NCAA Division: Division I
Conference: Big Ten
Past Conferences: Western, Independent
City: Columbus, OH
Stadium: The Schottenstein Center
NCAA Tournaments: 1939, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1950, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1968, 1971, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022
National Championships: 1
Conference Titles: 5 (20 regular-season titles)
They started playing basketball at Ohio State in 1898, but it wasn’t until the 1920s and 1930s, under Harry Olsen, that the Buckeyes began to find success on the court.
Beginning in 1934-35, Olsen’s teams had six straight seasons in which they won at least 60 percent of their games, including a historic 1938-39 edition that went to the first-ever NCAA title game, only to lose to Oregon.
Olsen guided teams to the Final Four again in 1944, 1945, and 1946, the last of which saw the Buckeyes fall by three points to North Carolina in the title game.
There were some mediocre seasons in the 1950s under Tippy Dye and Floyd Stahl. When Fred Taylor took over before the 1958-59 season, it signaled a sea change in the program’s path.
Taylor’s first season saw the Buckeyes go 11-11, but there were some pretty big names already on campus playing for the freshman team. Two of them -Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek- were roommates, and they’d hit the ground running once they became eligible in 1959-60.
Lucas & Havlicek
That team suffered early losses to Utah and Kentucky but took off once the calendar turned to January and conference play began. With Lucas averaging 26.3 points and 16.4 rebounds, the Buckeyes put together 13 straight wins before a late-season loss at Indiana. They then steamrolled through all four of their opponents in the NCAA Tournament, capping it with a 75-55 win over California for the first and only title in program history.
Lucas and Havlicek combined for nearly 40 points a game the following season, and there were other big contributions from future NBAer Larry Siegfried and a reserve by the name of Bob Knight. That edition was even more dominant than the 1960 champs, winning all 27 of its games before the championship game loss to Cincinnati that probably still hurts a few old-timers in the Buckeye State.
The 1961-62 squad, the senior year for Lucas and Havlicek, also showcased some dominant basketball in Columbus. Ohio State won its first 22 games and entered a rematch with the Bearcats in the title game with a 26-1 mark. But, alas, Lucas and Havlicek combined to shoot 10-for-31 and Cincinnati was victorious once again.
After one title and two straight seasons as the runners-up, the Buckeyes were fixtures on the national stage. Ohio State team stats in that final Lucas-Havlicek run showed a team that shot more than 10 percent better than its opponents (48.5 to 38.2.) NCAAB odds at the time would’ve signaled several more return trips to the postseason.
However, without star power such as Lucas and Havlicek, it wasn’t always a sure thing. Taylor would reach the NCAA Tournament just two more times in his remaining 14 seasons with the team, including a Final Four berth in 1968.
Taylor’s last season -1975-76- saw the Buckeyes lose 20 games for the first time in program history. Eldon Miller took over and slowly built the team back into a contender in the Big Ten, guiding Ohio State to the NCAA Tournament five times in the 1980s.
Coach Randy Ayers
Randy Ayers, a former standout with Miami (OH), took over in 1989 and instantly had some remarkable success. His first team eked into the NCAA Tournament and scored a first-round win over Providence, but his second squad in 1990-91 won the Big Ten regular season crown behind sophomore standout Jim Jackson.
After a 15-3 conference mark, the Buckeyes earned their first-ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and picked off two opponents before an upset loss to St. John’s in the Sweet 16.
With Jackson averaging 22.4 points per game, Ohio State put together an almost identical campaign in 1991-92. They once again finished first in the Big Ten with a 15-3 mark and again had a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This time they survived the Sweet 16 before falling to rival Michigan and the “Fab Five” in the Elite Eight.
Once Jackson left for the NBA that spring, Ayers had a hard time maintaining success, and he was out after four straight losing seasons, the last coming in 1996-97.
Coach O’Brien’s Violations
Jim O’Brien, who had built up Boston College’s program and would later coach playoff teams in the NBA with the Celtics and 76ers, took over. Within two seasons, with sharpshooter Michael Redd leading the way, the Buckeyes were back in the Final Four for the ninth time in program history as part of a 27-win season.
O’Brien put together three more NCAA Tournament teams after that, but his tenure was marked by controversy after an NCAA investigation unveiled rules violations that resulted in a three-year probation. He was fired in 2004.
Thad Matta, the program’s all-time winningest coach, was hired to pick up the pieces. He did much more than that, taking his second team to the NCAA Tournament behind star guard Mike Conley and future No. 1 pick Greg Oden. That pairing was even stronger the following season in 2006-07, as the Buckeyes went 35-4, won another Big Ten regular season title, and reached the Final Four for the 10th time in program history.
That second national title remained elusive with a loss to Florida in the finals.
Matta put together a program-record seven straight NCAA Tournament visits between 2009 and 2015. Betting tips suggested that the Buckeyes were a Big Ten factor each and every year.
That has remained the case under current head coach Chris Holtmann, who is working on what could be a sixth straight 20-win campaign in 2022-23.
Dennis Hopson: 2,096
Herb Williams: 2,011
Jerry Lucas/William Buford: 1,990
Jerry Lucas: 1,411
Herb Williams: 1,111
Perry Carter: 989
Aaron Craft: 694
Jamar Butler: 579
Shannon Scott: 528
Thad Matta: 337
Fred Taylor: 297
Harold Olsen: 255
What Is the Highest Win Total in Program History?
The 2006-07 Buckeyes won the Big Ten regular season title, the Big Ten conference tournament, and raced all the way to the national championship game en route to a program-record 35 wins.
What Was the Worst Season in Program History?
The Buckeyes have lost at least 20 games just three times, including during a 6-22 campaign in 1994-95. They were 10th in the 11-team Big Ten, going 2-16 on conference play.
Who Is the Greatest Player in Program History?
This one’s pretty easy. In just three seasons with the Buckeyes, Lucas put up enough points to still rank third in program history. He still has more rebounds than anyone in an Ohio State uniform, and he was the superstar -as a first-year sophomore- in the team’s only NCAA championship in 1960.
A seven-time All-Star in the NBA, Lucas was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1980.