Monday, March 12, 2001

Big Ten boosts Ohio State's seed




Enquirer news services

        Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien was thrilled that his Buckeyes (20-10) were seeded fifth for a first-round NCAA Tournament East Regional game Thursday in Greensboro, N.C., against Big West regular-season and tournament champion Utah State (27-5).

        Ohio State had given up 53 points in the second half of Friday's 75-66 loss to Iowa in the Big Ten quarterfinals.

        “With a five (seed), it basically comes down to a commentary on how people responded to our conference and our finishing third in the league,” O'Brien said. “When you can say that two teams in your league got No. 1 seeds (Michigan State in the South and Illinois in the Midwest) and we beat them both — that's a nice thing for our guys to have accomplished.”

        Ohio State went 7-3 over their last 10 games, with the closing flourish key to NCAA seedings.

        A year ago, Ohio State received just a No. 3 seed even though it shared the Big Ten title with eventual national champion Michigan State.

        This season, O'Brien had to replace one of the country's top backcourts — Scoonie Penn and Michael Redd — and ended up rounding this team into form late in the season to further establish himself as a top-notch coach. He was voted coach of the year in the conference.

        OSU's Ken Johnson (12.4 ppg, 7.1 rpg) developed into a premier shot-blocker, swatting away 118 shots, and was voted the conference's top defensive player.

        Brian Brown (14.5 pgg), Boban Savovic (8.7) and Sean Connolly (7.7) are all dangerous long-range shooters on a team that led the Big Ten in three-point shooting.

        Kent State (23-9) was snubbed by the selection committee last year despite a 21-7 record. This time around, Kent clinched a spot by winning the Mid-American Conference's automatic berth and the tournament championship on Saturday in Cleveland.

        The 13th-seeded Golden Flashes (23-9) take on Indiana (21-12) in San Diego on Thursday night in the West Regional.

        Kent State will be making its second appearance in the NCAA. Senior forward Kyrem Massey said this time will be different.

        “Two years ago, we got caught up in the festivities around it. We weren't prepared for the game and weren't prepared to win,” Massey said of the 61-54 first-round loss to Temple. “Now we're focused on what we need to do and how to do it, and not just show up.”

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