Back on January 8, the Big Ten was looking at a disappointing bowl season, but knew an Ohio State national title would cure a lot of PR ills for the conference. On March 19, we're at the same spot in hoops. The Buckeyes are all that's left to carry the conference banner, and by the hair of their chinny-chin-chin. The young Bucks have spent the season flirting with disaster--a road game at Penn State comes notably to mind, along with home games against Michigan State & Purdue. Nowhere did they ride the edge more then Saturday against Xavier. It looked like their tendency to forget Greg Oden exists on the offensive end was going to finally do them in, before the stunning rally to beat the Musketeers in overtime.
Now the question remains--was it the kind of win that every national champion wins somewhere along the way, a reminder they are a team of destiny? Or did it expose the problems that better opposition will inevitably do in this coming week in San Antonio?
I like OSU's chances, but this region is going to be a war. Rob Oller at The Columbus Dispatch notes how regional semi-final opponent Tennessee has already given the Buckeyes all they can handle once this season--and that was in Columbus. I look ahead to the regional final and see a possible date with Texas A&M, a team that will be playing very close to home. It reminds me of 2003 when Oklahoma was the #1 seed in the East, but had to play third-seeded Syracuse up in Albany in the final. De facto home court was too much in that case and the Orange won that game and later the national title. The Buckeyes may have to overcome a similiar challenge. But they're still playing, Thad Matta's still coaching and at this point in the season that's all that really matters.