The Madness has finallly begun as Ohio State hangs on

It happens every year. It happened to Florida last year against Georgetown and it happened to North Carolina the year before that against Villanova.

Has it now happened to Ohio State?

Teams rarely cruise to the Final Four without having to overcome some sort of close call against a lower seed, and that even goes for No. 1 seeds. The Buckeyes had what they hope will be their close call against Xavier this morning in probably the best game of this tournament so far, given that many -- including myself -- have the Buckeyes penciled in for a trip to Atlanta.

Everything was working against Ohio State today. The campuses of Xavier and OSU are separated by about 100 miles, yet they hadn't played since 1984 -- purely by Ohio State's choice. The Musketeers came out with a chip on their shoulders and never let up on the intensity. They hit some timely 3s to reach a 59-50 lead with about five minutes to go.

Yet the Buckeyes refused to wilt. The chipped their way back to put themselves in position to hit the game-tying 3 -- with a little help from Xavier with a missed free throw -- with next-to-no time left. Even with Greg Oden on the bench with five fouls, the Buckeyes calmly dominated overtime, making it clear to the Musketeers that they had missed their only shot to beat Ohio State.

I'm more confident than ever that Ohio State is headed to the Final Four.

Other thoughts from this morning:

  • As if you needed me to tell you this, Butler is pretty good. I think Maryland was a very underrated team heading into the tournament, and the Bulldogs calmly handled everything the Terps threw at them. They remind me a lot of the Cougars -- smart and scrappy. Watching them play Florida in the Sweet Sixteen should be a real treat.

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