We’ve reached the point in the college basketball season where things are about to get crazy. They call it March Madness, and Ohio is ready for it.
Ohio State is in a comfortable spot to make the 2022 NCAA Tournament when the brackets are announced Sunday. Cincinnati will need to make some noise in the AAC Tournament to get a spot. It’s a similar situation for Dayton in the Atlantic 10.
Legal sports betting in Ohio is still almost a full year away, but a year passes quickly. It’s expected to be solidly in place by early-2023.
For now, let’s look back at some of the greatest March Madness players in Ohio history.
Blessed with one of the best basketball nicknames ever: “Hondo,” Havlicek was an All–State high school player in Ohio. He went to Ohio State, where he served as part of three teams that went to the NCAA Finals.
Hondo partnered with Jerry Lucas (more on him in a minute) to take the Buckeyes to the 1960 NCAA championship. The Buckeyes beat Cal, 75-55, for the school’s only title to date. The Buckeyes lost to Cincinnati in the 1961 and 1962 finals.
Havlicek had a magical pro career with the Boston Celtics. His teams won eight NBA titles, and he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1984.
Jimmy ‘Jam’ Jackson was a two-time All-American at Ohio State and the Freshman of the Year in the Big 10. The Toledo native led the Buckeyes to the NCAA Tournament three times. They were upended by UNLV in Jackson’s freshman year.
As a sophomore, the top-seeded Buckeyes won the Big 10 title, but were upset by St. John’s in the Sweet 16. They repeated as Big 10 champs when Jackson was a junior, but lost in the Elite 8 to arch-rival Michigan and the “Fab Five.”
Jackson had a 14–year NBA career with 11 different teams.
Called the greatest schoolboy player ever, Lucas was a three-time All-State player at Middletown High School in Ohio. He was the Most Outstanding Player in the 1960 NCAA Final Four when he was just a sophomore.
As a junior, he became the only college player with 30 rebounds and 30 points in an NCAA Tournament game against Kentucky, but the Buckeyes lost to Cincinnati in the finals. The Bearcats beat the Buckeyes again for the 1962 NCAA title.
Lucas took his famous hook shot to the Olympics, where he won a gold medal in 1960 in Rome. He was a seven-time NBA All-Star and was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1980. He was selected by the NBA in 1996 as one the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
Dayton has reached one Final Four in history. They got there in 1967 largely due to May. The Ohio native won a state title at Belmont High School, then was an All-American with the Flyers. He put up 34 points and 15 rebounds in the Flyers’ Final Four victory over North Carolina.
In the finals, May and the Flyers ran into the UCLA Bruins and superstar Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul–Jabbar). The Bruins won their third national title, 79-64.
Dayton owns a national title in women’s basketball thanks to 6-foot-1 Meyers, who had 40 points in the finals against the College of Charleston. She was a three–time All–American and led the team to the AIAW (Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Division II title in 1980.
You see this name and you just wonder, “what might have been?”
Big, strong, and powerful, Oden was a throwback 7–foot center. He arrived at Ohio State and led the Buckeyes to the 2007 national championship game against Florida. He had 16.1 points a game during the Buckeye’s run, which ended with a loss to the Gators.
Oden only played 31 games with Ohio State before turning pro. Multiple knee injuries and surgeries ended his NBA career.
He’s forever the “Big O.” Robertson could do everything on the basketball court. Robertson led the nation in scoring for three straight years from 1958-1960 (remember, freshmen were ineligible back then). He also led the Bearcats to the NCAA Finals in 1959 and 1960. He still ranks 11th on the all-time NCAA scoring list with 2,973 points.
Robertson won an Olympic gold medal in 1960. He was an NBA All-Star eleven times, won the NBA title in 1971 , and was the first player to average a triple-double over the course of an entire professional season.
College basketball in the early 1960s was dominated by Ohio basketball. That includes Thurmond, a 6-11 center who went to Bowling Green.
Thurmond helped the Falcons win back-to-back conference titles and reach the NCAA Tournament twice. He was a seven–time NBA All–Star.