(Editor’s note: WFNY’s March Madness Challenge is here…PRIZES!)
Instead of having an arbitrary batch of computers and voting heads decide who will become the champion of their respective sport, March Madness offers fans several weeks of hardwood hopefuls, looking to turn their regular season win total into hardware – a novel concept, really. And wouldn’t you know it: Cleveland is a host city for the first weekend (I refuse to call the first actual round the second round).
The Buckeyes, the aforementioned top seed, were certainly not given a cakewalk by any stretch of the bracket-filling imagination. Despite having Gene Smith chairing the selection committee, the Buckeyes were given a road that is rife with competitors looking to pluck the would-be Goliath from their throne atop the region. While Smith’s reluctance to grant the Buckeye’s with a clear path to Houston likely sent the Ohio State haters into a tizzy for lack of conspiracy, Thad Matta and company will have a slate of opponents that could upset his not-so-deep squad on any given afternoon.
The Rest of the Top Four
While Pittsburgh gets to duke it out with an overseeded Florida and a BYU team that is without one of its best players, the Buckeyes will have to contend with North Carolina (winner of the ACC), Syracuse (winner of the Big East) and Kentucky (winner of the SEC tournament, beating aforementioned Florida). Both Jim Boeheim and Roy Williams have won NCAA tournaments during their tenure, and John Calipari may as well be an NBDL coach given the talent he has worked with over the last several years.
If we want to go just outside the top four, Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers of West Virginia await.
Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight… Ohio State could very well see more than one potential lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.
And if That Wasn’t Enough…
The remainder of the East bracket is nothing to shy away from. George Mason is just a few years removed from shocking the world by making it to the Final Four as an 11-seed.
Xavier will provide NCAA fans with one of the better guards in the land of mid-majors, Tu Holloway (or Holliday, if you’re a disciple of Kenny Smith).
Washington, winner of the Pac-10 will boast guard Isaiah Thomas, fresh off of his buzzer-beater against Arizona that locked up a tournament bid.
And this may sound silly, but Long Island (the 15th seed in the East) is ranked third in the nation in rebounding and fourth in scoring. Sure, they’ll have to get past North Carolina first, but show me another 15-seed that’s this young and this statistically-decorated (though not many even know it).
So what say Ye, Buckeye fan? Where does the East rank on the difficulty meter? Think Thad’s group can pull it off?
Lord knows the football program could use a bit of a break from the limelight…