Monday, March 11, 2002

Ohio St. confounded by seed, site

The Associated Press

        Ohio State is headed West for the NCAA Tournament and the Buckeyes really aren't sure why. After winning a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship and their first conference tournament title on Sunday, the Buckeyes got a fourth seed in the West Regional and a trip to Albuquerque, N.M.

        It didn't make sense to the Buckeyes. Not when Illinois, which Ohio State beat twice this season — including in a Big Ten tournament semifinal — was seeded fourth in the Midwest and got a trip to Chicago.

        “I have no idea how this works. I don't understand how we got a 4 seed and Illinois got a 4 seed,” forward Zach Williams said after Ohio State dismantled Iowa 81-64 in Indianapolis for the Big Ten crown.

        “We're the Big Ten champions and the Big Ten Tournament champions, so we've proven we're a team to be reckoned with. I guess we have to prove ourselves again and turn a lot more heads.”

        Boban Savovic scored 27 points to lead the Buckeyes to their Big Ten Tournament championship. Ohio State (23-7) shared the regular- season title with Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

        The Buckeyes led by three midway through the second half before two 3-pointers by Savovic during a 21-8 run put the game away.

        “He was possessed a little bit,” teammate Brian Brown said. “He got us motivated. I think he just single-handedly opened the game up.”

        Still, the Rating Percentage Index — used by the NCAA Tournament selection committee in seeding and placing teams — had Illinois No. 12, Ohio State No. 17.

        “When we saw Illinois get a 4 seed, we thought we might be getting a higher seed and play close to home,” Williams said. “As things worked out, we're OK. We get to go to New Mexico, which is something a lot of guys wouldn't get to say in their entire lives if they weren't playing basketball.”

        Brown also tried to put a positive spin on the situation, but it was clear he was disappointed.

        “It seems like we always get the short end of the stick,” said Brown, who's now been to four NCAA Tournaments, including the 1999 Final Four. “We just have to make the most of this opportunity, go out and play well.”

        The Buckeyes start play Thursday with a first-round game against Davidson, the Southern Conference champion. A victory could set up a second-round matchup against Miami, Fla., for the second time in three years. The Hurricanes beat the Buckeyes 75-62 in the 2000 tournament.

        Besides Ohio State, Davidson (North Carolina) and Miami, the West Regional features several Midwestern and Eastern teams The No. 1 seed is Cincinnati, and crosstown rival Xavier is No. 7. Oklahoma is seeded sec ond, Missouri 12th and Boston University 16th.

        “Bizarre” was the word Ohio State coach Jim O'Brien used to describe the West's geography.

        “It kind of seems a little bit whacky,” O'Brien said. “It just reinforces the confusion and how much I don't understand how this all works.”


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