The NCAA Tournament has been filled with upsets from top to bottom. Nail-biting finishes brought out the best of some (Ali Farokhmanesh, Korie Lucious) and the worst of others (Vanderbilt, Marquette) to make the first week of the Big Dance one of the most exciting in recent memory.
Not all upsets are difficult to predict. To the knowledgeable college hoops fan, Cornell advancing to the Sweet 16 didn’t seem too far-fetched. Washington matched up well with its first two opponents. Even Northern Iowa seemed to have a good chance. I’m not saying I picked the Panthers in any of my brackets, but they have the talent and depth of a fourth of fifth seed. Combine that with inconsistency of Kansas and recent early exits from the tournament (Bucknell) and you have the makings of an upset.
But some things just don’t make sense. Enter No. 14 Ohio and No. 3 Georgetown.
Georgetown entered the NCAA Tournament after marching through the Big East Tournament behind the strong play of Chris Wright and Greg Monroe. Combine that with Austin Freeman’s return and Jason Clark’s hot-shooting and the Hoyas had what looked to be a recipe for success.
Ohio finished the MAC regular season with a 7-9 record and entered the conference tournament as the ninth seed. An overtime victory earned a stunningly surprising NCAA tournament bid. Only an unusually high RPI prevented the Bobcats from being a fifteenth or sixteenth seed in the field. With Ohio lacking any quality wins to speak of, it looked as if Georgetown would have an easy First-Round win.
But of course, Ohio ran Georgetown out of the gym in one of the most shocking and puzzling games I can remember watching unfold in years.
Ohio dropped 97 on the Hoyas, a team that coming into the game had allowed 80 points or more just twice all season. A scrappy Ohio team swarmed Greg Monroe, one of the most gifted and versatile players in the country. Ohio played with an aggressive confidence from start to finish, watching Georgetown fall way behind early then and get really nervous late.
Ohio looked like a team that belonged. Georgetown looked disinterested, scared, and like many college hoops fans—utterly baffled.
Any way you spin it, what happened last Thursday should not have happened. The final result defied logic, statistics, and any expert analysis you could have come across.
But it happened. Former Indiana cast-off Armon Basset and tiny freshman D.J. Cooper buried 10 3-pointers and scored 55 points. The Hoyas had no answer, they simply rolled-over and accepted their fate.
In a tournament already chalk-full of material for CBS’ famous “One Shining Moment” montage, Ohio provided a shining example of what makes the NCAA Tournament so maddeningly delightful. The Bobcats also reminded us that sometimes it’s better to know less than more.