I hate Rocky Top. I'm sure it's a perfectly fine song and all, but I once spent a trip driving from Columbus to Nashville being subjected to a particularly painful club remix of the song no less than two dozen times. I imagine it has its redeeming values, but for the remainder of my natural life, it will forever be the sonic equivalent of nails on a chalk board.
If the basketball gods have their way, Ohio State's leads should be early and plentiful to the point where we're not subjected ad nauseam to a pep band's rousing rendition of the tune at every stoppage point in the game. Vegas has the Bucks slotted in as early 5 points favorites which makes the odds of that being a reality that much better. While there's no mistaking Scotty Hopson, millionth year senior "Weezy" Chism, and J.P. Prince as solid of a core as you'll find in college hoops, I can't lie, I've sort of been waiting for the wheels to come off this team for the better part of the season. The team infamously lost former Iowa transfer and third leading scorer Tyler Smith (along with a 1/4 of all scholarship players on the team) following an early January traffic stop where marijuana was discovered on the scene.
To the Vols' credit, despite an influx of walk ons beginning to pick up some of the end of the rotation minutes, UT bounced right back and beat then #1 KU at home the very next weekend (though Northern Iowa's neutral court heroics have somewhat diminished the returns on that puppy). The Vols put together a great rest of the year, really only stumbling against top tier tournament worthy SEC teams, one outlier loss on the road to Mark Fox' Georgia Bulldogs aside. UT also holds one of just two victories over the prohibitive favorite amongst the remaining teams to go all the way, John Calipari's Kentucky Wildcats (no word on whether Tennessee will garner an extra win in 2014 or not; stay tuned).
On the subject of the best of what's around, The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy raises the bar on the Buckeyes prospects by assessing their odds of winning college hoops' ultimate prize as 2nd best amongst the 16 remaining schools. Being the cynic that I am, each remaining stepping stone grows more ominous by the day. While admittedly I had the Buckeyes' stumbling with no answers for Greg Monroe (which, uh, John Groce's Bobcats had in spades…) and Georgetown in the next round, internally I think i'm already making peace with the prospects of an ouster so I'm not disappointed should that possibility come to fruition. On the other hand, the master scribes at Rocky Top Talk point out that despite the Vols being arguably the SEC's second most storied basketball program, they've never advanced beyond the round of 16. Thad Matta looks for Ohio State's second elite eight berth in just the last 4 years. Hard to dislike the way those numbers stack. Maybe optimism is the way to go.
Will at RTT also waxes wordy about the utter dismay that was blowing the 17-point half team lead and losing on the gut wrenching Oden, the swat god, block the way they did. Admittedly my memories of the Sweet 16 weren't quite so lucid. I was pushing my 3rd year at Ohio State, likely viewed the game through an "enhanced" perspective, and only really vividly remember the Conley miss and the subsequent swat. That's more than good enough these days; 2009-me would've been an anxious tremble away from a xanax facing that kind of half-time deficit. Out with the worries and in with the optimism. I give you Greg Oden's fire breathing, Elite 8-berth clinching feat of awesome:
Forgive me for not being as confident Kyle Madsen has this in his repertoire. I'll more than settle for a Threebler dagger or another Villain 36-footer as a consolation prize, however.