Ohio State and Cincinnati made a relatively exciting announcement yesterday with the news that the two in-state programs will start a two game series in 2018 and 2019. The home-and-home series will serve as each team’s season opener in those years, a decisive step up for each program (Ohio State opens against Robert Morris this year while Cincinnati hosts Savannah State).
"We have great respect for the UC program and Coach Cronin,” said Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann in a release. “The idea of challenging ourselves in the nonconference while also providing an attractive game for our collective fan bases certainly made sense to us...We will continue to work to put together a challenging and attractive nonconference schedule in the future within the constraints of the Big Ten schedule as well as the games that have already been contracted.”
So far the two in-state programs have only played ten times, with the Buckeyes leading the overall series 6-4. The teams most recently met in 2012 when the Buckeyes defeated the Bearcats in the NCAA Tournament. Cincinnati last beat Ohio State in 1962 when they beat the Buckeyes in the NCAA championship game.
Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin echoed Holtmann’s excitement over the upcoming series.
“This is a great thing for Ohio, for basketball in Ohio and for the fans of these great universities,” Cronin said in a release from the university. “We are very excited about reopening our arena next season. Supporting this and agreeing to play Cincinnati in a home-and-home series is a first class move by Ohio State, Coach Holtmann and the OSU administration."
The move by both programs shows that each school is serious about increasing the quality of their non-conference schedule. On one hand, especially for Ohio State, it may not be as necessary if the Big Ten does expand conference play, but the move still makes sense. Most power conference programs fill their early schedule with mid-majors that typically provide little excitement for fans and don’t always test teams as they pad their resume with wins against inferior talent. Of course their are pitfalls with scheduling more difficult opponents, especially when you lose these games, but it can pay dividends in the long run.
The first game of the series in 2018 will also serve as the official opening for Cincinnati’s renovated Fifth Third Arena, providing the setting for what should be an exciting game between the two teams.