NCAA Opening Round: #1 OSU vs. #16 CCSU

By Jason Priestas on March 14, 2007 at 5:05 pm
It’s been a while..Even the great Keith Closs cannot save CCSU
Ohio State Buckeyes
#1 Ohio State
30-3, 15-1 Big Ten
Roster | Schedule

7:10 PM ET
Rupp Arena
Lexington, KY
Central Connecticut State Blue Devils
#16 Cent. Conn. St.
22-11, 16-2 NEC
Roster | Schedule

Opponent: Coach Howie Dickenman's Central Connecticut State Blue Devils will be another 16 seed attempting to do the impossible - slay a #1. They enter the tournament following a 74-70 victory over Sacred Heart in the Northeastern Conference tournament championship. Despite dressing only 9 players and having only one player recruited by another major school, the Blue Devils went 16-2 in conference play and represent the lone tournament entrant from the state of Connecticut (where you at UCONN?).

Key Players: The Blue Devils are led by 6'3" senior guard Javier Mojica who averaged 16.7 points and 7.1 rebounds per game on the way to being named NEC Player of the Year. Mojica also picked up the NEC conference tournament MVP award after dropping 25 in the conference championship game. Joining Mojica on the NEC conference first team were teammates Tristan Blackwood and Obie Nwadike. Blackwood, a 6'0" junior guard, averaged 17.3 points and 4.2 assists per game this season, capped off by 21 points and 2 clutch free throws with 22 seconds left to seal the win against Sacred Heart. 6'4" senior forward Nwadike averaged 14.8 points and 10.4 rebounds a game on the season -- damn impressive rebounding numbers considering his height. Obie will need The Force to try and contain the Buckeyes height advantage as no CCSU player is taller than 6'7".

Notes: CCSU is making their third NCAA tournament appearance, all under the leadership of Dickenman, who took over in 1996... The only other time Ohio State has played Central Connecticut State was the second game of the 1995-96 season, a 79-52 OSU victory over a CCSU team led by Keith Closs... Coach Dickenman was never teased over his name as a child.

Buckeye Breakdown: To say the Buckeyes have momentum would be an understatement. They have won 17 straight games, a streak that's good for third best in the nation. Included is an impressive three game run through the Big Ten tournament in which they won every game by at least 10 points, capped off by hammering a 4-loss Wisconsin team 66-49 in the championship game. Whether fans think the team deserved a higher overall seed in the tournament or not, they're rightfully optimistic because the Bucks are clicking.

Key Players: You have to start with the big man. Greg Oden used the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago as a coming out party. Oden won the MVP award after averaging 17 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks -- including that monster 19 rebound performance against Purdue that was good enough to set a tournament record. It was also encouraging to see a little emotion out of Oden -- I wouldn't be surprised to see him sans cast come tipoff. Oden didn't do it alone, as Mike Conley Jr. continued to do his thang, chipping in with 18 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists against the Badgers. Finally, Ron Lewis has been more aggressive in getting the rock to the hole and people are noticing. If he can continue to do that, the Buckeyes should have no problems with the undersized Blue Devils.

Notes: The Buckeyes finished #1 in the final regular season AP Poll for the 3rd time in school history - the other two times they lost to Cincinnati in the finals (1961, 1962)... The Dispatch's Bob Baptist thinks there's a chance that some well-connected folks from Kentucky may want to have some words with Matta while he's in town over the weekend... Ohio State leads the Big Ten in final four appearances with 9... Big Ten teams have combined to win 6 national championships since 1976, but none since 2000 when Michigan State won it... If you, like us will be out of town for the game, here's a handy television coverage map (PDF).

11W Notes: The 11W crew will be in Vegas for the opening weekend of March Madness. We hope to deliver the same trash we always do over the next couple of days, but can't make any promises because Vegas is.. well.. Vegas. Feel free to leave any opening round tips you may have in the comments.