March Madness hits Milwaukee

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Last weekend the Bradley Center was the setting for eight teams from eight different conferences, a star-studded lineup of the country’s best talent, and a near-packed house by the time Sunday’s last contest ended.

But it seemed nobody was talking about the action in Milwaukee because other regions featured improbable upsets and no one with the last name Farokhmanesh played in this region.

But Ohio State coach Thad Matta was fine with his team slipping under the radar.

“As I told these guys, we got what we came for. On to St. Louis,” Matta said after his team defeated Georgia Tech, 75-66, to advance to the Sweet 16

Ohio State’s Evan Turner and Xavier’s Jordan Crawford are two of the top players in the country. But names like the previously-mentioned Ali Farokhmanesh of Northern Iowa and Omar Samhan of Saint Mary’s have become America’s darlings to this point.

Some players, however, are fine with avoiding the limelight. Xavier coach Chris Mack admitted his star Crawford is one of those players that doesn’t thrive on media attention.

“He doesn’t carry himself any different than any of our other players,” Mack said. “He’s a great teammate. He’s really enjoying being around his teammates. He shares the ball and doesn’t have to get 35 for us to win.”

Matta responded similarly about Turner’s acclimation to becoming one of the nation’s best players and the constant attention he gets because of it.

“It’s unavoidable, and Evan’s not really into it,” Matta said about Turner’s popularity with the media. “It’s like pulling teeth with him to get him to talk to the media. He’s tired of it. He said, ‘Can’t we just play basketball?’ But he’s also smart enough to know that it comes with the territory.”

Nevertheless, these Milwaukee regional stars took care of business.

No. 2 seed Ohio State opened up tournament play against No. 15 seed California Santa Barbara and defeated the Gauchos, 68-51.

The 7-10 match-up between Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech was a highly anticipated game because of the Cowboys’ James Anderson and the Yellow Jackets’ Derrick Favors. Favors and company limited Anderson to just 11 points and advanced with a 64-59 victory.

On Friday, Xavier took care of Minnesota and No. 3 seed Pittsburgh downed Oakland to set up a rematch of last year’s Sweet 16 match-up.

The Musketeers got sweet revenge and held off a late Pittsburgh rally to earn a spot in the regional semifinals against No. 2 seed Kansas State.

Crawford poured in 27 points against the Panthers and has the Musketeers back in the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season.

“I know I’m not taking it for granted, and I know my teammates aren’t taking it for granted,” Crawford said. “I love the fact I’m getting a chance to do this and hopefully we can take it further.”

With Saturday’s stunning upset of Northern Iowa over Kansas and Georgetown’s first round hiccup against Ohio, the Buckeyes became the obvious favorite in the Midwest region of the bracket.

“A lot of people are probably saying, ‘Well, the No. 1 team in your region lost.’ We’re not worried about that,” Ohio state junior guard Jon Diebler said. “We’re focused on playing Tennessee, and I think that’s why we’re being so successful right now, because we haven’t been looking ahead.”

Turner summed it up best for the remaining 16 teams.

“It’s possible that any team can get beat,” Turner said. “You can’t take any team lightly. We just have to focus in and do what we do for 40 minutes in order to win the game.”