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Michigan-OHIO: The Tempting Quasi-Rivalry Upset

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March 10, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA: Ohio Bobcats guard Stevie Taylor (center) with his teammates after defeating the Akron Zips 64-63 in the finals of the 2012 MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena.
March 10, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA: Ohio Bobcats guard Stevie Taylor (center) with his teammates after defeating the Akron Zips 64-63 in the finals of the 2012 MAC Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena.

You know the drill. Michigan football coach Brady Hoke likes to refer to "Ohio State" as "Ohio." Ohio is not Ohio State; these are separate institutions with different colors and conferences and topography. But OHIO, as they're known around these parts, drew Michigan thanks to an NCAA selection committee with hopefully a wry sense of humor. While OHIO has no natural rivals in Michigan, the states are always at odds (even though they're no longer fighting over Toledo).

And now they get Ohio. The actual one. The one that won the trademark "Ohio." Maybe they'll call them "Ohio State" for some quirky reason. You never know with those superstitious cats. Just don't expect the mascot to be a nut. Well, except for that one time.

But the age-old questions always comes into mind: we're starting to fill out brackets and we all need to pick those higher-lower seeded games. Sometimes you just need put no thought into it. Usually I just go into the bracket the day of their release and move teams ahead blindly (because I know but a little jack about the other 67 teams). Just find a name you like, pull blind from a hat, and do what I do: Always, ALWAYS put the MAC team in the second round.

Even last year, when Akron was a lowly 15-seed facing Notre Dame. In the end they at least put up a decent fight. And this year, doesn't a 13 over a 4 seem tantalizing? Especially this Bobcats team that began 12-1 with a lone close loss to Louisville? Their resume took a nosedive as the season progressed (Northern Iowa and Marshall tapered off) but we know what they are capable of accomplishing.

If doubt was surrounding DJ Cooper and his ability to finish — and I'll admit, I had mine — he erased those with a very mature performance in the MACT, earning him the MVP. That's just another notch on his belt as he was on the court for the Georgetown upset in 2010 — a wonderful 23-point, eight-assist, three-steal game. Ivo Baltic and Reggie Keely were the only other players on the court on that day, but they were of marginal use as that was the fabled Armon Bassett "Best Month Of His Entire Goddamn Life." And of course, you have the coach, John Groce, who has slapped his identity with authority on this team. All that footstompin' and handclappin' was wholly unrhythmic but seemed to keep his team in line. It was a beat they could dance to. (Get it? See, because the tournament—)

But is the guidance of Groce, the point play of Cooper, the streaky shooting of Walter Offutt (a crude Armon Bassett knockoff) and the inside play of Baltic and Keely enough to match up with the Wolverines? It's probably going to be contingent on a few things: UM, like OHIO, were nearly unbeatable at home. (Two combined home losses.) Away from home ... a bit of a different story. They both did well on neutral courts. The matchup to watch is at point guard. Their auxiliary players are all good. I could keep going. I might keep going. And we're going to reach the same conclusion: somebody's going to win the game. That's really all I got.

And there's a reason gamblers tend to lose money.

When it comes to making that selection ... dude, just pick OHIO or don't. Strength of teams determined by rigid committees are assigning weights to teams that don't exist in real life. Michigan's a 4-seed and OHIO is a 13-seed according to some formula crunching that they did. And Central Michigan was a "worse" team than Eastern Michigan — and look what they did to them, twice. Buffalo was better than OHIO, and OHIO beat them three times, all on different courts. (Three different states, even, if you count Southeast Ohio as its own polis.) Sometimes the matchup is all that matters.

It doesn't seem like Michigan is a Final Four-type team, so all you really need to do put an official MAC stamp on your bracket is to pick the MAC team. Remember, Miami fans: they represent all of us now. We kind of have to like them temporarily for a weekend.

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