No. 2 OHIO STATE
Best case: Under orders from Urban Meyer, Buckeyes fans stop worrying about who will punt in the fall and pay attention to the best Buckeyes basketball team in six years. With Aaron Craft at the top of his offensive game, Deshaun Thomas as an unstoppable scorer and the athletic of additions of LaQuinton Ross and Shannon Scott to the rotation, Ohio State is more versatile now than it had been all season. Combine that with the usual Buckeyes defense – airtight without fouling – and you have a team that can win it all. And Ohio State does, knocking out Louisville in a vicious Final Four game and then beating Indiana in a rubber-match final – after which the winner cuts down the nets, not the loser. Bob Knight sits behind the Ohio State bench in a gray sweater, glaring at various Indiana administrators. Jim Delany is so thankful to see his league finally win something that he hugs Thad Matta for an uncomfortably long time during the postgame trophy presentation. Five minutes after the game, Meyer declares it safe to go back to discussing the punter, and everyone does.
Worst case: Feeling the stress of the moment, Thomas reverts to Hero Ball, taking too many shots in a tight round-of-32 game against Iowa State. A guy who is struggling from 3-point range (five of 32 over the last six games) keeps launching and keeps missing. Matta feels the stress too and stops going to his bench. Craft can’t make any shots and actually gets called for some of the fouls he commits. Iowa State gets ungodly hot from the outside – which it can do – and stunningly shoots the Buckeyes out of the tournament. Gordon Gee materializes in the postgame locker room to make a tone-deaf joke and show off his latest bow tie. After at least 20 minutes of hand-wringing over another blown opportunity to win the first basketball title since 1960, the fans go back to obsessing over the punter. Meanwhile, Michigan wins the national title.