This season of college basketball has seen some of the best on the court action in recent memory; while doing its very best to stir up as much controversy as possible off the court. The legal problems plaguing college basketball have seemingly engrained their way into campuses across the country; but, luckily for us, they haven’t found Ohio yet (Knock on wood). Ohio basketball is flourishing at the moment, with 3 teams ranked in the top twenty-five, and five with at least a share of their conference lead. But the underlying question on everyone’s mind, who is the King of Ohio?
For starters, of the five teams leading their conference, only three of them are real competitors come tournament time. So despite Toledo being 19-9 (11-4) and Wright State 21-8 (13-3), they don’t have much of a chance to best anyone in the tournament. Also, on a side note, the most dominant mid-majors are having a down year this season. Dayton 13-14 (7-8), Cleveland State 8-22 (5-12), Kent State 13-15 (7-8), Akron 12-15 (5-10), and Ohio U 12-15 (5-10) have all been very underwhelming for the most part.
Image: HERO Sports
So with all the mid-majors out of the way, the third best team in Ohio actually has the best record. For now, that would be the Cincinnati Bearcats. Despite the fact UC plays in the American Conference, they are still a very talented team. In a normal year, the Bearcats would be the no questions number one defense in the country, but like I said, this isn’t a normal year. Virginia is putting up record breaking numbers on the defensive end, trumping the outstanding feat the Bearcats have accomplished. But unlike normal Mic Cronin lead UC teams, these guys can score the rock too. They’re blowing out opponents left and right, but losses to their big name opponents of Wichita State, Houston, Florida, and Xavier keep them down at three for me.
Image: Cincinnati Enquirer
I’ve said it a hundred times, but if you told me at the beginning of the year Ohio State would be an elite basketball team, I wouldn’t have bought it. Ohio State’s only bad loses are flukey upsets to Penn State, and a bad choke versus Butler. On a metrics base, Cincinnati is better at defense, but Ohio State does more. They generate turnovers, rebound like crazy, and are efficient on offense, letting them set up there defense and slow transition. Although their defense is great, the best part about the Buckeyes is Keita Bates-Diop and Chris Holtmann. Oklahoma’s Freshman phenom, Tre Young, has stolen the show through the first half of the season; but, with how well Bates-Diop and Ohio State have played lately, a Wooden Award does not seem too far out of the picture. What really puts the Buckeyes in the number two slot? Chris. Holtmann. Head coach Chris Holtmann breeds winning and has gotten his guys to buy into his system. If they keep this up, a Big Ten Championship isn’t too far out of the picture.
Image: Akron Beacon Journal
So who’s the best in Ohio? A team only 2.7 miles from the University of Cincinnati. The Xavier Musketeers. This team is loaded from top to bottom. Led by one of the best coaches in college basketball, Chris Mack, Xavier has a roster that has been going nine deep this year. Other than Villanova, (who destroyed Xavier twice) nobody in the country has the depth and shooting capabilities of the Musketeers. Xavier has a flawless mix of height and three-point shooting on the court at all times and a sure shot All-American, Trevon Bluiett. Bluiett will go down at number two on Xavier’s all time scoring list, and has been finding ways to score it since he was a freshmen. As long as Bluiett can find ways to get going, Xavier has a shot in any game they play.
Image: Xavier Athletics
Ohio has been spoiled with the talent they’ve seen on the court all season long. They have three teams with great chances of locking up at least a 4 seed in March Madness, and could easily send 5 teams to the tourney. Ohio owns the record for most teams to ever reach the Sweet Sixteen with four in 2012 (#2 Ohio State, #6 Cincy, #10 Xavier, and #13 Ohio). They will once again have a chance to break this record, and the top three teams will all look for a shot at a Final Four birth.
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Featured Image: Bleacher Report