Ohio State Buckeyes (31-3) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (24-10)
When: 9:57 p.m. ET
Where: San Antonio
Ohio State will win because of:
1. Brilliant Thug History. Though the football team may get most of the publicity involved with criminal antics — from such notable favorites Maurice Clarett, Louie Irizarry and old timer Art Schlichter — Buckeye basketball is nothing to sneeze at. In the 90s players brought the city of Columbus to its knees in the grip of fear. Residents were not safe to drive their cars down the streets without getting hit and run by the likes of Greg Simpson. The same Simpson who was so notorious that not only was he kicked out of Ohio State, but he was removed from the West Virginia basketball team as well. The same West Virginia that never kicked noted miscreants Pacman Jones and Chris Henry off of the football team. Gas station attendants cowered behind plexiglass after the mere mention of gas thief extraordinaire Charles "Killer" Macon. Even CC Sabathia learned not to carry $44k in cash and bling when Damon Stringer could be lurking in the elevators of any hotel. Though Greg Oden and company have not been around long enough to build their own reputation, they have the power of thuggish history behind them.
2. Equally Bright Future. Ohio State basketball does not end with the Thad Five and Oden's likely one and done. McDonald's All Americans Mike Conley and Daequan Cook will likely return next season. Even if they decide to bolt early, Matta has a recruiting class featuring three of the top 60 players with two of the top 10 centers coming in next year. Kosta Koufos is a top 5 center, and, at over seven feet tall, was the Division I player of the year in Ohio. John Diebler became the all-time high school scoring leader in the state of Ohio (beating such notables as Michael Redd, Jimmy Jackson and some guy named Lebron) and averaged over 40 points per game for the season. It does not end in 2007 either. Matta has already locked up an equally thrilling "Thad Five" for 2008 with 4 top 50 players and 5 in the top 100, including a top 3 center and top 3 point guard. Look out Buckeye rivals. It's only going to get worse from here on out.
3. The Fans and the Women. Looking out into the stands at a game can bring both the fear of God and the blinding light of beauty simultaneously to an opponent. Foes will fear the ruckus Buckeye crowd which is equally likely to start a riot and set fire to anything that moves whether they win or lose the game. Buckeye fans have earned such a wild reputation that a website was put up called OSUriots.com to showcase riot footage and pictures. Typically the site is not that great because its creators are no doubt burning a couch as I write this instead of updating the site. Foes will also fall under the spell of the many beauties that attend the school, perhaps even finding a copy of the Girls of OSU calendar in their locker room to distract them. Or maybe an issue of Playboy featuring one of the 13 Playmates since 1990 to be born in Ohio, who may have even attended OSU if they were not so incredibly beautiful that they could make a living simply standing there nude and smiling seductively. — Anton Golden
1. This Nearly Was Mine. Ohio State looked truly beatable in their second round slapfight with Xavier, escaping 78-71 in overtime. Apoplectic gamblers from coast to coast clutched their brackets to their chests in terror, but Tennessee faithful have suspected as much for months. The Buckeyes clinched a 68-66 win over the Vols in January by virtue of a three-point shot with 11 seconds on the clock. OSU pundits would remind you that their pretty pony Greg Oden is but a freshman and has grown as a player in the months leading up the rematch. I would remind them that the same could be said of three of our young'uns.
2. Our Mister Lofton. Junior Chris Lofton has been named the newest SEC Player of the Year. He's unarguably the key to the Tennessee wins column: When he was sidelined with an ankle sprain, the Vols lost three of four games. Upon his return they won seven of the next eight. He leads the Vols in three-point shooting (100 this season), and his average of 20.6 points a game is the highest in the conference. Yet despite being a Kentucky native and Mr. Basketball as a high school senior, he was passed over by coaches from Lexington and Louisville. Lofton took care to tactfully remind UK of their shortsightedness last month, when he laid 23 points on the Wildcats in an 89-85 Tennessee victory.
3. The Blinky Star Endowment for Utter Invincibility. Tennessee senior Dane Bradshaw is short for a forward, and his stats aren't the greatest, but give the guy his due: There is no power on earth capable of destroying him. NASA would do well to examine his construction. He tore a ligament in his shooting wrist last season and played right through it. That was also the year he led the SEC in assist/turnover ratio while wearing a cast. He suffers from tendonitis in both shoulders and wears at least one ankle brace during games, but his presence on the court is a tangible force, and his leadership skills will not go unrecognized: Vols coach Bruce Pearl is donating a hundred thousand dollars of his own money toward the endowment of The Dane Bradshaw Athletic Scholarship in honor of his senior captain. — Holly Anderson