Basketball in the Buckeye State is Back, As Five Teams from Ohio Could Make the Big Dance

By David Wertheim on February 25, 2020 at 1:05 pm
Chris Vogt and Kaleb Wesson
Joe Maiorana- USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State, Cincinnati, Xavier, and Dayton all haven't made the NCAA Tournament since 2015.

Basketball in the Buckeye started out in a big way this year, when Ohio State knocked off Cincinnati in Columbus back on Nov. 6

Since then, it has been an up-and-down year for Ohio State, Cincinnati, and Xavier, but all three look to be in position to make the NCAA Tournament, joined by Dayton and potentially Wright State, the current leader in the Horizon League.

The state of Ohio certainly hasn't been devoid of #basketball #storylines this year. Dayton, led by player of the year contender Obi Toppin, has been a top-ten team since late January and just snuck in to the top 5. If all goes right, they will be a No. 1 seed in just about three weeks.

The Buckeyes were a top-five team at one time, before struggling mightily in January before rebounding in February and now are back in the rankings at No. 23. Ohio State is expected to be somewhere in the 4-8 seed range. 

Cincinnati started the year extremely cold, losing five of 12 non-conference games, including duds against Bowling Green and Colgate. But since AAC play started, the Bearcats have turned it on, and sit just a half game back of first in the conference with an 11-4 record. Senior Jarron Cumberland, after not meshing with first-year coach John Brannen (even being suspended for a game) has bounced back to his usual self, Cincinnati is expected to be in the 7-11 seed range.

Xavier is the mysterious team. The Musketeers don't really have any signature wins (save for a road victory over Seton Hall) but have beaten pretty much every team they should have beaten. They also feature a plethora of talented bodies including Tyrique Jones, who is averaging 14 points and 11.4 rebounds, and Naji Marshall, averaging 16 points per game. Travis Steele is in his second season as Xavier head coach (replacing Chris Mack) and has been criticized at times for underachieving. He will look to change that if his team can sneak in, where they also are projected in the 7-11 range. 

Wright State is the fifth team that can sneak in. The Raiders are currently first in the Horizon League with a 24-6 (14-3) record under fourth year coach Scott Nagy, and can lock up a conference regular-season title with a win over Northern Kentucky this Friday. The one issue for Wright State is that they will almost certainly have to win their conference tournament to get into the Big Dance, as the Horizon will be a one-bid league. 

Basketball in the Buckeye State has always been a passionate subject. This year, when five teams could be in it, there is sure to be a lot of conflict. But that means it will be even more fun to watch.

And in a year where there is so much parity in the sport, we will see if some of the Ohio teams can make a run. 

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