For two straight seasons in 1961 and 1962 the Buckeyes and Bearcats squared off in the National Title game following Ohio State’s first and only National Championship. Both years the Bearcats got the better of the Buckeyes, winning their only two basketball national titles in the NCAA Tournament Era. This game marks the first time these two teams have met in the NCAA tournament since that game in 1962, a historical clash of titans occurring far earlier in the tournament than their lofty history would prefer.
The Cincinnati Bearcats have had a successful season this year, earning their second tournament bid in two years and working their way to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001. During the season the Bearcats have notched impressive victories over: Syracuse in the Big East Tournament, twice against Georgetown – once away, once in the Big East Tournament – and Marquette at home. While they have not been a particularly consistent team during the season, they performed well enough to catch the eye of the selection committee.
Cinci has not had a particularly easy path to the Sweet 16. While their first opponent was a very young 11th-seeded Texas squad, the Longhorns surged and nearly caught the overconfident Bearcats after scoring a pathetic 2 points in the first 10 minutes and 15 seconds of the game. Cincinnati found themselves in a dog fight over the last ten minutes of the game, after watching Texas slowly and inexorably climb back into the game, but were able to pull out the 65-59 victory to advance.
In the Round of 32 the Bearcats were paired up with a hot Florida State Seminoles team fresh off an ACC Tournament Championship win over UNC the week before. The Seminoles were clearly favored in the game, but the Bearcats were much better than many expected. Both teams clawed for the advantage throughout the game, never achieving more than a 5 point lead before the end of the game. In the end, the Bearcats had succeeded at gaining the upper-hand and earned the opportunity to face the second-seeded Buckeyes in Boston.
The Buckeyes have advanced to the Round of 32 for the third time in three years. This time around their opponent is the 7th seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs, a team that has been to the dance many times in the last decade.
Coach Mark Few is one of the only coaches in the country to regularly put together 20 win seasons. Since he first joined Gonzaga in 1999, his first Head Coaching gig, his teams have not won fewer than 23 games in a season. He and Thad Matta are the only coaches with upwards of a decade of straight 20 win seasons, making this game a particularly interesting matchup of coaching minds.
Gonzaga has also never failed to make the NCAA Tournament while under Few, but have never advanced further than the Sweet 16. The last two seasons have seen the ‘Zags only win their first game in the tournament before being knocked out. That’s a streak the Buckeyes would obviously like to continue this season.
The Bulldogs are surprisingly led in scoring by a freshman this season. Guard Kevin Pangos (6-1, 180) out of Ontario, Canada, is averaging nearly 14 points per game and 3 rebounds. He shoots a cool 40.7% from beyond the arc in 32 minutes per game and will most likely be Aaron Craft’s defensive assignment. He’s more than a scorer, though, and is skilled at feeding his teammates in good positions to score. He’s also good at protecting the basketball, losing control less than twice per game.
The Buckeyes, playing their first weekend games in Pittsburgh, drew the 15-seeded Loyola Greyhounds out of Maryland. After a brief early battle, Ohio State slowly pulled away, eventually notching a 78-59 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Deshaun Thomas broke his career record in scoring with 31 points, and added 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, and an assist to his double-double statline. Jared Sullinger also quietly put together a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds on the game, while William Buford notched 17 points. Erik Etherly, Loyola’s excellent junior forward, lead his team with 16 points and 6 rebounds.
As is typical with the NCAA Tournament, the crowd often roots for the underdog. This is particularly true in games that involve seeds with particularly rare upsets, such as the 15 versus 2 and 16 versus 1. That was no different today as the Buckeyes faced what sounded like a particularly hostile crowd hoping for a big upset. This was even despite the fact that the Buckeyes were only about 200 miles from home and likely drew a fair number of fans.
To the obvious delight of the crowd, the Greyhounds brought their “A” game from the get-go. They flat-out refused to back down from Sullinger in the paint and made his early shots difficult. The smaller squad from Loyola also attacked the rebounds, boxing out effectively down low and preventing OSU’s guards from rebounding as effectively as they usually do. Loyola was obviously happy to run a fast paced game and force the Buckeyes to keep up with them.
But the Buckeyes weren’t going to play Loyola’s game. OSU continued to get the ball to Sullinger and let their big guy make things happen. Sully obliged, scoring OSU’s first 6 points, including 3 from deep to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the game. Seeing their talented center have success allowed the Bucks to begin to relax and settle back into their style of play on the big stage.
The madness continues here at the Buckeye Battle Cry! This has to be one of our favorite times of the year (really, who doesn’t feel that way?) and we love to celebrate by talking about as many teams, games, and players as we can! Joe Dexter was kind enough to get the whole thing kicked off this morning with a preview of the West Region. Now it’s my turn to take a look at the home-favorite East Region. Tomorrow, WVaBuckeye and MaliBuckeye will take a look at the two remaining regions, so that you can have plenty of time to read and peruse your way to what is hopefully a winning bracket!
Make sure you join the BBN’s Bracket Challenge this year! Bragging rights abound!
Favorites: The East region is graced with a few powerful teams that could be poised to make a deep run. The Syracuse Orange obviously stand in the best position of everyone in the region. The Orange hold a 32-2 season record, including non-conference wins over fellow tournament teams Florida and NC State. Seven-footer Fab Melo, a Sophomore out of Brazil, anchors Syracuse in the paint and is assisted by senior forward Kris Joseph, who leads the team in scoring at just under 14 per game, and senior guard Scoop Jardine, who seems to have been at Syracuse for 50 years. The ‘Cuse lost in the semi-finals of the Big East tournament to fellow East Region member Cincinnati, but looks to bounce back in the Big Dance.
Ohio State and Michigan State meet today at 3:30 PM EST on CBS for the Big Ten Tournament Championship Game! First seeded Michigan State defeated the Wisconsin Badgers to earn their way into the final game.
After the Buckeyes and Spartans play, we will continue to run the liveblog until and through the NCAA Selection Show! So stick around and share your thoughts about the bracket with us!
While you wait for the game, go check out our friends in the Buckeye Bloggers Network! the Buckeye Blog, OSU Silver Bullet, Buckeye House Call, Our Honor Defend, and Men of the Scarlet and Gray. Fox Sports Ohio also joins us as usual.
Only two teams remain in the season-ending tournament of the toughest conference in the country. The Ohio State Buckeyes, fresh off a strong victory over the Michigan Wolverines, are set to do battle with the Michigan State Spartans for the second time in a week. Again, much like the previous duel, championship implications ride on the result, making the game significantly more important than it already would have been.
Overall, the Spartans have only participated in two Tournament Championship games in the 15 years the tournament has run. Michigan State last played for the championship in 2000 where they defeated the 4th seeded Fighting Illini 76-61. They also won in 1999 over the 11th seeded Illini 67-50. When the Spartans make it to the final game, they certainly make the most of the opportunity.
The Buckeyes are only the third team holding the number three seed to make it to the tournament final. The first occurrence was in 1998, the first year of the tournament, when #3 Purdue lost to #4 Michigan 76-67. The second time was in 2009 when #3 Purdue defeated fifth seeded Ohio State 65-61.
There was no doubt from the opening tip to the buzzer at the end of the game who the better team was in this semi-final match-up between rivals Michigan and Ohio State. Not only did the Buckeyes break the back of their biggest rival, they did it playing the best all-around basketball we have seen all season. As we continue to roll into the most important part of March, the Buckeyes improve every single time on the floor.
And for those questioning whether Ohio State’s big man is really a top player in College Basketball, how bout you do me a favor?
Ask John Beilein how he feels Jared Sullinger compares to everyone else he faces. He might throw a fist at your face after being embarrassed 77-55 at Bankers Life Field House in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
The sophomore came out of the blocks possessed, and looking like the number one pick everyone thinks he can be. After a turnaround jumper from the baseline on the far side to start the afternoon’s scoring, he would score 4 out of the next six, block a Trey Burke layup attempt and draw the offensive charge call.
Out of the gates, the Buckeyes controlled the basketball with great shot selection, ball movement and a steady dose of points in the paint.
Meanwhile Michigan started the game going 1/11 from the floor, out of their offensive element, and broken down defensively inside.
Sullinger, who John Beilein has schemed well against this year despite not having a post player with his size, took over the ballgame as we’ve expected from him this year. After a 30 point effort last night, the big man went out there and scored 24 points (three less than both his efforts combined this season against Michigan) while grabbing 6 boards, 2 blocks, 1 steal and 1 assist.
For the first time ever the top four seeds of the Big Ten tournament have advanced to the semi-finals. The three co-champions are still in, and still have an opportunity to prove that they are indeed the best team in the Big Ten.
Ohio State and Michigan get to prove it on the court today.
Today is the rubber game in this season’s series. Both teams split the regular season meetings, with the Buckeyes taking a 64-49 win at home, while Michigan emerged victorious in Ann Arbor 56-51.
But this game has even more historical significance. The Buckeyes and Wolverines have encountered each other repeatedly over the last several years in the Big Ten Tournament. Last season, the Bucks handled Michigan in the semi-finals 68-61 by opening up a significant lead halfway through the second half and coasting to the win. The year before saw Evan Turner’s last second buzzer beater sink Michigan’s hopes of upsetting the #1 seed in the quarterfinals, ending a fairly close game 69-68.