CLEVELAND — After a year without what is arguably the most exciting stretch in American sports, "March Madness" is back, and Northeast Ohio college basketball fans will have a lot to be excited about when the games get started later this week.
Coming off their first Horizon League Tournament title since 2009, Cleveland State has earned the 15th seed in the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament's Midwest Region and will face No. 2 Houston in the first round on Friday. In addition, Ohio State will be the No. 2 seed in the South Region, setting up a showdown with No. 15 Oral Roberts on Saturday.
This is the third time in program history CSU has made it to the "Big Dance," with previous trips including an improbable Sweet 16 run as a 14-seed in 1986 and most recently a first-round upset of fourth-seeded Wake Forest 12 years ago. Prior to this season, the Vikings had not had a winning record since 2015, but are 19-7 and won both the Horizon League regular season and tournament titles under second-year head coach Dennis Gates.
OSU is making its third straight tournament appearance under fourth-year coach Chris Holtmann, not counting last year's COVID-19 cancelation. At 21-9, the Buckeyes have been ranked in the top-10 for the last month and finished fifth in the Big Ten before losing to Illinois in overtime of Sunday's conference title game. They now have their highest seed since they went to the Elite Eight in 2013, although they have not made it past the second round of the bracket since.
Houston has consistently been rated as one of the best team's in the country all year, riding a 24-3 record to American Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles. Oral Roberts is making its first March Madness appearance since 2008, having won their last five games including a pair of upsets in the final two rounds of the Summit League Tournament.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all of this year's tournament games will be played in the Indianapolis area in front of limited fans. It is still unknown what time and on what network both Cleveland State and Ohio State will play, and the exact venues have not been announced yet either.
Along with the Vikings and Buckeyes, Ohio also made it to the Dance after winning this past week's MAC Tournament in Cleveland. The Bobcats are the 13th seed in West Region and will face No. 4 Virginia, which won the most recent tournament in 2019.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The interview below was conducted on March 10: