NCAA BK

East: Ohio St. will spoil Big East party

Jared Sullinger (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Jared Sullinger and top-seeded Ohio State won't have an easy road.
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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 

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Ohio State drew the top-overall seed but won’t have an easy road, potentially having to play No. 4 Kentucky in the Sweet 16.

Thad Matta and John Calipari may not have an abundance of depth, but these two coaches are loaded in their starting lineups. The question is whether the Wildcats have an answer for Jared Sullinger.

Everywhere you seem to look, there’s a Big East team. Ohio State could meet Villanova in the second round, West Virginia in the Sweet 16 and Syracuse or Marquette in the Elite Eight.

This region also has its share of shocking bubble teams. Georgia was right on the bubble and didn’t just get in, it was rewarded with a No. 10 seed. UAB and Clemson also are surprising teams and will face one another in the First Four with the winner playing West Virginia.

This is a region also loaded with guards. Villanova has Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, Kentucky has Brandon Knight, Xavier boasts Tu Holloway, Marquette relies on Darius Johnson-Odom, Syracuse is led by Scoop Jardine and Washington leans heavily on Isaiah Thomas.

Best first-round matchup: No. 8 George Mason vs. No. 9 Villanova — Can the Patriots, who had the magical Final Four run in 2006, knock off Jay Wright and the Wildcats, who have been a train wreck of late?

Best potential matchup: No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Kentucky — Two of the most talented teams in the nation. Neither is overly deep, but both are loaded in their starting five. This one would have been even more entertaining if it had been Jared Sullinger vs. Enes Kanter. Instead it’s Sullinger vs. Josh Harrellson.


Upset special: No. 7 Washington over No. 2 North Carolina — The Huskies have some swagger back after winning the Pac-10 tourney. They are one of the few teams with the size to matchup with the Tar Heels, and Isaiah Thomas will be difficult for the UNC guards to contain.

Cinderella? No. 11 Marquette — The Golden Eagles match up well against Xavier and already have beaten Syracuse this season, so don’t be shocked if Buzz Williams’ team goes to the Sweet 16.

My pick: Ohio State — I picked the Buckeyes to win it all prior to the start of the season and I’m sticking with them. They have all the pieces, but they’ll be tested in the Sweet 16 — likely by Kentucky.

Story Lines:

  • Four Big East teams in this region: No. 3 Syracuse, No. 5 West Virginia, No. 9 Villanova and No. 11 Marquette. The Orange and Marquette could meet in the second round.
  • The Kentucky Wildcats lost to West Virginia last season in the Elite Eight when they couldn’t make shots from deep or from the free-throw line. John Calipari, with a new team, likely gets another shot at Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers in a second-round matchup.
  • West Virginia must wait to see who it plays: UAB or Clemson. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s an advantage or a disadvantage.
  • Toughness. That’s what Xavier and Marquette are known for. Love the matchup between Musketeers guard Tu Holloway and Marquette guard Darius Johnson-Odom.

Top Players to Watch:

Jared Sullinger, 6-9, 280, C, Fr., Ohio State

Brandon Knight, 6-3, 185, G, Fr., Kentucky

Tu Holloway, 6-0, 185, G, Jr,, Xavier

Harrison Barnes, 6-8, 220, F, Fr., North Carolina

Isaiah Thomas, 5-8, 175, G, Jr., Washington

Jimmy Butler, 6-7, 220, F, Sr., Marquette

Best Player You've Never Heard of: Jamarr Sanders, 6-4, 200, G, UAB

Overrated: No. 5 West Virginia

Underrated: No. 7 Washington

Tagged: Marquette, UAB, Washington, Ohio State, North Carolina, Kentucky, Xavier, Syracuse, Villanova, John Henson, Tu Holloway, Isaiah Thomas, Darius Johnson-Odom, Jared Sullinger, Brandon Knight

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