Is this Ohio State's time?

Posted: March 22, 2007

SAN ANTONIO - There's a school of thought that Ohio State was lucky to win Saturday's second-round game against ninth-seeded Xavier.

Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl has his own theories. And since his fifth-seeded Volunteers are next up for the top-ranked team in the final poll, he's certainly earned the right.

He thinks we haven't seen the best of the Buckeyes. He just hopes it doesn't appear in the second half of tonight's South Regional Sweet 16 matchups.

"They're very complete," said Pearl. "And they've not broken out yet. They haven't had that one game that we all know they're capable of. They found a way to win, which is beautiful. But there's more than what you see. If they want to, [they] can grind out four more wins. But they're capable of really putting it together."

Now, it's Tennessee's problem. Again. The Vols lost by two at Ohio State in early January, when Greg Oden was still pretty much playing with one hand.

"[Oden's] a dangerous player," Pearl said. "It's when four or five of their guys step up and play great. That's when they're really dangerous."

Or not. There's a reason it's called Madness.

Ron Lewis hit the three-pointer that saved the Buckeyes at the end of regulation 5 days ago, just as he hit the trey that beat the Vols 9 weeks back. Luck is one thing, clutch is another.

"We talk about [playing] 40 minutes, but you can't play a perfect game," Lewis said. "Completion is just getting the job done. But 40 minutes is tough to do. We're not looking for perfection. Nobody's going to [do that]. The main thing for us is to play as hard as we can and get the job done.

"The main thing is enjoying it with your teammates, because you'll never get this back, even if you have another team that goes through this."

"For all of us, it's the first time we've been part of this," added Jamar Butler. "Growing up as kids, you dream of doing what we're doing right now."

And it nearly died before it had a chance to get going. Which is why you have to live for the moment. The Buckeyes have more at stake than anybody here. If they don't make it to Atlanta, who will remember all the good things that came before?

Thad Matta understands. His seventh-seeded Xavier team almost beat Duke in the Final Eight 3 years ago. The sting lingers, but this is different.

"I don't want to say I don't enjoy this, but it seems like I haven't had time to sit down and say, 'Boy, that was fun, that was great,' " he said. "It's always, 'Now what do we have to do next?' I hope at some point I can enjoy the ride these guys have taken me on.

"Having been in this situation, it's not any easier. I think you almost become callous to it and just say, 'What do we have to do to get our team ready to play?' " *

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