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Buckeyes, Zips meet in NIT

Jim Walker

jim.walker@irontontribune.com

 

COLUMBUS — The Ohio State Buckeyes knew there was a very small chance of getting an NCAA Tournament bid. They knew there would be an NIT bid waiting for them.

They were right.

The Buckeyes (20-13) didn’t get a call from the NCAA and accepted a first-round match-up against in-state opponent Akron.

Ohio State will host the Zips (26-8) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The game will be aired on WIRO-AM 1230 and 1420 radio and ESPN.

The Ohio State-Akron winner will face the winner of the Florida (19-14) at North Florida (22-11) game schedule for 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

Akron finished runners-up in the Mid-American Conference tournament with a 64-61 loss to Buffalo in the title game on a last-second 3-pointer. The Zips’ roster includes former Waverly All-Ohio standout Jake Kretzer.

This will be the sixth NIT appearance for Akron and first since 2012 when they lost at Northwestern in overtime 76-74.

The Zips are 2-5 in the NIT and 2-3 under coach Keith Dambrot who has guided the team to four appearances.

Tuesday’s meeting will be the seventh between the teams with Ohio State holding a 6-1 lead in the series. Their last meeting was an NIT first-round game in 1989 that saw the Buckeyes win 81-70 at St. John Arena in Columbus.

One team and star that won’t be part of the NIT is LSU and freshman sensation Ben Simmons.

The Tigers (19-14) were miffed at being bypassed by the NCAA and coach Johnny Jones announced that the team would not participate in a postseason tournament.

NIT selection committee chair Reggie Minton said LSU was considered for a spot in the tournament.

“They were definitely under consideration. We didn’t learn until late (Sunday) afternoon that they weren’t going to play so I’ll just leave it there. That was their decision,” said Minton.

The NIT features a strong and competitive field led by St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies lost to Davidson 90-86 in overtime in the Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinals but shared the regular season title.

St. Bonaventure (22-8) hosts Wagner (22-10) on Wednesday. The Bonnies were left out of the NCAA tournament despite a strong resume.

“We’re the first school ever to win a conference championship and have a top-30 RIP and not go. So that’s shocking,” said St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt. “We’re disappointed, but the NIT is nothing to sneeze at.”

Monmouth (27-7) was also skipped by the NCAA despite wins over power programs UCLA, Southern Cal, Notre Dame and Georgetown. The NIT No. 1 seed overall, the Hawks and their popular “bench mob” will host Patriot League champion Bucknell on Wednesday.