Men’s Basketball: “10 Things” About The NCAA Tournament

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•   It’s becoming tough to tell who is having the better March – Nick Kellogg or his dad Clark. Nick made the All MAC tournament team and played some of his finest basketball to date in the MAC final against Akron. Then Clark wrapped up calling the Big Ten tournament championship game only to score an interview with President Obama and, perhaps more dubiously, the British Prime Minister David Cameron.

•    Speaking of the interview…it took place at the opening “First Four” game in Dayton, Oh. Because nothing says, “disarm yourself Iran” like the POTUS and the PM mucking it up over a 16-seed matchup. Hold onto whatever Euros you have left Greece, because there is no better way to brainstorm your way out of an economic crisis than catching a Western Kentucky game. This had to have Santorum and Romney quivering in their conservative coattails. It’s hard to measure the true meaning of the two leaders of the free world shooting the breeze in business casual clothes as Mississippi Valley State blows a double digit halftime lead. I can’t decide whether it was a total power move or the most wayward act by two Western powers in a time of nuclear uneasiness we have ever seen. My guess is it’s somewhere in between.

•    There is something about Walter Offutt that none of us outside of the Ohio basketball program knows about. It’s hard to tell and seems even more difficult for head coach John Groce to articulate. It was brought up throughout the year, but Groce went out of his way to emphasize Offutt’s value during press conferences at the MAC tournament. He even took a jab at the fact that Offutt didn't make one of the three All-MAC teams. It seems to revolve around leadership and defense, but the passion Groce exudes about Offutt suggests it is something we simply can’t comprehend if we aren’t behind closed doors with the team all season.

•    People regard Dj Cooper as small, even for a point guard. If that is the case, it’s a Godsend that basketball is played indoors or a swift crosswind would have taken Coop out of the Georgetown game two years ago. Groce went on Michael Reghi’s radio show on WKNR Cleveland Tuesday night and said that Dj weighed in Georgetown week at a feathery 148 pounds. This year? He stepped on the scale to begin Michigan week, and it read a relatively hefty 178.

•    Speaking of Dj, he has an opportunity with a winning weekend to join an old Irish bishop, a fallen emperor, and an endless irrational number as synonymous with March. After the tourney upset on March 18 two years ago, Cooper would, with a win over Michigan, have a shot to lead Ohio to the Sweet 16 on the same day two years later. If such a thing happens, Cooper should have a Founder’s Day style holiday created for him on campus.  

•    Reporters, bloggers, and tweeters are jumping on a supposed rumor that John Groce is a leading candidate for the Nebraska head-coaching job. We’ll leave aside the quality of that job opening for now, but the takeaway here is no one should be inquiring about such things this week. What do reporters think they will get out of it? In football, coaches take new jobs they flee before the postseason. There’s not a chance of that with Groce leading a MAC team to the NCAA tournament. For right now, let’s keep such senseless speculation where John Groce’s head doesn’t shine.

•    Akron may have given Ohio its most affirmative indication of potential success this Friday. The Zips hung tough at Northwestern in the first round of the NIT Tuesday night, showing that the MAC can compete with the Big Ten at least at some levels. Akron center Zeke Marshall had a big game, which may be a testament to the job Ohio’s undersized big men did on him all year.

•    Is any team not absolutely exhilarated with their draw in the NCAA tournament (as long as they make it)? The way CBS does its selection show it’s like 20-plus teams have Mazel Tov moments at the same time. It’s like 20-plus office pools winning the lottery in different states at once. It’s like hundreds of Howard Deans emerging at the mere mention of their school on national TV. The puzzling part is that more than half the teams know they are in the tournament before the show. You can’t tell me they are all reacting to their opponent.

•    Former NBA all-star Tim Hardway will be catching his second Bobcat game of the year this weekend. Earlier in the season, he stopped by Athens for Ohio’s morning tilt against Ball State before cruising up to Columbus to watch his son, Tim Jr., and Michigan play Ohio State. Hardaway rocked a stylish, loosely worn beanie at the Convo in the heart of winter. I’ll have an eye out Friday for what he shows up wearing in sunny Nashville.

•    There is not a ton of star power in the Nashville section of the second round. Hardaway Jr. is up there, but unheralded teams like "defensive minded" Florida State, "brawl 'til you fall" Cincinnati, and "40 points and a cloud of dust" South Florida dominate the lineup for Friday. Interestingly enough, a non-college basketball star dominated the headlines as the teams arrived in town Wednesday. Peyton Manning took his free agent tour to the Tennessee Titans where his Nashville-style courting has shoved the impending madness on Friday temporarily to the backburner. So, don't be shocked if TNT gives you a shot or two of Manning doing five-step drops to "Drink in my Hand" up and down the honky tonk strip on Broadway Avenue.