Ohio State Buckeyes (29-3) vs. Central Connecticut State (22-11)
When: Thursday, 7:10 p.m.
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
1. Jerky The Cornjerker. Every one knows that Thad Matta went to high school in the appropriately named Hoopeston, Ill. (OK, maybe just I knew that? But did you know that the Hoopeston mascot was Jerky the Cornjerker? He looks like this. I wonder what their version of The Tomahawk Chop looks like?
2. The Buckeyes Will Kill You. The Buckeyes usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to "mascot battles," with most just saying that "My (insert wild beast or human with weapon mascot) would eat your Buckeyes," ending the argument. What most fail to realize is that the Buckeye is poisonous to humans, horse and cattle, making the Buckeye the victor in many of these hypothetical scenarios (yeah, Texas). However, squirrels and badgers can eat Buckeyes with no ill effect, which explains Ohio State's struggles against Wisconsin. Maybe Michigan should consider changing its mascot. The Michigan Squirrels has a nice regal ring to it.
3. Slaves To Nike. Nike is unveiling new jerseys for the Buckeyes during the tournament, featuring a slim, tighter fit and Lebron James' LBJ23 Nike logo. What isn't known yet is whether these uniforms will also feature an inability to capitalize on natural talent, a desire to leave early for the NBA, and a general futility with the game on the line in the closing moments? — Anton Golden
CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE BLUE DEVILS
1. The Past. Central Connecticut State University, founded in 1849 as the New Britain Normal School, is the oldest public institution of higher education in Connecticut. "Famous" CCSU alumni in the world of sports include the good (Patriots salary-cap wiz Scott Pioli), the bad (deposed NFL head coaches Dave Campo and Mike Sherman) and the ugly — literally (former Clipper Keith Closs). Another alumnus: current CCSU head coach Howie Dickenman. Prior to Dickenman's hiring in 1996, the Blue Devils had never appeared in the NCAA Tournament. CCSU's victory over Sacred Heart in the Northeastern Conference championship game, in which the Blue Devils overcame a 10-point second-half deficit, clinched the school's third trip to the NCAAs in the last seven years.
2. The Present. CCSU's best player is 6'3" guard Javier Mojica, who averages 17 points and seven rebounds per game and was named NEC Player of the Year. Mojica picked up more hardware in the NEC tourney; he was named the tournament's MVP after scoring 25 points against Sacred Heart, including a late 3-pointer that gave the Blue Devils the lead for good. Oh, and Mojica is a former walk-on who saved his mom's life in 1995 when he discovered her trying to hang herself in the basement. (In reference to that incident, Mojica has remarked that there was a "divine light on me" and that "a guardian angel was on my side. ") Other Blue Devils to keep an eye on: 6'0" guard Tristan Blackwood (17 points and four assists per game) and 6'4" forward Obie Nwadike (15 points and 11 rebounds per game), both of whom join Mojica on the NEC's First Team and neither of whom has apparently ever walked on water, eaten bullets or shat out ice cream.
3. The Future. CCSU, named one of the "best 201 colleges" in the nation (a "compliment" one could fairly liken to being called "not unattractive") by some book called "Great Colleges for the Real World: Get In, Get Out, Get a Job," demonstrated incredible foresight in 2001 when it became the first university in America to offer a Master of Science program in data mining. So for all you Chloe O'Brian wannabes who daydream of opening sockets to Division and sending satellite images to Bill Buchanan's screen, get yo' ass to Hard Hittin' New Britain. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, that means you hate freedom and want the terrorists to win. Heck, you're so evil you might as well be rooting for those "other" Blue Devils. — Josh Blosveren