The Buckeyes left no doubt about their NCAA credentials, winning the Big Ten Tournament and earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
They ride a 14-game unbeaten streak -- twice as long as the next best team in Cary.
Like UMass coach Sam Koch, who came from Stanford, John Bluem left the West Coast, where he coached at Fresno State, to take over what was a modest Ohio State program.
KEYS TO SUCCESS:
1. Xavier Balc must get into the game up front. After being held scoreless against Louisville and UC Santa Barbara, the senior broke out against Bradley with a pair of goals. Each year the senior's stats have improved. He leads the Buckeyes with eight goals and 13 assists.
2. At 6-foot-6, Eric Brunner is a monster in the middle of the Buckeye backline that also includes 6-foot-3 Tim Gabel and a pair of 6-footers. The Buckeyes must stop UMass on set pieces and get Brunner, who played on Maryland's 2004 College Cup team, in the game at the other end. He scored twice on free kicks in the comeback win over UCSB.
3. Roger Espinoza, a transfer from JC power Yavapai, has been outstanding on the left wing in the NCAA Tournament. He'll need to take some of the pressure off Balc.
1 Casey Latchem (SR Perrysburg, Ohio)
4 Patrick Roan (JR Westerville, Ohio)
15 Doug Verhoff (SO Dublin, Ohio)
23 Eric Brunner (SR Dublin, Ohio)
18 Tim Gabel (JR Wildwood, Mo.)
6 Matt Gold (FR San Antonio, Texas)
8 Danny Irizarry (JR Lawrenceville, Ga.)
9 Geoff Marsh (JR North Olmsted, Ohio)
25 Roger Espinoza (JR Aurora, Colo.)
10 Andrew Magill (SO Oak Brook, Ill.)
3 Xavier Balc (SR Hudson, Ohio)
13 Jordan Lomnicki (FR Elmhurst, Ill.)
17 Ryan Kustos (SR West Chester, Ohio)
19 Eric Edwards (JR Loveland, Ohio)
20 Steven Traeger (SR Littleton, Colo.)