Skip to main content

All-Ohio Tournament Predictions


W. Ross ClitesYour City Sports-Cleveland


Kent, OHIO -- It is not exactly the representation Ohioans thought their state would earn, but this year’s NCAA Tournament might produce the deepest crop. There is no Dayton, no Cincinnati, no Kent State, no Akron, and no darlings of last year’s Dance -- Cleveland State. Poised to pick up where the Vikings left off are Xavier and Ohio State. The two have equal chances because the bracket is the ultimate handicapper.

The Musketeers are led by Jordan Crawford and his 19.7 points per game. They will gladly float under the radar in the West region. In many ways, they have dodged a bullet or two. The first obstacle--an up-and-down Tubby Smith-coached Minnesota team--could have been much worse. Old Dominion and Washington were floating out there as possibilities. I know the Pac-10 was brutal this year, but a major conference champion of any kind is a tough match-up for a (6) to draw. Same is true of ODU, who is going to give Notre Dame fits.

Likewise, this is not the best Pittsburgh team the field of 65 has produced in recent memory. The other (3) seeds they could have been paired with are Baylor, New Mexico, and Georgetown. The “X” is relatively lucky that Pitt wandered into their pod. The Panthers are overachieving; their youth was not planned to translate into 20-wins this soon. If Xavier locks horns with Pitt in the Second Round, it should be the Musketeers who are favored despite the seeding.

Pittsburgh has been a notorious home-court team during its recent decade of success. The Peterson Events Center is one of the toughest places to play. However, Pitt has won only five true road games all year. I will grant you that one was in Syracuse, but the team is hardly Road Warriors. We will have to see how the “Zoo” travels to Milwaukee. My prediction: Xavier to the Sweet Sixteen.

Jordan Crawford should not be upset to be labeled the second-best college basketball player in Ohio this year. The man he lost that honor to just may end up with a Naismith Trophy. Ohio State’s Evan Turner is a triple-double machine that can carry this Buckeye team in March. Led by his 20.3 PPG, 9.2 RPG, and 5.9 APG the Buckeyes enter the Dance as a scary team: Co-champions of the regular season, Big Ten tournament champions, and winners of 13 of their 14 last games.

The beauty is that Turner might not even have to strap his team on his back. William Buford is a beast in the paint, John Diebler is in range as soon as he crosses half-court, and David Lighty built confidence with a great Big Ten Tourney. Had Turner never injured his back, causing him to miss 6 games, the Buckeyes would have made a compelling arguing to take that last number (1) seed away from Syracuse.

The only thing that is working against Ohio State is the Selection Committee. They were not as fortunate as Xavier. According the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, the Midwest region contains seven teams ranked in the Top 25. In contrast, the East region contains only five.

The Midwest region is this tournament’s equivalent to the World Cup’s Group of Death. Ohio State takes the two seed in this region. Thanks to the “S” pattern of bracket placement, the number (1) seed is the top-ranked team in the field--Kansas. Georgetown, who has returned to early-season form at the right time, captured the three seed. Co-ACC champion, Maryland, and their talented senior guard Greivis Vasquez are the four.

The five seed is no slouch, either. Anytime Coach Tom Izzo is in the field, he and his Michigan State Spartans are a tough out. Even though the team is in free fall (injuries to leading scorer Kalin Lucas and the suspension of Chris Allen) Izzo is at his best in March. It seems the more experts count the Spartans out, the deeper they go in the Dance. Regardless of the name on the front of the jersey, no one should ever rule out the members of the previous year’s National Championship Game. Well, that is unless they fail to make the tournament in the following year--ahem, North Carolina.

The six seed, Tennessee, is the only team in college basketball history to knock off the number one ranked team (Kansas) and the number two ranked team (Kentucky) in the same regular-season. And they did it despite Coach Bruce Pearl dismissing four key players due to off-the-court issues. That is a far cry from Xavier’s (6) seed resume.

Even the seven seed in this region could make a deep run. Oklahoma State’s James Anderson is averaging 22.6 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. He is the best guard you have never heard of.

Moving along to the (8) vs. (9) match-up; it will showcase a Northern Iowa team that is seeded incorrectly. Ranked in the Coaches Poll, the Panthers have only four losses on the year. And the ho-hum (10) seed is a team that played in the ACC Championship Game. Though Georgia Tech did not have a stellar season, head coach Paul Hewitt willed his team to finish strong. He sits firmly on the hot seat with his A.D. and fan base, so his team might make some noise. There is nothing more dangerous than a man coaching for his job. 


Way to spread out that talent evenly, Committee. My prediction: Ohio State is that good; Final Four good. Escaping this Group of Death will make them battle-tested. This could be the year that they cut down the most important nets.

Not to be forgotten from the Buckeye Basketball projections is the Ohio Bobcats. They, too, fall in the dreaded Midwest region. The Buckeyes would be elated if OU lays on the tracks in front of the impending Georgetown train. It would shock the nation to trip the Hoyas up, but the Bobcats have nothing to lose.

They have no business being in the Dance. They were 7-9 in a down year for the Mid American Conference; "good" enough for the (9) seed in their conference tournament. They had to take a (8) seed Ball State to overtime in the MAC first round. This dream run could have ended on a court in Muncie, Indiana -- a far cry from any pageantry of the Big Dance. But that win started an unprecedented run over Kent State, Miami (OH), and Akron.  


Now sitting at 26-15 and the Midwest Region's (14) seed, the Bobcats are playing out of their collective minds. History has shown that teams that play with this level of house money tend to shock the world. If Georgetown plays like it did in mid-February -- in which the Hoyas lost to a lousy Rutgers team -- the outcome could be a toss-up.

In that ugly loss to the Scarlet Knights, Georgetown did shoot 50% from the field but could not play any defense against Rutger’s Jonathan Mitchell. After seeing his recent performance live in Cleveland, there is no doubt that Ohio’s Armon Bassett could easily go off for 24 points like Mitchell did that evening. My prediction: the Bobcats season does finally come to a close, much deeper into the calendar than they thought it would two weeks ago.





Leave Comments on my Facebook page or Email Feedback to w.ross.clites@gmail.com

Popular posts from this blog

From Wounded Wood Duck To Thoroughbred In A World Series-Bound "Stable"

Do you know the typical setting of a rookie reliever making his 1,000th Major League pitch? That answer is an emphatic "No" perhaps followed by a good-natured "No one does." Even in today's pitch count-centric world, that's not a threshold any analyst is rattling off during a telecast. But, by diving heavy into the research, I found out that we may have witnessed the most iconic instance in baseball history on Saturday night. For your [modern] classic one-inning bullpen guys, with an average of 17 pitches per, you're looking at their 58th career appearance. With the focus on service time and "starting the free agency clock" it's become really tough to squeeze that many outings into a singular rookie campaign.  On the rare occasion that a rookie spends an entire season with a Major League club  — like a Jeurys Familia did with the 2014 New York Mets  — 1,000 occurs during appearance number 61 in the dog days of summer (August 20). He went o

For MLS Expansion, 27 Is The Magic Number Garber & Co. Continues To Disregard

What a wild two months it has been for the next (and final) wave of expansion in Major League Soccer. The recent surge of headlines has been a welcome sighting; the league office had gone radio silent on the topic for far too long. If you can believe it, the awarding of  Nashville SC  as a future franchise is already coming up on its one-year anniversary.  The most contemporary piece on the subject — team number 24 going to  FC Cincinnati  — turns six months old next week. It sure feels like just yesterday, but time flies when there is nothing else verifiable to report. Until early September, that Cincinnati announcement sat on the "Recent News" tab of MLS expansion sites collecting dust. Even the most speculative bloggers were in wait-and-see mode. Forecasting any further seemed futile until a deadline for the next batch of proposals was presented.    The only other expansion story of 2018 came out in January, when  David Beckham's South Florida endless soccer quest

The Best Season Few Talked About & Even Fewer Came Out To See

Pop quiz: How many wins did the Tampa Bay Rays end up with this season? Seriously, don't cheat. Attempt a guess, or at the very least, come up with a range. 75-80, right?   A few games over .500, maybe?    In major league seasons such as this, where all ten playoff teams were settled prior to the final Sunday, the average fan's stock response goes something like: "It was a busy Week 4 in the NFL. I know there's a tiebreaker or two on Monday, but I don't have a clue how the other teams ended up."  Well, would you trust me enough to not fact check it on your own if I said the Rays got all the way to 90-72?  And I'll do you one better. Take a look at all the promising teams that didn't make it to the 90-win plateau.  A sexy sleeper pick by many, this was supposed to finally be the year where the Seattle Mariners'  17-year playoff drought  would end  (89) .  Sparked by a managerial change in July, it sure looked like the St. Louis Cardinals coul

Dear St. Louis, The MLS Isn't Coming To Town (Because 'The MLS' Doesn't Exist)

We all have that one friend that butchers a particular word within a quote/phrase/song lyric/idiom, to the point our blood boils whenever it resurfaces. And I'm not even talking about grammatical mistakes like  there ,  their , and  they're  or the difference between affect  and  effect . Those go largely undetected in speech; only ever showing up as egregious typos in a text or email. No, I'm talking more about painful linguistic attacks on the ear drums.  These instances can be as innocuous as assigning a plural verb to a singular subject. I recently saw a commercial that aims to  dissuade Illinois residents from driving buzzed or drunk . Nothing to really joke about there. And I'll admit that the music, voice-over, and simulated car crash are powerful enough to command attention. If it happens to follow an ad that is frequently mocked in your household, this ominous 30 seconds certainly re-centers the tone in the room. Or at least it should. So what is wrong with me

How The Super Bowl Has Ruined Your High School Football Program

Back to work the day after the Super Bowl is always a tough one. The football season has come to an end and all that's left behind is a bitter chill in the air. There's nothing overly exciting on the sports docket until Major League Baseball's new Thursday Opening Day and the first two days of March Madness — all of which should be national holidays.  Until then, hockey and basketball teams will either be jockeying for playoff positioning or riding out the end of a disappointing season. That means an awful lot of tanking for Jack Hughes and Zion Williamson (personally I prefer R.J. Barrett), salary cap dumping, or attempting to land Artemi Panarin and Anthony Davis via trade. In each case, February has become more about off-field/court noise rather than the games themselves.  Face it, most of the month is a real nothing burger for sports coverage. If you want to hear people talk on screen, your time would be better spent catching up on Netflix stand-up specials. The flu

The Power That's Returned to 'Flower': Revising Marc-Andre's Postseason Legacy

For the life of me, I cannot come up with anything comparable for what Marc-Andre Fleury is doing in these playoffs. Resurrections of this magnitude rarely appear anywhere outside of the New Testament. Yet, here he is; back from the dead, leading (yes, leading) Pittsburgh to the Eastern Conference Final.  The liability has been converted to an asset, and share-holders that stuck with him through his penny stock days (i.e. me) are loving it.    There is a theme of this piece centered on rebounds. On the micro level, Fleury was able to respond from a 5-2 beat down in Monday's Game 6. In a hostile Verizon Center, he stopped all 29 Washington shots in Wednesday's series finale -- stealing the 2-0 victory . He was nothing short of spectacular in Round 2's only shutout. Fleury's name was apropos for the the barrage sustained. Even 5-on-5, the ice tilted in the home team's favor from the onset. To the nervous spectator, the game's first eight minutes read like a conti

Predicting The Next Moves For MLS Reconfiguration: A 33-Game Schedule

It is said that chess grandmasters can visualize the next fifteen moves their opponent will make. Experience is the biggest reason why. Since every player has a finite quantity of options available, the more unique situations a person studies, the more he or she can draw upon patterns from the past.  Complemented with trustworthy instincts, and a dash of luck, advanced players can make near-perfect assumptions as to what the future holds.  At the moment, this is what the expansion of Major League Soccer (MLS) feels like to me.  Now, I don't claim to be spot-on with my viewpoints, but I have done enough research to at least say I have an educated hunch. Together, we'll have to see how many moves I am ahead of the league office. Recently, I've outlined why I believe the MLS  should only carry 27 teams  in their portfolio. And since that isn't likely to occur, I've also followed up with a timeline for spots 27 and 28 . The CliffsNotes  synopsis of those college di