The Ohio State Buckeyes are back on the floor tonight in the 2011 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 taking on the Kentucky Wildcats from the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. In an odd twist, the Wilcats, for all the history in the NCAA Tournament - 51 appearances, 13 Final Four appearances and 7 National Championships - have never beaten the Buckeyes in five meetings in the NCAA Tournament.
"You're the first person to tell me that," freshman guard Brandon Knight said. "I mean, there's a lot of things that haven't been done, but some crazy things happen in the tournament. I know Ohio State has a lot of great players, but that stat doesn't really mean that much to me."
In truth the past will not mean that much when it comes to tonight's meeting between the two schools. The last time the Buckeyes met the Wildcats in the tournament - 1987 - none of the Wildcats players had been born. What is important is the here and now and for the Buckeyes the time is now to prove they are what their No. 1 seed and 34-2 record day they are.
Ohio State has steamrolled their way to the Sweet 16, hitting 12-threes in a 75-46 win over Texas-San Antonio in the second round, followed by 16-threes in a 98-66 domination over George Washington in Round 3. The scores prove that when Ohio State is hitting shots they are almost impossible to beat.
For Kentucky, the road has been just as impressive. Since an overtime loss to Arkansas on February 23, the Wildcats have rolled up 8-straight wins, including two wins over the Florida Gators who have already punched a ticket to the Elite 8. Kentucky won the SEC Tournament and has beaten Princeton(59-57) and West Virginia(71-63) to reach the Sweet 16.
"As we told our guys, every round you in advance in the NCAA tournament, your opponent gets tougher," Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. "It is definitely the case here."
This game comes Ohio State's experience - led by Senior's David Lighty and Jon Diebler - against Kentucky's youth. Of course, the Buckeyes also have freshman Jared Sullinger who is always the X-Factor. It will be interesting to see how John Calipari has his team defend Sullinger and the Buckeyes. The last two games have proved that it can be deadly to double Sullinger leaving the three-point shooters open. Defend the Buckeyes straight up and you risk Sullinger taking over.
MY PICK: Ohio State has been the best team in college basketball all season. Their road to the Championship has gotten a beat easier, so to speak, with Duke and Pittsburgh now gone. I picked them to win it all and I'm not changing my mind now.
Ohio State 65 - Kentucky 60