Xavier Currently Carrying Ohio Banner For NCAA Tournament Teams

Conference tournaments give other in-state schools a chance to join March Madness
ohio college teams NCAA tournament

March Madness is less than two weeks away, and Ohioans could have a decent amount of in-state rooting options for the NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA Tournament attracts more overall sports wagering than any other U.S. event, with action spread out over three weeks as the field shrinks from 68 teams to a champion cutting down the nets in Houston on the first Monday of April.

For the first time, there will be plenty of opportunities for those in the Buckeye State to make wagers in ways other than the customary office bracket pool. Ohio has 17 mobile betting options and 14 retail sportsbooks, in addition to betting kiosks in hundreds of bars and other lottery outlets.

There are 13 Division I schools in Ohio, and there are no carveouts like some states in which sportsbooks are barred from taking bets on in-state schools. Bettors can flex some state or alumni pride by picking an Ohio team to win or cover the point spread in a first-round matchup, or a futures bet can be made for a deeper NCAA Tournament run.

Now that the calendar has flipped over to March, here’s how the NCAA Tournament looks in the Buckeye State.

Xavier an NCAA Tournament lock

Sean Miller’s return to the Queen City has been a rousing success, as Xavier (21-8) is ranked 19th in the AP Top 25. It can clinch the No. 2 seed for the upcoming Big East tournament if it closes the regular season with victories at No. 20 Providence on Wednesday night and at home versus Butler on Saturday. The Musketeers will be seeded no worse than fourth for their trip to New York City for the conference tournament, while most bracketologists have them pegged as a No. 4 seed for the NCAA Tournament.

Across town, Cincinnati (19-11) likely will need to win the American Athletic Conference tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, next week after failing to help itself Sunday with a 76-73 loss at Memphis. The Bearcats, who close their season at home Sunday versus SMU, went a combined 0-4 against Memphis and Houston in conference play and lack a signature non-conference victory that would impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee.

Dayton (20-10) is in a similar situation despite having a chance to secure the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament with a win at Saint Louis on Friday night. The Flyers did split the season series with regular-season champ VCU, but their non-conference schedule lacks big victories and includes losses to fellow NCAA bubble hopefuls Wisconsin and Virginia Tech.

Youngstown State and Toledo could rep mid-majors

The Horizon League tournament began Tuesday night, which puts regular-season champion Youngstown State (23-8) in the spotlight. The Penguins, who have never made the NCAA Tournament since making the jump from Division II in 1981, will host Antoine Davis and No. 8 seed Detroit-Mercy Thursday night.

The game will get some national attention as Davis — who leads Division I in scoring at 28.4 points per game — needs 26 to surpass Pete Maravich’s NCAA scoring record of 3,667 points. Youngstown State swept the two meetings from Detroit in the regular season by a combined 15 points while letting Davis get his — he scored a combined 61 points in the two matchups.

Cleveland State (19-12) is the No. 3 seed and hosts sixth-seeded Robert Morris Thursday night. Because the Horizon League reseeds teams after the first round and quarterfinals, the Vikings will avoid facing Youngstown State until the finals should both teams advance. Wright State, which won the Horizon League tournament and automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament as a No. 4 seed last season, will play at Milwaukee on Thursday night and would face the Penguins should they upset the Panthers and Youngstown State wins.

There are six Ohio schools in the Mid-American Conference, which is in the final week of the regular season and shaping to be a one-bid league. Toledo (24-6) currently leads the MAC with a 15-2 conference record and pushed its winning streak to 14 games — the longest active streak on the men’s side in Division I — after pounding Central Michigan 99-65 on the road Tuesday night.

Kent State (24-6) is one game behind the Rockets but can claim the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament next week in Cleveland. It needs a win Friday night at home versus third-place Akron (21-9) and a loss by Toledo, since the Golden Flashes handed the Rockets their last loss back on Jan. 10. The Zips, who already beat Kent State 67-55 on Feb. 3, would be the No. 2 seed if they complete the sweep.

Ohio (17-13) has already clinched a spot in the eight-team MAC tournament and can wrap up the No. 5 seed with a win over Bowling Green (11-19) at home Friday night. Miami of Ohio (12-18) can claim the No. 8 seed if it defeats Buffalo on the road Friday night, but the Falcons could enter the mix with a win over the Bobcats, a loss by the RedHawks, and other favorable results.

Ohio State tops on the women’s side

The Ohio State Buckeyes (23-6) are currently ranked 14th and are the No. 4 seed for the Big Ten tournament, which begins Wednesday in Minneapolis. Ohio State has a bye through to the quarterfinals and likely would secure home-court advantage for the first two rounds of the NCAA Women’s Tournament as a sub-regional host with one more victory.

Toledo (23-4) and Cleveland State (27-4) look to be the best teams that could emerge from the Mid-American and Horizon League, respectively. The Rockets can assure themselves a share of the regular-season MAC title with a win over Kent State (19-8) on Wednesday night and have won 11 straight games since an 88-76 loss at second-place Bowling Green (23-6) on Jan. 18. The Falcons need one win in their final two games to be assured of no lower than a No. 3 seed, while the Golden Flashes need one victory to secure a top-four spot.

Cleveland State finished second to Green Bay in the Horizon League, though it was fourth-place Youngstown State (19-10) that dealt the Phoenix one of their two conference losses. The Vikings would avoid a potential third showdown with Green Bay until the Horizon League finals, while the Penguins likely would face the Phoenix again in the semifinals with a victory over Northern Kentucky on Thursday.

The Vikings have made two previous NCAA Tournament appearances, the last coming in 2010, while the Penguins last qualified in 2000 as Summit League tournament champions.

Photo: Getty Images


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