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Ohio on center stage in tourney

March 21, 2012
The Herald-Star

Last week, we commented on how fans around the Tri-State Area had much to be excited about as play in the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament got under way, but what happened this weekend ensured that fans will have even more reasons to cheer.

Ohio State and West Virginia, remember, had not only both made the 68-team field, but they had both been assigned to play their second-round games in Pittsburgh.

While West Virginia was eliminated with a 77-54 loss to Gonzaga its first game, the Buckeyes stopped Loyola (Md.) 78-59 and Gonzaga 73-66 to earn a spot in the Sweet 16.

That Ohio State advanced was not really much of a surprise. The Buckeyes are the No. 2 seed in their region.

What was surprising, and will make this week's games even more interesting, is that four of the remaining 16 teams are from Ohio.

Joining Ohio State are Ohio University, Cincinnati and Xavier.

In a sport dominated by teams from the Big East, Big Ten and Atlantic Coast conferences, Ohio University is the only team from the mid-major Mid-American Conference that earned a spot in the tournament. The Bobcats, who were seeded No. 13 in the Midwest Regional, have made the rest of the country take notice, defeating Michigan (65-60) and South Florida (62-56) to set up Friday's showdown against No. 1 seed North Carolina is St. Louis.

OU is in some rare company - the Bobcats, who are making their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1964, are the first No. 13 seed to make the regional semifinals since Butler in 2006. While their opponent is a perennial powerhouse, the Tar Heel's star guard, Kendall Marshall, suffered a broken wrist in Sunday's game, leaving questions about his ability to play Friday.

Ohio State, meanwhile, will take on Cincinnati, a No. 6 seed, Thursday in East Region play in Boston, while Xavier, No. 10 seed, will meet Baylor, a No. 3 seed Friday in Atlanta in South Region action.

It all adds up to another interesting week for area fans of college basketball.

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