Ohio back as Cinderella is March Madness story that’s easy to root for


There was that first-round upset over Georgetown in 2010, and then an upset in 2012 over Michigan before an overtime loss to top-seed North Carolina that prevented them from advancing as a 13 seed to the Midwest Regional Final. And long before that, there was a magical run to the Mideast Regional Final in 1964.

And now the Ohio University Bobcats are back as one of the Cinderellas of this wild and wacky NCAA Tournament as a 13 seed Monday night against fifth-seeded Creighton in a West Regional second-rounder.

Back with the tearjerker story of junior point guard Jason Preston, who lost his single mother to cancer when he was 15 and came out of nowhere and a Tennessee school appropriately called Believe Prep to become a most unlikely basketball star. Back with 6-foot-8 forward Ben Vander Plas, whose late-game left-wing daggers on Saturday night with his father going bonkers in the stands turned Virginia into former defending national champs and unleashed a few hundred euphoric revelers on the campus’ Court Street. Back with Jeff Boals, the coach coaching his alma mater.

And where else would the Bobcats ask to dream on than Hinkle Fieldhouse, the magical old Indiana place featured in the inspirational “Hoosiers” movie?

Full disclosure: Although there is no cheering in the press box, I am an Ohio University grad. Now back to my objective self.

The Ohio University Alumni Association and Ohio Bobcat Club will be sponsoring an online pep rally on Monday afternoon.

“Coach Boals was talking to us last night after the game,” Vander Plas told Voice of the Bobcats Russ Eisenstein on Sunday, “and he said it really well. He said, ‘Remember how you handle adversity, remember how to handle prosperity.’ And we were talking about remember what got us here.

“I’m really thankful to have so much support from people back in Athens [Ohio], people back home in Ripon [Wis.], all the Bobcats around the planet, just seeing all the messages and stuff is really cool, so we got to enjoy that last night, but woke up this morning with the mindset to get ready to beat Creighton tomorrow.”

The Bluejays have recovered from coach Greg McDermott’s four-day suspension for his insensitive “stay on the plantation” remarks following a Feb. 27 loss to Xavier, as well as a 73-48 trouncing in the Big East Conference Tournament final by Georgetown. They can run hot and cold and live or die with the 3-point shooting of Marcus Zegarowski (41.5 percent, 208 career 3s), who has accounted for 53 percent of all Creighton field goals over the last three games and Mitch Ballock (39 percent from Omaha).

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, an Athens, Ohio, native, home of the university, hopped on the Bobcat Bandwagon when he tweeted: “How bout those Bobcats.”

Objectivity attempt: “How bout those Bluejays, too.”

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