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Commentary: Talent-rich Ohio proves itself with 4 teams remaining in NCAA Tournament

Michael Periatt / Asst. sports editor

While the Ohio State men’s basketball team is making a run at trying to win the school’s second national championship in program history, the state of Ohio has already achieved history in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. For the first time ever in the tournament, four schools from the same state have qualified for the tournament’s round of 16.

The state of Ohio is undefeated in this year’s NCAA Tournament, with all four Ohio teams winning their first two games. OSU, a No. 2-seed in the tournament, is the headliner, but it is joined by Cincinnati, Xavier, and Ohio.

While the Buckeyes were widely expected to make it to at least the Sweet 16, the remaining presence of the other three teams from the state are surprising. Cincinnati came into the tournament as a No. 6 seed, Xavier as a No. 10 seed, and Ohio as a No. 13 seed. Each of those three teams has upset at least one team with a better seed than them en route to the second weekend of the tournament.

This unprecedented success from college basketball teams in one state is impressive, and it shows the talent level of basketball in Ohio is very high. That said, this level of statewide basketball success would not be possible without each of these teams finding key recruits outside of the state of Ohio. By bringing very talented basketball players from outside the state into Ohio, these four schools have built teams strong enough to win at least two games in this year’s tournament.

All teams must be able to bring in key recruits from their home state, and each of these teams has done that successfully. Three of OSU’s four leading scorers are from the Buckeye State: Jared Sullinger, William Buford and Aaron Craft. Cincinnati’s leading rebounder, Yancy Gates, is from Cincinnati. Xavier’s leading rebounder, Kenny Frease, is from Massillon, Ohio. Ohio’s Reggie Keely, who is third on its team in scoring and tied for the lead in rebounding, is from University Heights, Ohio.

But while all of these teams have had success in bringing in talented players from their home state, they have also done an effective job of luring players from outside the state of Ohio to their schools. Eight of the 14 players on OSU’s roster are from other states, which is the same ratio as Ohio’s roster, while Cincinnati and Xavier each have only two players from Ohio on their 13-man rosters.

Key players from OSU’s roster from outside of Ohio include second-leading scorer Deshaun Thomas from Indiana and starting guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. from Illinois. Cincinnati’s leading scorer, Sean Kilpatrick, is one of two players on the Bearcats’ roster from New York. Ohio’s leading scorer, D.J. Cooper, is from Illinois, while second-leading scorer Walter Offutt, an OSU transfer, is from Indiana. Xavier’s two leading scorers, Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons, are both from New York.

The statistics show that all four of these programs have realized the importance of recruiting from a variety of states and regions to build a roster that can compete with the nation’s best teams in the NCAA Tournament. As a result, all four of these teams have balanced rosters, and each has won two games to extend their tournament runs into the second weekend.

By Friday, there will only be three teams from Ohio remaining in the tournament, with Ohio State and Cincinnati playing each other in the East Regional in Boston at 9:45 p.m. Friday, the other two teams from the state face tough challenges: Xavier plays No. 3-seed Baylor in the South Regional in Atlanta at 7:15 p.m., while Ohio plays the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Regional, North Carolina, in St. Louis at 7:47 p.m.

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