Thursday night in Boston featured a game between neighbors – Cincinnati and Ohio State – who’d come a long way to play each other. In a press conference Wednesday, Cincinnati Head Coach Mick Cronin spoke for Ohioans everywhere when he said, “The fact that you have four Ohio teams in the Sweet 16 is a sense of great pride for our state.”
“In Cincinnati alone, we have two, so it’s great for our community,” he continued. “I’m sure the tickets would be much worse if this game were in Indianapolis or something, so it’s probably good that we’re up here in Boston, we don’t have to worry so much about ticket requests for the game.”
Though the Cincinnati band and cheerleaders began performing enthusiastically even before they’d entered the TD Garden Thursday night, their team a 6-seed, was overwhelmed by the more highly regarded Buckeyes, 81-66.
A little earlier on the same evening, Syracuse, a No. 1 seed, edged No. 4 Wisconsin, 64-63. Syracuse is without defensive star Fab Mello, who also missed games earlier this season because of academic problems, but Scoop Jardine, the team’s starting point guard, never doubted that Syracuse would overcome Mello’s absence.
“It was tough losing Fab, don’t get me wrong,” he said, “but we’ve got a lot of guys that work just as hard and with opportunity can play just as better, so for the most part we just go out there and stay together, no matter what happens.”
After Syracuse moved on, albeit just barely, head coach Jim Boeheim found himself considering his good fortune beyond the game his team had just won.
“I’ve got a great life, I got a great job,” he said. “I got one of the best jobs you can have in the world. My job is to coach these guys, and I can’t think of anything better than that. What I tell my players at the end of the game, at the end of the year is, if you’ve done the best you can, you’ve done great.”
Like Syracuse, Ohio State was expected to reach the Elite Eight. They had less trouble getting there. head coach Thad Matta spoke about how advancing beyond the Sweet 16 would effect his team’s attitude, saying, “I’m obviously excited to get past it. I think as you get to this stage, the emotion centralizes your guys thinking and focuses their thinking.”