Boilin'-hot Buckeyes have look of winners. So do the Zags, Hoosiers, Jayhawks, Cardinals and ... ?
We are never really satisfied during March Madness, unless ours is one of the Division I teams that fills a No. 1 or a No. 2 slot on the NCAA tournament bracket, which most of us will fill out as if it were as important as a W-2 form.
But can we pick a fight this season about the four teams in the top slots?
Think about it, Indiana didn’t win the Big Ten Tournament; it didn’t even make the tournament finals. Is that what a team playing well in March does? How about Gonzaga? The Zags haven’t had to run the gauntlet that a team from one of the elite Division I conferences has had to, but the Zags won — they won at the start of the season; they won in the middle of the season; and they won at the end of the season. Is there anything more we can ask of ’em?
So what if no one can name a single player on Gonzaga roster. Big deal. That’s the West Coast slight that teams like the Zags, Oregon, Arizona and UCLA often confront. Does that make those teams less qualified for a high seed in the tournament than a North Carolina team that gets more prime-time love than Kim Kardashian?
But as we dissect where our favorite team is seeded and what opponents await in its section of the bracket, we must remain mindful of one small point: Stars bring home NCAA titles.
Yet of all the big-name teams in the tournament (sorry, Kentucky), of all the players who can will their teams to an NCAA title, Ohio State is blessed with two: Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft. Both have been here before, back when they were freshmen, back when the innocence of college hoops made their play unsteady.
No top-tier team heads into March Madness with as much momentum as Coach Thad Matta’s Buckeyes do. They won their conference tournament, and Matta has gotten Craft to play like the point guard people said he would become — a point guard with all the dimensions to his game.
Picking the Buckeyes isn’t a high risk, nor is picking Duke or Indiana or Louisville or Kansas. All have put their games into the pressure cooker of big-time conference play. Still, we have to look at who is hottest among the elite, and we can weigh for an eternity who might be the champion and still not get it right.
We do know it won’t be Albany or Pacific — or any of the other mid-major teams that reach the tournaments on the back of weak competition in an even weaker league.
One of them might make noise along the way. None will reach Atlanta on April 8, which forces us to shine an LED spotlight on those teams that likely will, and the brighter the light shines, one team looks best under its glow: the Buckeyes, baby!
Justice B. Hill is a veteran sports reporter who writes for a number of sports websites, including MLB.com and SBnation.com. He has been a sports editor at several major newspapers and taught journalism at Ohio University.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
BET Sports News - Get the latest news and information about African-Americans in sports including weekly recaps, celebrity news and photos of your favorite Black athletes. Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
(Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS/AP)