NCAA Bracket 2012: How Ohio State Basketball Got To March Madness

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 11: Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes reacts against the Michigan State Spartans during the Final Game of the 2012 Big Ten Men's Conference Basketball Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 11, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Buckeyes slightly under-performed lofty expectations but the Big Ten co-champions are still a dangerous team headed in to the NCAA Tournament.

Expectations were sky-high for Ohio State this season when Jared Sullinger decided to return to school after winning the National Freshman of the Year award in 2011.

The Buckeyes, who were No. 3 in the AP preseason Top 25 poll, started the year strong with an 85-63 demolition of Duke before running into trouble in Big Ten conference play.

Sullinger improved his jumper, but his overall statistics remained the same from his freshman campaign while William Buford struggled to create shots off the bounce and Aaron Craft averaged only 8.7 points a game.

However, despite all the consternation, the Buckeyes did receive a share of the Big Ten conference championship, earning their place with a dramatic last-second victory at Michigan State on the last day of the season. In the Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State entered as the No. 3 seed and powered past No. 6 Purdue and No. 2 Michigan before falling to No. 1 seed Michigan State in the championship game. A win likely would have resulted in a No. 1 seed. Instead, the Buckeyes enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 2 seed in the East, where they'll face No. 15 Loyola in their first game.

The X-factor for Ohio State in the Tournament is 6'7 sophomore forward DeShaun Thomas, a streaky outside shooter who averaged 15.3 points per game this season and the one Buckeye besides Sullinger able to get his own shot.

Join our 2012 NCAA Bracket pool to compete against the best and brightest from around the network.

For more on the 2012 NCAA Tournament bracket, stay with SB Nation's Selection Sunday StoryStream, and stick around SB Nation's NCAA Tournament hub for a complete printable NCAA Tournament bracket and tons of analysis on who was snubbed, who got the best bracket, and who will make it all the way to New Orleans and the Final Four.

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