Archie Miller, Kevin Kuwik and Jordan Sibert left the Ohio State men’s basketball program for better opportunities elsewhere.
They got the opportunity of a lifetime last night when the NCAA tournament selection committee matched Dayton against the Buckeyes.
The two Ohio schools, which have played once in the past 26 years — in a 2008 National Invitation Tournament game at Value City Arena — will meet in a South Regional second-round game Thursday afternoon at Buffalo, N.Y.
Miller is Dayton’s third-year coach. He left Ohio State in 2009 to become associate head coach at Arizona under his older brother, Sean. When Archie Miller was hired by Dayton in 2011, Kuwik left his job as Ohio State’s video coordinator to become one of his full-time assistants.
One year later, Sibert transferred to Dayton after having lost his role as Ohio State’s first guard off the bench during his sophomore season, when the Buckeyes reached the Final Four. He sat out last season and is the Flyers’ leading scorer at 12.5 points per game. Dayton also has two Northland High School graduates, Jalen Robinson and Devon Scott, playing reserve roles.
Think Sibert will be jacked up to play the team and coach that couldn’t find time for him?
“Trying to put myself in his shoes, absolutely,” Ohio State’s Lenzelle Smith Jr. said. “But at the same time, we’re both in the same boat. You lose, you go home. So I think we’ll both be playing jacked up for the same purpose.”
Another former Ohio State transfer, Walter Offutt, who finished his career at Ohio University and helped the Bobcats to the NCAA Sweet 16 as a junior, tweeted after the draw: “Jordan Sibert gets a dream that every transfer wants!”
Sibert confirmed that on Dayton radio, saying he had not expected the matchup “but now it’s what I want.” He was part of a highly rated 2010 recruiting class at Ohio State that also included Smith, Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas and J.D. Weatherspoon. Weatherspoon also transferred after two seasons, to Toledo.
Sibert, Craft, Sullinger, Weatherspoon and Michigan State center Adreian Payne played on an All-Ohio Red team that won three consecutive AAU age-group national championships.
“I talk to (Sibert) every now and again. I haven’t talked to him recently, though,” Craft said last night. “But we’re excited. Obviously, this is the time of year you play for and we’re in the tournament.”
Ohio State was one of six Big Ten teams to make the field of 68 and was given a No. 6 seed in the South Regional. If it beats Dayton, the 11th seed, it will play the Syracuse-Western Michigan winner on Saturday for a spot in a regional semifinal in Memphis, Tenn.
Michigan and Wisconsin were seeded second, Michigan State fourth, and Nebraska and Iowa 11th. Iowa, ranked No. 10 nationally in late January, must play Tennessee in a First Four game in Dayton on Wednesday.
Matta said he thought the Buckeyes would be a No. 5 seed but was told they may have been dropped one seed to avoid a potential third-round matchup with Michigan State in Spokane, Wash.
But selection committee chairman Ron Wellman said that was not the case.
“No team was bumped off the seed line that we assigned to a team,” Wellman said.
Sixth is the lowest Ohio State has been seeded in the NCAA tournament since 2009, when it was eighth and lost in the first round to ninth-seeded Siena. It has been a first or second seed the past four years.
“We know whatever seeding we get … there’s no such thing as an easy game,” Sam Thompson said. “We know we have to bring our best basketball for 40 minutes if we want to have success. Whether we have a two next to our name or a six next to our name, that doesn’t change.”