I can't explain why Ohio University beat Georgetown by 14 and you can't either. Hell, I'm still trying to figure out how they even won the MAC tournament. But now they're one of 48 teams left in the country still playing for a championship.
You're going to hear all these astounding facts about Ohio U.'s team, and if you veg out to SportsCenter on a nightly basis you may know many of them by now: they were predicted to finish last in the MAC East. They finished 7-9 in the conference and seeded ninth out of 12 teams in the MAC tourney. They needed overtime to win their first round game at Ball State. Armon Bassett, their leading scorer, transferred from Indiana after being kicked off the team.
Now for some more arcane trivia. Bassett and starting forward DeVaughn Washington began the season suspended, while two other players were also disciplined after being caught with marijuana during a traffic stop, and one of those guys was eventually dismissed from the program.
And that's all you really know. Because none of this equates to a team that even has their shit together, let alone to a team that could hang 98 on the Big East Tournament runners up and then — on a day of myriad buzzer-beaters and center-court dog piles — calmly shake hands with their opponents as if they were supposed to win like this.
This is not the team I saw in person last month. On February 4 the Bobcats beat Toledo 65-58 in overtime. Toledo was a bad, bad team. (I could write 2,000 words on Toledo's season, but I'll relegate it to two numbers: 4 and 28.) For this game Ohio dressed just nine players since Washington was — surprise! — suspended yet again.
But coach John Groce wasn't done dishing out punishments. Ohio's message board says that Bassett was sent to the locker room in the second half for a lack of hustle. I don't recall this, but he was subbed out with plenty of time left and never played again, finishing with five points. As the game progressed, UT's big men kept fouling out (they were literally down to one guy taller than 6'6", and he was a pipecleaner) so by default, Ohio won the game. That near-loss to the awful Rockets was hardly a wake-up call, since their next game was a nine-point loss to Eastern Michigan. There were absolutely no warning signs of Ohio beating Georgetown. So don't feel bad, and simply know that they will play Tennessee in the second round on Saturday.
What changed between that win at Toledo and the win against Georgetown, other than daylight savings? The only oddity I can find is Bassett. He was always a great talent, but he somehow turned it up to 11. Since the beginning of the MAC Tournament he's averaged 29.6 points per game, 11.6 of them via free throws. This is way above his regular season average of 15.2, which is a fine total but only enough to earn him All-MAC honorable mention. Ohio's other player to get this accolade was freshman point guard D.J. Cooper, who actually looks more like a high school freshman. His professional-grade lefthanded move to the basket helped him score 23 on the Hoyas, and games like that are probably why he was named the MAC's top freshman.
But other than that, there are no other aberrations that can be highlighted. Except for, y'know, all these freaking wins.
Going back to my MAC quarterfinal game predictions, I casually chose Kent State to cruise past Ohio, since the Golden Flashes were the top seed and they beat them twice already. Instead, the Bobcats rolled by 18. Then in a rare low-scoring game, they ripped apart Miami University by 12 and eked out an overtime victory over Akron to qualify for March Madness.
I guess suspending four players to start the season worked out pretty well. You may see lots of schools try this next year out of superstition.
But Ohio's victory is going to be branded more as a failure by the Hoyas and an indictment on the depth of the Big East. I would make the same conclusion as a non-MAC alumnus, because it's a more rational way to explain how, again, a 7-9 MAC team destroyed the Big East Tournament runners up.
Aside: it would be nice if ESPN would stop using "went 7-9 in the MAC" as a synonym for "has a prosthetic leg."
And the Big East really did get the sharp end of the enema on Thursday. Beyond Georgetown's loss, matching 6-seeds Marquette and Notre Dame were tripped up by 11th-seeded counterparts Washington and Old Dominion. Villanova eluded a speaking-in-front-of-a-large-crowd-naked nightmare by squeezing out an overtime win over 15-seed Robert Morris after trailing for most of the game. And this really is one of the more compelling storylines, provided you love vanilla ice cream.
Hey, most of these big outlets know more about Big East teams than they do about middle-of-the-road MAC schools. Georgetown had Ewing, 'Zo, Iverson, and Dikembe. Ohio University had Gary Trent and … well, just Gary Trent.
But none of the previous 800 words brought us any closer to knowing why Ohio beat Georgetown. Or why they even earned the right to play Georgetown. In fact, Ohio themselves may not know why Ohio won. (I'm sure they felt like they could win, and they believed in themselves, but knowledge was absent.)
Nobody in the country knew this. Okay, so a small percentage of Yahoo! users officially picked Ohio to win, but it was all guesswork. The art of filling out a bracket requires the contestant to use about three seconds toward each game, and one of those seconds is put toward mouse-clicking on the team's name. Nobody can keep track of 65 different teams and all their quirks. Hell, I followed this team all season and didn't see it coming.
You know nothing. A team from Athens, Ohio, just proved that. And why does a team from Athens, Ohio, not have a Greek-inspired mascot? There's something else you will never know.