Friday, February 23, 2018
Sports

Ohio Bobcats ready for USF Bulls, once they remember whom they're facing

NASHVILLE — Ohio point guard D.J. Cooper, the Bobcats' leader and top scorer, was asked Saturday if he had thought about how a win today would mean a trip to the Sweet 16, or if he's blocking that out.

"That was our goal … just to focus on the four teams in our bracket," he said. "That was one of our goals … beat Michigan, play the winner between South Florida and Temple. And it's Temple, so now our focus is on Temple."

There was an awkward second, and he was nudged by a teammate. "I mean South Florida," Cooper said. "My bad."

Ohio certainly knows whom it's playing tonight, as USF knows whom it's up against; just as the Bulls' biggest regular-season win came at Louisville, Ohio was up six with four minutes to play before letting Louisville escape with a win in November.

"(We're) playing a very good South Florida ballclub … watched a lot of film on them and really appreciate how tough they are and how physical they are and how well they defend," Ohio coach John Groce said. "(Stan Heath has) got those kids playing at a pretty high level right now."

HAPPY FOR THEM: As much as anyone, Seth Greenberg can understand the challenge of trying to get USF into the NCAA Tournament, but the former Bulls coach said Saturday that he's glad to see the school's success. "They're a senior-oriented team with a terrific, young point guard," the current Virginia Tech coach said. "They obviously check you each and every possession. They finish possessions. It looks like Victor Rudd is playing at a really high level right now with a lot of confidence. In Anthony Collins, you have a great point guard that creates possibilities. They've won a lot of close games, and that's a testament to Coach Heath. Stan's done a great job of getting those guys to buy in to how they need to play to win."

STATE PRIDE: FSU and USF are both in Nashville this weekend, and with Florida still alive in Omaha, Neb., the state could have three teams in the Sweet 16. FSU's Leonard Hamilton said that's good news for all the programs in the state.

"I think that just shows that progress is being made in the state of Florida," said Hamilton, noting that Miami nearly made the NCAA cut as well. "What can you say about South Florida, they turned their program around and (are) playing excellent basketball. (Florida) has been kind of the leader in the state going back-to-back Final Fours and winning the championships. I think this is a great time for college basketball in the state."

DON'T CALL IT AN UPSET: Hamilton wants everyone to call these "upset" games for what they are: just good basketball. He doesn't buy into the notion that better seeds mean better teams.

"I said prior to coming to the tournament that they need to eliminate the word 'upset' from the vocabulary," Hamilton said. "The process we go by evaluating teams and putting them in positions and whether or not they're 16, three, four, five; I think it's very difficult to be accurate with that."

THIS AND THAT: Out of 32 second-round games, only Murray State (holding Colorado State to 41) held its opponent to fewer points than USF did in limiting Temple to 44. … Cincinnati's Yancy Gates, on whether he's pulling for other Big East schools such as USF in the tournament: "We do cheer for each other. It's not just, you know, a hate thing going on. Just that way during the season."

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