NCAA Sweet 16

March 23, 2012 by staff 

NCAA Sweet 16, In the NCAA Tournament, you have to be good to advance. But you also have to be lucky. And you also should have one player who can make a difference when you’re playing a team that should be better than you. Ohio? It has all three covered.

So, if you’re looking for a definitive reason why the Bobcats — the tournament’s lone remaining true mid-major — are in the Sweet 16, just know that they’ve had the perfect confluence of all three of those aspects. But for those who have played Ohio, seeing this team in the regional semifinals isn’t a surprise. They knew that if the dominos fell the right way, Ohio could make some serious noise.

“I’m not surprised,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said of Ohio’s run. “I think a lot of it comes down to matchups and I think they’ve played two good teams — but they’ve also been good matchups for them, where they have certain things that would cause their opponents problems.”

On Jan. 2, Toole’s Colonial team traveled into Athens, Ohio, and handed the Bobcats the second of their seven losses, their only loss at home this season. The second-year head coach and Red Bank native knew from his game prep what type of team his Robert Morris squad would see that night. That it wasn’t just another run-of-the-mill mid-major with a few good players.

It was a team that, given the right draw in the NCAA Tournament, could peel off a couple of wins. That is exactly what happened leading up to tonight, when the Bobcats (a 13-seed) will face No. 1-seed North Carolina in the Midwest Regional semifinals in St. Louis.

Ohio’s first victory in the tournament was considered an upset over fourth-seeded Michigan, but Toole didn’t see it that way.

“They were the more athletic team against Michigan,” he said. “And then (South Florida) has great size, but (Ohio) was able to collapse their defense and then kick outside and line up good, outside perimeter shots. So I’m not surprised. A lot of the tournament does come down to matchups, and a lot of it comes down to bigger, faster and stronger. And in both games, they were never affected by bigger, faster, stronger. In fact, they were probably bigger, faster and stronger than Michigan.”

To many who have seen Ohio play, its run to the Sweet 16 hasn’t come by accident. This is a team whose core group of players — D.J. Cooper, Ivo Baltic and Reggie Keely — are all juniors. They were freshmen on the Ohio team that upset Georgetown as a 14-seed two years ago in the first round of the tournament.

Jeff Curry/US PresswireOhio coach John Groce said his players “look forward to playing on the big stage and against quality competition.”

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