Calhoun gives tourney forecast

YSU coach likes Buckeyes, Norse

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown State had some challenges this season. The Penguins men’s basketball team faced two NCAA Tournament qualifiers.

YSU held fast with Ohio State for one half before Kaleb Wesson, son of former Niles McKinley High School standout Keith Wesson, dominated the Penguins in the final 20 minutes of a December game in Columbus.

Kaleb, a 6-foot-9, 269-pound center, recently came back from a three-game, team-induced suspension. He had 17 points, 13 rebounds, two steals and three blocks in a Big Ten tournament win over Indiana.

“Any time you have a low-post presence, you have a kid that you have the ability to throw it on the block and score the basketball, it neutralizes everything,” YSU men’s coach Jerrod Calhoun said. “I think it also opens up 3-pointers to be made by the Buckeyes.

“They’ve been up and down, and I think a big part of it is because Wesson hasn’t been there.”

Calhoun said they’re a dangerous team in this format. He’ll be watching their game, which pits the 11th-seeded Buckeyes (19-14) against sixth-seeded Iowa State (23-11) Friday in the Midwest Region. The two play at 9:50 p.m., in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“I think they’re a team that was dying to get in,” Calhoun said.

Another team YSU is quite familiar with is Northern Kentucky.

The Norse won this year’s Horizon League Championship and beat the Penguins both times this season. The 14th-seeded Norse (26-8) takes on third-seeded Texas Tech (26-6) Friday in Tulsa in a West Regional game, starting at 1:30 p.m.

The Red Raiders are led by 6-6 shooting guard Jarrett Culver, who might be an NBA lottery pick in the upcoming draft.

Jalen Tate, also a 6-6 guard, is a key for Northern Kentucky.

“Jalen Tate has to be that guy in that matchup,” Calhoun said. “He’s got long arms. He’s got experience. He’s tough. I, personally, thought he should be on the all-Horizon League team, either first or second. He played with a chip on his shoulder ever since. They’re an interesting team when the ball goes side-to-side and they’re moving people.

“Of course, they have star power. As Ohio State has with Wesson, they’ve got Drew McDonald. He’s a star. He’s the greatest player to ever play there. This is his last chance. He’s dangerous.”

This is the second time in three years Northern Kentucky has been in the NCAA Tournament. Two years ago, the Norse kept it tight before Kentucky pulled away.

“I think every mid-major team that has experience, the Buffalos, the Northern Kentuckys, had a taste of it, are dangerous because this isn’t new for them,” Calhoun said. “They know what the media is going to look like, media obligations the day before.

“Sometimes as a new group you can get caught in the middle of stuff. I think if Northern Kentucky makes 3s, that’s a dangerous game as well.”

Calhoun said Gonzaga, Duke and North Carolina are some of the favorites to get to the Final Four, but watch out for teams like Murray State and Belmont.

Mid-majors pulling upsets are the staple of the NCAA Tournament, especially in the first and second rounds. Calhoun hopes one can go further, sort of like Loyola (Chicago) did last season, going to the Final Four.

“I want a mid-major flavor to the Elite 8, Final Four,” he said. “That’s what I would kind of prefer, to see one of those teams.”

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