denver and Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champion North Carolina for the higher seed.
It was a remarkable reward for a Buckeyes team (12-3) that was teetering on the fault line for earning an at-large spot in the NCAA tournament. That journey is what makes the Sunday’s first-round contest against Towson (10-7) – the program’s first home game in the NCAA tournament in school history – immensely enjoyable for the players and coaches.
“I think we’ve been on both sides of the coin,” coach Nick Myers said Wednesday morning. “A year ago at 8-7, we felt like we had a really good team and it was a one-goal loss to Loyola and a one-goal loss to Notre Dame and a one-goal loss to Fairfield. You look back on those games – and a really tight game with Virginia that we let slip away after having the lead – and they were the difference in our season. … We were a fourth quarter away against Loyola [in an ECAC tournament semifinal Thursday night] from our kids being home right now. We were down going into that quarter, and I think that’s important for our guys to understand. So yeah, it’s a lot and I feel like we’ve gone from zero to 60 in a seven-day span, but for our men, we’re humbled by the fact that we know how close we’ve been, and the fact that we’re here now, we just want to make sure that we’re playing our best lacrosse and staying true to the process.”
Despite Ohio State’s tournament profile, which includes the second-highest RPI and four victories over teams in the top 20 in RPI, the team has not gone unscathed. Pundits have questioned whether the Buckeyes are deserving of the third seed.
But that criticism has not hit home with Myers.
“We were [ranked] preseason 21st in the country. We’re not really paying a whole lot of attention to seeds or stock,” he said. “This is an outstanding tournament and it’s one of the most challenging tournaments to get into. There are some great teams that aren’t in this tournament right now, and I think for us, we realize that once you’re in, you have the opportunity to compete, and we have that opportunity.”