Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin has more than enough to keep his mind occupied - his unranked Bearcats face No. 7 Ohio State Thursday night in an NCAA Tournament East Regional game at TD Garden - but it seems he couldn’t stop talking about the Celtics on Wednesday.
Being in the same building was certainly part of it.
“You’re playing where the Celtics play,’’ Cronin said. “Our guys, they’re just excited to be here. You could roll out the Celtics and our guys would be excited. We’d be in trouble, but our guys would be excited.’’
Cronin acknowledged to a long-held admiration for Kevin Garnett - “Big fan of his intensity’’ - and was surprised that many of the Celtics banners, including their retired jerseys, were taken down for this weekend’s NCAA games.
Some of the Buckeyes noticed.
“You always like going to the gyms and looking up and seeing the history,’’ Ohio State sophomore guard Aaron Craft said. “But I think if you take a step back, you still understand it’s still the same arena. It’s still the same place where so many great games took place and great basketball teams have played.’’
It might be the same building where the Celtics play, but there’s one glaring exception, and Cronin’s more than OK with it.
“We’re not playing on the Celtics’ court, so none of the four coaches, we don’t have to worry about our guys shooting the NBA three,’’ Cronin said.
The Bearcats coach compared Ohio State shooting guard William Buford with someone who spends plenty of time making shots in TD Garden: “He’s the college version of Ray Allen, he really is. He’s got a great shooter.’’
Another great shooter with Celtics ties also was mentioned.
“I’m excited to be coaching where Doc Rivers coaches, even though he didn’t send me his son [Austin, who just completed his freshman season as Duke’s leading scorer],’’ Cronin said.
“I could have used him.’’
It will be an exciting week in Ohio. For the first time ever, one state has four teams in the Sweet 16 at the same time - Ohio State, Cincinnati, Xavier, and Ohio. No, it never happened with North Carolina. Just Ohio, a state better known for its football prowess. As Cronin said, it brings “a sense of great pride for our state.’’ At least one of those teams won’t advance, however, with Ohio State facing Cincinnati. Of course, that also means Ohio is guaranteed a spot in the Elite Eight. “I think that’s tremendous,’’ Ohio native and Buckeyes forward Jared Sullinger said. “Ohio, everybody knows them as a football state, but we have a little bit of basketball talent inside those borders. It’s just finally showing now.’’
Cincinnati’s Yancy Gates made a case Wednesday for the Bearcats as the hottest team in the East Regional. “I would say that, just because of how much we fly under the radar,’’ Gates said. “Almost every night you turn on the TV, people are picking us to lose by 2 or 3. So I would say yes, we’re pretty much the hottest team. We’ll take it that way and we’ll enjoy it.’’ . . . Thursday night’s game might be somewhat familiar for Ohio State, with the Buckeyes having faced a lot of physical teams while getting through their conference schedule. “I think very similar to a lot of the Big Ten teams that we’ve gone against, just with the active hands, hand checking, going to the glass, the athleticism, the banging down low, those types of things,’’ Ohio State coach Thad Matta said of Cincinnati. “Both are very, very physical type conferences. In that regard, I think we’ll both have a pretty good understanding of what it’s going to be like.’’