Ohio College Basketball March Madness Bubble Watch
Since the creation of March Madness, there has always been a team from Ohio in the field of 64 (now 68). This year will be no different as potentially 6 different teams from the state could make the big dance. If six were to make it, that would fall one short of the record-breaking seven Texas teams from 2018.
Quantity will be no issue for the state of Ohio this year, but the quality might be slightly worse. The top-tier teams of Ohio State, Xavier, Cincinnati, and Dayton are not having bad years, but I’d be shocked to see any of those teams get past the Sweet Sixteen. For Dayton and Cincy, I’ll be shocked if they even steal a bid to the tourney at all.
For all thirteen Division One programs from Ohio, I’ll break down their tournament chances into a few different categories, and rank them from best to worst. Finally, all official rankings will be provided from the Pomeroy College Basketball Ranking system. Let’s start from the top.
Ohio State (17-7) No. 21
Just when you thought the Buckeyes were starting to round into a complete unit, they came home to the Schottenstein Center and got crushed by Keegan Murray and Iowa. If they would’ve blown a big second-half lead against Indiana, that would’ve thrown a wrench in their fight for a top-five seed in the dance, luckily they squeaked out a cover in overtime. With that being said, the Buckeyes have wins against Duke, Seton Hall, Wisconsin, and at Michigan which is just as good as any team in the country. Ohio State still has games at Illinois and home matchups with both teams from that state up north. Their resume can heavily fluctuate before the experts release the bracket next month.
Should be in
Xavier (17-10) No. 37
At the beginning of January, Xavier was making a great case for a top four seed in the tournament and a real chance to win a regular-season Big East title. Well, it’s no longer January and things have been trending south quickly for the Musketeers. Head Coach Travis Steele has the roster to make the tournament, and a mature enough group of guys to make some real noise if they make the dance. However, they need to find someone on their roster to have some consistent offense. Jack Nunge has been terrific lately, but he desperately needs some consistency from Paul Scruggs and Zach Freemantle. Both players had such high expectations heading into this season, and they haven’t come anywhere near those lofty goals. However, Xavier’s wins over Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, Marquette, Creighton (a team they beat twice this year), and UCONN should be enough to keep them mostly safe for now.
Just outside the tournament
Dayton (20-8) No. 45
After a 1-3 start that culminated with a loss to one of the worst teams in the country, Austin Peay, it truly felt like this season would be a waste. Luckily for the Flyers, they followed that streak with a ginormous road win at Kansas, who’s been one of the best teams in the country. Since then, Dayton’s only bad loss came on the road against an average George Mason team. With only four games left in the regular season, Dayton needs to win out to give themselves a chance at making the tournament as a non-automatic qualifier.
Cincinnati (17-11) No. 93
The Bearcats just don’t have many good wins. An early-season win against Illinois is looking better by the minute and a home win over SMU is great, but the rest of the resume looks rough. Fortunately, things could change quickly for Cincy. If they can win out and take road contests against Houston and SMU, they might just sneak their way onto the bubble. I just don’t think this team has really recovered since an early-season loss to Xavier. They’ll most likely need to win the AAC to go dancing.
MAC Teams that could win their tournament
Toledo (22-6) No. 87
When Toledo is at their best, they’re easily the most talented offensive team in their conference, however, their consistency is waning in and out more frequently. The Rockets have 4 scorers totaling over 12 points per game all while shooting over 45% from the field. Depth isn’t normally too important once March rolls along, but Toledo has minimal depth. If an injury were to happen to anyone in the frontcourt, Toledo will run into huge matchup problems in the MAC tournament.
Ohio (23-5) No. 106
After losing star guard Jason Preston, the road back to the tournament looked possible but certainly not easy. Well, Mark Sears has filled the lead scorer role perfectly, while bigs Ben Vander Plas and Xavier transfer, Jason Carter, have been able to control the paint most games. From a resume standpoint, Ohio has the best wins out of low conference teams in Ohio. They have wins over Belmont and Marshall while competing in tough out of conference losses. I know their losses to Toledo are bad, but the Rockets have been trending down, while I think the Bobcats are trending up.
Kent State (18-9) No. 132
The Golden Flashes don’t have the resumes of Toledo and Ohio, but in my (biased) opinion as a Kent State student, they’re the best team in the MAC. If you don’t believe they’re the best, they’re at least the hottest. Sincere Carry has been scorching lately, but most recently he made national headlines with his 10 three-pointers and 42 points against Ball State. Guards win you games in March, and there’s no better player in the MAC than Carry. He’s making a great case for MAC Player of the Year, and winning the MAC tournament would be a perfect way to close out his campaign. Nobody in the country wants to run into the Golden Flashes.
Tier II tournament hopefuls
Akron (18-9) No. 159
No team could change their position on this list more than Akron. Led by Ali Ali and Enrique Freeman, the Zips have more than enough star potential to win the MAC tournament. The issue with Akron is whether they can close out a tight game. Their last three conference losses have come by a combined total of nine points, where they had chances to pull away late. Freeman is one of the better big men in the MAC, so if they can slow the tempo of the game down enough, they might be able to fight their way into the dance.
Cleveland State (19-7) No. 188
Head coach Dennis Gates has done what may be the most impressive coaching job in the country over his three years at Cleveland State. He took over a Vikings team that was one of the worst in the country and has turned them back into a title contender in the Horizon League. As of now, the Vikings hold a two-game lead over Purdue Ft. Wayne, but if they win either of their final two games, they’ll clinch the regular season championship of the Horizon League. I think they’ll be heavy favorites to win their conference tournament again, but the worst-case scenario is a trip to the NIT.
Wright State (16-13) No. 195
Not many teams in the country have had as much of an up and down season as the Raiders have had. They started the season 2-7, then went 9-1 in the middle part of their schedule, now they’ve closed their last ten games at 5-5. I feel their third stretch of the season is more indicative of the team they are unlike the first two-thirds of the season. Tanner Holden is a pretty great scorer and could pull off some tournament upsets, but I don't think this team has much of a chance at winning the Horizon League.
Youngstown State (18-11) No. 245
YSU is the second hottest team in the state of Ohio. I’m not sure they’re super talented, but they found countless ways to win games. Over their most recent 8-1 stretch, they’ve had games where they can score 90 and win, or hold teams under 60 and win. Forward, Michael Akuchie is the only true star on this Penguins team and I don’t think they have the guard play to hang with the top of the Horizon League. Hot teams tend to win in March, but I don’t think this team will have the guns to pull it off.
Better Luck Next Year
Miami (12-15) No. 252
Congratulations Miami, you are one of the worst teams in the state of Ohio. Unlike Bowling Green’s complete nose dive to close out the year, Miami has just been below average all season. Their offense isn’t completely terrible, scoring over 75 a night, but when your defense gives up 74, you won't win many games. Better luck next year.
Bowling Green (12-16) No. 266
What a disappointing season for Bowling Green. A team picked as a dark horse champion of the conference is four games under .500 and has no semblance of consistency on either side of the ball. The Falcons have lost their last five games and given up over 90 points in three of them. I don’t think they have much or any shot at winning the MAC tournament.
I’m not sure many or any teams from Ohio will make any noise in the tournament, but hopefully the state is still well represented. However, that’s what makes March Madness so great. Just when you think a team has no chance, they make a great run, and hopefully some team does just that.
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