COLUMBUS, Ohio — Glancing back at the first two full days of the NCAA tournament and ahead to a big Saturday…
1. It’s still Ohio Teams 5, Everybody Who’s Played Ohio Teams 0. It was well into Saturday morning before Dayton finished off Providence, but the Flyers really left little doubt about which was the better team. And after a bunch of upsets Thursday, 15 higher-seeded teams won Friday with No. 11 Dayton being the only exception. March is crazy, you know. The four games in Columbus were all competitive, with West Virginia and Maryland winning in the final minute and Oklahoma and Dayton having a little more breathing room. Elsewhere, Ohio native Aaron White ran Davidson and its four Ohio-born starters right out of the gymnasium and there were some other close calls but no surprises. A big Saturday awaits.
2. Cincinnati plays Kentucky. Cincinnati’s players believe in themselves and have said the right things, and this Kentucky team has made for really good television and really good David vs. Goliath storylines. We’ll watch. Cincinnati will give it a go. But we know the truth, and that’s fine. Kentucky’s defense is unforgiving, and Cincinnati’s offense is, um, spotty. Crazy things happen in March, but Kentucky is coming to Cleveland at 36-0.
3. Ohio State has D’Angelo Russell, which means Ohio State has a chance. But Arizona has a team full of big, fast, skilled athletes and a senior point guard in T.J. McConnell who keeps them all going the same direction. The biggest problem is Ohio State’s lack of much of anything on the interior against a bunch of different bigs from Arizona who can dunk putbacks and turn misses at the other end into scoring chances. Arizona can put bigger defenders on Russell, too. If the Buckeyes are going to keep it close they need to hit 3-pointers — paging Keita Bates-Diop and Marc Loving — and compete on the glass. Even then, Arizona is awfully good.
4. Xavier is going for its fifth Sweet 16 since 2008 when it plays Georgia State. That’s pretty impressive, and it’s in reach. Xavier has some impressive pieces and the Musketeers are playing together and playing their best at the right time. Georgia State is expected to again be without point guard Ryan Harrow but the Panthers have an NBA player in R.J. Hunter — son of coach Ron Hunter, who tore his Achilles celebrating making the tournament and fell off his stool celebrating his son’s game-winning shot Thursday — who can fill it up. Xavier wants to play fast and hopes it can eventually overpower Georgia State on the block with Matt Stainbrook and Jalen Reynolds. Xavier is Ohio’s best bet to keep winning and keep playing next weekend.
5. But at this point, who could bet against Archie Miller and Dayton? The Flyers won another grinder over Providence, a strange game with a little controversy at the end but one Dayton dominated. Dayton only has six scholarship players available but those six are making it work — and Miller deserves all the spotlight he’s getting. An Oklahoma team that likes to go fast and will have a tremendous size advantage awaits Sunday and, well, Dayton has been there before. Last year. This year. Pick against Miller, Jordan Sibert and Kendall Pollard with extreme caution.