Four in the field

posted by Bruce Hooley -

The NCAA Tournament isn't what it used to be, because the one-and-done rule in college basketball has watered down the sport to a shadow of its former self.

But just because the quality of March Madness suffers in comparison to the past, it doesn't mean the excitement of is any less, particularly for the teams involved.

Ohio will be well-represented when the NCAA Tournament begins this week.

Not only did Cincinnati, Xavier and Dayton make the field, as expected, but Kent State surprisingly won the Mid-American Conference tournament and Northern Kentucky University won its way into the Big Dance in its first season of eligibility.

The Norse's reward, a first-round game against mighty Kentucky on Friday in Indianapolis. So, NKU's stay figures to be brief, but it certainly will be memorable for the little school just across the Ohio border.

Also in Indianapolis, and also on Friday, seventh-seeded Dayton will play 10th-seeded Wichita State in a matchup of two mid-majors that have had great post-season success recently.

Wichita State won the Missouri Valley Conference regular-season and post-season and is 30-4. Its coach, Gregg Marshall, is a salty dude on a good day, so I'm sure he's not happy about being seeded below Dayton and getting the Flyers in what is, for them, a de-facto home game in Indy.

And, truthfully, that's a garbage move by the NCAA. UD got the benefit of the doubt a few years ago, playing in Columbus, and now it gets the same break after losing its last two games. You don't have to be a Flyer lover, and I'm not a Flyer hater, just for saying that's wrong.

Xavier did what it needed to do at the Big East Tournament, upsetting Butler and nearly getting to the Finals to get off the bubble and into the NCAA Field. Although life got interesting for the Musketeers when they were the last team announced when the brackets were unveiled.

X is a No. 11 seed and will play sixth-seeded Maryland on Thursday in Orlando. That's a guard-heavy matchup, so if Trevon Bluett plays as well as he did in the Big East Tournament and Xavier gets the same scoring it did inside in its last three games, that could easily be a Xavier win.

Kent State is a No. 14 seed in the West and gets a tough opener against 3-seed UCLA on Friday in Sacramento. Anything from here on out is gravy for the Golden Flashes, who surprised the field at the MAC Tournament in Cleveland over the weekend.

Kent beat arch-rival Akron on Saturday night and has come quite a way since it was 13-12. The Flashes have won nine of 10 and will be playing in their first NCAA Tournament since 2008.

Finally, the Ohio team projected to go the farthest in the tournament is sixth-seeded Cincinnati, and the Bearcats, predictably, are among the teams with the biggest beef.

A 27-5 record gets you a sixth-seed? That's too low, and you could have set your clock by UC getting sent to Sacramento for its opener on Friday against the Kansas State-Wake Forest winner from the play-in games in Dayton.

You knew UC would get hosed when head coach Mick Cronin said about a week ago that the NCAA pairings and seeds were all about ticket sales and making the most money possible.

That probably earned Cronin and the Bearcats a trip to the West Region, and probably didn’t do them any favors in the seeding process, either.

These Bearcats are more versatile offensively than Cronin's other teams, but they really struggled Sunday in the American Athletic final against SMU.

UC fell behind 11-2, making just one of its first 15 shots, and lost by 15. So, hopefully, it got that out of its system and is prepared for an extended post-season run.

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