The state of Ohio is enjoying unprecedented success in the NCAA Tournament.
For the first time ever, a quarter of the Sweet 16 is from one state. No. 2 Ohio State, No. 6 Cincinnati, No. 10 Xavier and No. 13 Ohio all play in different conferences and win with different styles of ball, but all of them are connected in one way or another.
Buckeyes coach Thad Motta came from Xavier, Ohio Bobcats coach John Groce was an assistant for Ohio State, and the Bearcats and Muskies may hate each other more than any two teams in the nation.
But all of the Ohio love can’t last.
It’s impossible for all four to advance since Ohio State and Cincinnati play in the East Region on Thursday, but I do see two teams advancing from the 17th state to enter the union.
No. 2 Ohio State 67, No. 6 Cincinnati 62
Did you watch the Bearcats win over No. 3 Florida State?
It was one of the most physical games I’ve ever seen and the Bearcats prevailed because they were more mentally tough.
Now they play a Buckeyes team that is also predicated on physicality and good defense, but with much more offensive firepower.
The ‘Cats don’t have a shooter like Aaron Craft or a scorer like William Buford and that’s going to ultimately doom them when baskets become such a premium down the stretch.
I have a feeling Jared Sullinger is able to handle the bully that has become Yancy Gates and ensure his team doesn’t get bounced in the Sweet 16 for the third-straight year.
Fun fact: The game in Boston will mark the 50th anniversary of Cincinnati beating Ohio State for the second-straight time in the National Championship.
No. 1 North Carolina 75, No. 13 Ohio 63
As a proud OU alum it pains me to say that the talent difference in this matchup is much too hard to ignore.
Despite likely losing Kendall Marshall to a broken wrist, the Tar Heels size in the post is going to suffocate the undersized Ohio bigs.
The only way the Bobcats can stay with the Tar Heels is by shooting a white-hot percentage from three-point range while DJ Cooper destroys the backups for Marshall.
No. 10 Xavier 65, No. 3 Baylor 64
The big upset of the Sweet 16 will belong to the Muskies.
Tu Holloway is one of the 10 best players in the nation and is shooting over 50-percent from three-point range in the tournament. This has allowed him to attack off the dribble and create wide-open looks for his sharp-shooting teammates.
There is no doubt that Perry Jones III and Co. is terrific defensively in the post, but the guards are susceptible to speedy opponents, and Holloway and teammate Mark Lyons fit the bill.
The Bears have been incredibly inconsistent this season and endure painfully long offensive draughts far too often. I see Xavier going on a monster run at some point to really distance themselves.
They already have two appearances in the Elite Eight since 2004, and this non-BCS power is more than capable of getting back there.