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Published: Saturday, 3/31/2012

Governor says Buford key to OSU title hopes


COLUMBUS -- "It all comes down to Toledo,'' Gov. John Kasich said Friday when asked by reporters for his predictions for Saturday's Final Four games.

If Toledo native William Buford and his fellow Buckeyes are on their game, Ohio State University will go all the way, he predicted.

"We're looking fantastic,'' Mr. Kasich said. "I think a lot of it depends on Buford. We get a great couple games out of him, we win the title.''

In addition to picking his alma mater over the University of Kansas, he predicted a tough game between No. 1 seed University of Kentucky and home state rival University of Louisville.

"I think Louisville will make it better than people think,'' the governor said. "I think Kentucky will win. I do think we'll beat Kansas. I watched the Kansas-North Carolina game.''

As for the potential matchup of Ohio State and Kentucky in Monday's championship game, "it depends who comes out hot,'' he said. "That's why I think Buford's so important, or somebody like [Deshaun] Thomas. But Buford, it's really critical what he does.

"Of course, I'm going to say we're going to win, right?" Mr. Kasich said. "I believe we've got the best five players in talent, when they play together, in the country. If they play together and they have a good night, we will win. There's no doubt in my mind.''

Mr. Kasich will not be going to the Ohio State-Kansas game in New Orleans, so a challenge from Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a fellow Republican, to play a game of H-O-R-S-E won't happen. Mr. Brownback, whose tenure as a U.S. senator and congressman overlapped with Mr. Kasich's tenure in Washington, will be in the crowd to cheer on the Jayhawks.

"I know Sam,'' Mr. Kasich said. "We used to play basketball together. I'd have to spot him H-O-R-S to be fair.''

That's a compliment. In the game of H-O-R-S-E, a player acquires a letter in the word "Horse'' when he misses a shot after his opponent has made it.

Brownback spokesman Sherriene Jones-Sontag said her boss is not a "betting man'' and made the game "offer'' in the spirit of competition and to renew the former colleagues' friendship.

"I'll be in New Orleans, ready to play,'' Mr. Brownback said. "That's okay if he wants to duck out."

He has picked the Jayhawks to beat the Buckeyes by five points.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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