Even if you’re not a fan of the area teams in this year’s NCAA tournament — Dayton, Cincinnati, Xavier and, given the broad reach of its fan base, Kentucky — there are some other local rooting interests worth following for the next few weeks.
Fourteen players in the tournament hail from Southwest Ohio, and there’s at least one in each of the four regions. The locals represent 10 teams which are seeded anywhere from second to 10th.
Here’s a look at each of the 14:
Kyle Ahrens, Michigan State
The freshman guard from Versailles High School has appeared in 25 games for the Spartans, who are the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region. Ahrens has played sparingly in his first season, averaged 1.2 points and 3.4 minutes per contest.
Alex Bergen, Xavier
The junior guard from Cincinnati (Oak Hills) has appeared in three games for the Musketeers, who are seeded second in the East. One of the games Bergen played in was the 90-61 win against Dayton in the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, Fla., in November.
Vince Edwards, Purdue
The Middletown grad and son of Wright State Hall of Famer Bill Edwards is the second-leading scorer for Purdue, the No. 5 seed in the Midwest. A sophomore guard, Edwards is the only player on the team who has started all 34 games. He leads the Boilermakers in assists (2.9) and minutes (27.1) per game and is second on the team in scoring (11.0).
Nate Fowler, Butler
A freshman center from Cincinnati (Moeller), Fowler has appeared in 20 games for Butler, the No. 9 seed in the Midwest. He’s averaging 1.2 points and 6.3 minutes per game.
Joey Gruden, Dayton
The junior guard who played at Sycamore while his dad, Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, was the offensive coordinator for the Bengals, has appeared in four games for the Flyers but has yet to score.
Kevin Johnson, Cincinnati
Johnson, a Cincinnati native who led Summit Country Day to the 2012 Division III state championship, has appeared in all 32 games for the Bearcats, who are the No. 9 seed in the West. He averages 6.2 points in 21.2 minutes.
Luke Kennard, Duke
After winning back-to-back Mr. Basketball awards as well as being named the Parade National Player of the Year following his senior season Franklin, Kennard has played a key role for defending national champion Duke, which is the fourth seed in the West. Kennard has appeared in all 31 games for the Blue Devils, and while he mostly comes off the bench (he has six starts), he’s third on the team in scoring with 11.8 points to go along with 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists.
Rozelle Nix, Pittsburgh
The Cincinnati native (Withrow) is redshirting this season for the Panthers, the No. 10 seed in the East, after transferring from Pensacola Junior College.
Michael Schwieterman, Dayton
A freshman guard and walk-on from Alter, Schwieterman has appeared in one game this year for the Flyers, who are the No. 7 seed in the Midwest.
Ahmad Wagner, Iowa
The freshman forward from Wayne has appeared in 30 games for the Hawkeyes, who are seeded seventh in the South. He’s averaging 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds in 10 minutes per game.
Lamont West, West Virginia
The freshman forward originally hails from Cincinnati (Withrow), although he played his senior year of high school in Georgia. West is redshirting this season.
Jack Westerfield, Dayton
The freshman guard from Cincinnati (St. Xavier) has appeared in one game for the Flyers.
Devin Williams, West Virginia
A high school team of West’s at Withrow, Williams has played in all 33 games for the Mountaineers with 32 starts. The junior forward is averaging 12.8 points and a team-best 9.2 rebounds for West Virginia, which is the No. 3 seed in the East.
Xeyrius Williams, Dayton
The freshman forward from Wayne has appeared in 25 games for the Flyers. He’s averaging 2.2 points in 10 minutes of action per contest. He scored a season-high seven points in the 82-77 victory against Iowa and former prep teammate Ahmad Wagner in the opening game of the Advocare Invitational.