Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Thad Matta watches the court as his player William Buford celebrates during the second half of the men's NCAA East Regional basketball game against the Cincinnati Bearcats in Boston

William Buford wasn’t stellar, but win gets him deserved shot at Final Four

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BOSTON – Currently the school’s fourth all-time leading scorer player, William Buford has certainly left his mark on the Ohio State basketball program.

The player who holds the distinction of starting more games than any other player to pass through Ohio State, Buford has played alongside college basketball superstars Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger and been a part, if not the centerpiece, of many great and important games.

But he’s never been to a regional final, instead ending his first three seasons in Columbus with heartache and under-achievement.

Until now.

Despite another unimpressive performance in the Sweet 16, Buford, speaking in terms of team, got the monkey off his back, as No. 2 seed Ohio State advanced past a pesky No. 6 seed Cincinnati Bearcat squad with an 81-66 victory.

Buford finished with just four points on 1-8 shooting. He also committed four fouls and five turnovers.

His numbers in the game’s box score are nothing which would be something to write home about, and aligned with Buford’s two previous Sweet 16 performances.

Oh well.

“We advanced,” said Buford after the game. “And that’s all that matters.”

Last season, Buford finished with nine points on 2-16 shooting in a Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky.

In 2010, he was inefficient against Tennessee, as the two-seed Buckeyes were defeated by the Volunteers.

The year before, he was the victim of a first round defeat to mid-major Siena.

His NCAA Tournament life has been anything but pleasant.

“It feels great just to say I’m in the Elite Eight,” he said. “I’ve never been this far. Nobody on this team has ever been this far. All the hard work is paying off but we got a long way to go to get where we want.”

So regardless as to how it’s done, the Buckeyes advance, so does Buford.

He gets a chance to play for the Final Four and a shot at redemption. At being the guy everyone points to in the locker room as the star of the game; something he’s shown to be more than capable of doing, just maybe not when the lights are brightest.

As a senior whose name is prominently plastered on the school’s record book, Buford deserves the chance to cut down a net or two this spring.

With the Buckeyes still standing, Buford is just 40 minutes away from doing just that.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: