Ohio teams aren’t the retiring types at NCAA tournament
The map of the NCAA tournament, outside of a team from Waco, looks like America right after the Louisiana Purchase.
Is this a Sweet 16, or the “original?”
One of every four teams remaining is from Ohio, with Ohio State, Xavier, Cincinnati and Ohio all advancing.
No state has ever pushed four schools into the round of 16, which only invites the question: What happened to Akron?
This is the tournament, you could say, where most of the rubber met the road.
The westernmost school at the “West” Regional, Marquette, will need to bring its own bratwurst to Phoenix.
Baylor is the closest team to the Pacific Ocean but is headed south to Atlanta.
The Pac-12, West Coast, Big West and Mountain West conferences are planning a car wash Saturday to raise funds in hopes of sending one lucky school to next year’s second weekend.
For the first time, two 15th-seeded schools pulled upsets over No. 2s in the same tournament.
Two days after Lehigh shocked Duke and Norfolk State stunned Missouri, however, the underdogs got in over their heads. Florida put the fork in Norfolk and Xavier Xed out Lehigh’s dream.
All four No. 1-seeded teams — Kentucky, Michigan State, Syracuse and North Carolina — made it through sectional qualifying.
However, two of the second-seeded teams, Duke and Missouri, are officially on vacation.
The double-digit dribblers left include No. 10 Xavier (South) and No. 11 North Carolina State (Midwest).
The most huggable seedling to emerge is No. 13 Ohio, headed Midwest after wins over No. 4 Michigan and No. 12 South Florida.
The top story to track moving forward involves Ohio’s opponent, North Carolina, in Friday’s regional semifinal in St. Louis.
Lead guard Kendall Marshall broke his right wrist on a hard fall during the Tar Heels’ win over Creighton. Marshall scored 18 points but his status for the rest of the tournament is in doubt.
“We don’t know anything else,” North Carolina Coach Roy Williams said after the game.
North Carolina might have lost Marshall the day it welcomed forward John Henson back from a wrist injury.
What’s left of the field is definitely tilting east. The tethers to yesteryear’s UCLA lore are Steve Lavin providing in-studio analysis and Mark Gottfried somehow getting North Carolina State to the second weekend.
Lavin and Gottfried, once young UCLA assistants, are seated next to each in the team photo from the 1995 national title team.
Gottfried’s making the Sweet 16 is a surprise. North Carolina State was 15-16 last season before Gottfried was hired out of retirement two years after he resigned midseason at Alabama.
Gottfried turned the frigate around fast, but things weren’t looking NCAA-good after the Wolfpack lost four straight games in February.
North Carolina State squeaked into the tournament as a No. 11 and then took out No. 5 San Diego State and No. 3 Georgetown.
Gottfried, in rejuvenating a fan base still reminiscing about the NCAA title years of 1974 and 1983, quoted a famous coach after Sunday’s 66-63 win over Georgetown.
“John Wooden told me one time, he said, ‘Coach, don’t give them too much too fast. They might start expecting that every year.’ Well, we failed in that category already.”
North Carolina State (24-12) faces No. 2 Kansas on Friday in St. Louis.
A snapshot of the other regions:
No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Louisville and No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 7 Florida offers seven total program NCAA titles and an A-list coaching roster of Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, Buzz Williams and Billy Donovan.
Top-seeded Michigan State needed every bit of Draymond Green’s lunch-box work ethic Sunday to hold off St. Louis in Columbus. Green finished with 16 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in Michigan State’s 65-61 victory. He even grabbed a mop at one point and cleaned a wet spot on the court.
Green’s best move, though, was a pass that set up Keith Appling’s key three-point basket.
“I don’t need to be a hero trying to make some scoop layup,” said Green, a senior. “If I see a guy open, I’m going to hit him.”
The showcase in Atlanta pits top-seeded Kentucky vs. No. 4 Indiana in a game featuring 12 total national titles. It’s a rematch of a Dec. 10 game won by Indiana, 73-72, on Christian Watford’s buzzer-beater.
“That was a rough day for us,” Kentucky freshman guard Marquis Teague said after Saturday’s win over Iowa State. “We hate to lose any game. But the way we lost, that just made it worse.”
Indiana is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002, the year the Hoosiers made a run to the title game before losing to Maryland.
Kentucky is back in the Sweet 16 by edict of the state legislature.
Baylor faces Xavier in the other semifinal.
The Boston regional pairs Syracuse vs. Wisconsin with Cincinnati vs. Ohio State.
No. 6 Cincinnati won the last ticket in Sunday night with a 62-56 victory over No. 3 Florida State.
Cincinnati vs. Ohio State, on Friday, features schools that met for the 1961 and 1962 NCAA titles, Cincinnati winning both times.
The East was the most boring bracket, with every higher-seeded team winning until Cincinnati’s win over Florida State.
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