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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

This year’s Sweet 16 will have an Ohio flavor

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Cincinnati's Sean Kilpatrick (Getty Images)

The most remarkable storyline of this year's Sweet 16 isn't the dominance of the Big Ten and Big East, the revival of North Carolina State or the lack of charming mid-major success stories.

It's that four teams from the state of Ohio are still alive.

Ohio State, Cincinnati, Xavier and Ohio University have each made the Sweet 16, marking the first time four teams from one state are still playing in the second week of the NCAA tournament. That's pretty good for a state better known for its football prowess than its basketball success.

The last time the state of Ohio produced a college basketball champion was 1962 when Cincinnati beat an Ohio State team led by John Havlicek and Jerry Lucas in the national championship game and Dayton also won the NIT. Here's a closer look at the four teams trying to bring the state of Ohio another championship 50 years later.

[ Pat Forde: Seven Sweet 16 teams hail from the Heartland ]

No. 6 Cincinnati (26-10)
Conference: Big East
Last Sweet 16:
2001
How they got here: Defeated Texas, Florida State
Up next: No. 2 Ohio State
Coach: Mick Cronin (sixth year)
Best player: Sean Kilpatrick, G, Sophomore
Three famous alumni: 1. Oscar Robertson, 12-time NBA All-Star; 2. Sandy Koufax, Hall of Fame pitcher for the Dodgers; 3. Kevin Youkilis, All-Star infielder for the Boston Red Sox.
Best-case scenario:
Cincinnati ousts Ohio State in the Sweet 16, upsets top-seeded Syracuse in the Elite Eight and ensures this team's legacy will be its success and not the Xavier brawl. Even better, the Buckeyes are so angry at having their Final Four hopes crushed by an in-state foe that they finally agree to schedule the Bearcats next season for just the second time in 50 years.
Worst-case scenario: Yancy Gates gets into foul trouble, Cincinnati's jump shots don't fall and Ohio State fans continue to claim superiority after their team wins by 20. The Bearcats don't get a chance for a rematch for another 50 years.

No. 10 Xavier (23-12)
Conference: Atlantic 10
Last Sweet 16:
2010
How they got here: Defeated Notre Dame, Lehigh
Up next: No. 3 Baylor
Coach: Chris Mack (third year)
Best player: Tu Holloway, G, Senior
Three famous alumni: 1. Jim Bunning, former Major League Baseball pitcher and politician. 2. David West, two-time NBA All-Star forward. 3. John Boehner, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives for the 112th Congress
Best-case scenario:
Confidence rejuvenated after making the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, Xavier out-toughs enigmatic Baylor and advances to the Elite Eight. The Musketeers lead Kentucky at halftime before losing by a few points, falling short of the program's first Final Four but redeeming themselves for a largely disappointing season.
Worst-case scenario: Baylor's lopsided Sweet 16 victory confirms Xavier fans' worst fears: The past two victories were a product of a cushy draw and not a sign the team is finally improving. Despite the Sweet 16 appearance, this Musketeers team is remembered as a disappointment after cracking the top 10 early in the season.

[ Dan Wetzel: Seven Sweet 16 teams from Midwest hate each other ]

No. 2 Ohio State (29-7)
Conference: Big Ten
Last Sweet 16: 2011
How they got here: Defeated Loyola, Gonzaga
Up next: No. 6 Cincinnati
Coach: Thad Matta
Best player: Jared Sullinger, F, Sophomore
Three famous alumni: 1. Jack Nicklaus, 18-time major-winning PGA golfer. 2. Jesse Owens, track and field star who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. 3. George Steinbrenner, longtime New York Yankees owner.
Best-case scenario: Two days after Ohio State fans punctuate a Sweet 16 victory over Cincinnati with a satisfying "Not our rivals" chant, the Buckeyes shred Syracuse's 2-3 zone and advance to the Final Four. In the national title game, Ohio State gets revenge on Kentucky for last year's Sweet 16 loss and captures its first national title since 1960.
Worst-case scenario: The humiliation of being upset by in-state foe Cincinnati in the Sweet 16 only gets worse days later when sophomores Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas declare for the draft. As if that's not bad enough, state government intervenes after noticing how much attention the Sweet 16 game received and forces the Buckeyes to schedule Cincinnati annually for the foreseeable future.

No. 13 Ohio (29-7)
Conference: MAC
Last Sweet 16: 1st since tourney expansion
How they got here: Defeated Michigan, South Florida
Up next: No. 1 North Carolina
Coach: John Groce (fourth season)
Best player: D.J. Cooper, G, Junior
Three famous alumni: 1. Matt Lauer, "Today" show host; 2. Mike Schmidt, Hall of Fame third baseman. 3. Ed O'Neill, actor.
Best-case scenario: With North Carolina out of sync and unable to get out in transition as a result of Kendall Marshall's fractured wrist, a confident Ohio team takes advantage, toppling the top-seeded Tar Heels. The Bobcats put up a valiant effort against Kansas, but fall in the Elite Eight and return home to a hero's welcome in Athens.
Worst-case scenario: Even without Marshall, North Carolina is too big, too experienced and too athletic for the Bobcats. The Tar Heels run away with the Sweet 16 matchup and the Bobcats return home to Athens to a more tepid welcome.

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