BOSTON – Cincinnati and Xavier form one of the most heated basketball rivalries in the country. Cincinnati and Ohio State? Well, not so much.
The two teams from the Buckeye State – with a combined 16 Final Four appearances – have played just one time since 1962, a 22-point win by Greg Oden and the Buckeyes back in 2006-07.
“I don't know if I can give you a great answer exactly why we don't play,” Ohio State head coach Thad Matta said.
Back in the early 60s, Cincinnati and Ohio State played each other in back-to-back national championship games – and the Bearcats won both of them. In the last 50 years, they have only played once, and that was a game made for television purposes.
Despite the Cincinnati fans claiming that Ohio State has constantly ducked them in their scheduling, the Bearcats' players are not thinking about the lack of a recent rivalry.
“They know nothing about all that stuff,” Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin said. “It's irrelevant for us. We don't have time to worry about it, talk about it.”
Added guard Sean Kilpatrick: “I'm not thinking about any bad blood.”
Bragging rights within the state are up for grabs, though, especially since two other teams from the state of Ohio are also in the Sweet 16. Without a game between the two teams on the horizon in the coming years, the winner of Thursday night's regional semifinal will hold the trump card in the Cincinnati – Ohio State basketball debate.
Ohio State sophomore Jared Sullinger realizes the ramifications.
“It still kind of has bad blood between the two schools,” Sullinger said. “This one is going to be remembered for whoever goes to the Elite Eight, and it's going to be a battle of Ohio.”
It's only fitting that their last NCAA tournament meeting was 50 years ago Saturday.
Bad blood and Buckeye State bragging rights. Bearcats and Buckeyes.