It's Friday, and that means it's time for major outlets to release their mock NCAA brackets. Ohio State has played two games since we last looked at their bracket projections, and both were blowouts; a huge loss at Wisconsin, and a nearly equally strong win against a free-falling Minnesota squad. That gives Ohio State a 19-7, 9-5 record.
Ohio State is listed as a 5 seed in Kansas City, facing the winner of either 12 seed California or 12 seed Ole Miss.
Should Ohio State win, they'd face the winner of 4 seed Kansas State or 13 seed Akron.
Nobody in this pod would be unbeatable for Ohio State, although a second round matchup against K-State in front of a largely pro-Wildcat crowd in KC wouldn't be ideal. The bad news is that every single one of those squads, even Akron, could beat Ohio State if the Buckeyes shot specially poorly.
Ohio State is listed as a 5 seed in San Jose, facing the winner of either 12 seed Arizona State or 12 seed Villanova.
Should Ohio State win, they'd face the winner of 4 seed Kansas State or 13 seed Bucknell.
Given the choice, Ohio State fans would probably want the later. It's easier to play Kansas State in the bay area, where there are lots of Buckeye grads, then in the Wildcat's backyard, and I personally think Arizona State and Nova are slightly less foreboding than Cal or Ole Miss.
Ohio State is listed as a 6 seed in Dayton, facing 11 seed Creighton.
Should Ohio State win, they'd face the winner of 3 seed Butler and 14 seed Valparaiso.
It's worth noting that CBS has been a little more down on Ohio State over the last few weeks than other major blog prognosticators, but this would present an interesting scenario for Buckeye fans. Obviously the Blue Jays, led by Doug McDermontt, would be a tough out for Ohio State, although the Buckeyes would have close to a home court in nearby Dayton. Butler would be a tough matchup, but again Ohio State would get that game as close to home as possible. Entering as as 6 seed means Ohio State would miss a possible matchup with a number 1 seed for by a round. Something to think about.
We're still talking brackets before March though. How much could this change before Selection Sunday?
First, a quick reminder at Ohio State's remaining games:
The good news for Ohio State is that there are 3 games against RPI top 50 squads left, and two of them are at home. The bad news is that the Buckeyes could conceivably lose every one of those games. I think the Buckeyes are probably still in the tourney even if they lose all four games, although that would be ugly.
The most likely scenario is that Ohio State goes 2-2, beating Northwestern and either MSU or Illinois. If Ohio State holds serve at 2-2, a minimum of a 5 seed feels like a reasonable expectation. The Buckeyes would then have at least 4 top 50 RPI victories with zero bad losses, although seed placement also has a lot to do with what other teams do, and geography. If Ohio State goes 3-1, a 4 seed is within reach. If Ohio State wins them all, or goes HAM in the tourney, they could probably get as high as a 3 seed.
Speaking of the Big Ten tourney, we're getting to the point where we have a general idea of who Ohio State may play. Thursdays games feature:
Game 1: No. 8 vs. No. 9, 11 a.m., BTN
Game 2: No. 5 vs. No. 12, 1:30 p.m.*, BTN
Game 3: No. 7 vs. No. 10, 5:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 4: No. 6 vs. No. 11, 8 p.m.*, ESPN2
Ohio State is currently 5th in the Big Ten. It's possible that they could climb a seed line higher if Wisconsin or Michigan falls apart, but 5th appears to be the most likely landing spot for Ohio State (they have a 2 game lead in the losses column on Illinois and Iowa). That means Ohio State would play Penn State in round one. Getting a bye would be nice, but let's be honest, a game against Penn State is about as close as you can get to a bye.
Game 5: No. 1 vs. Game 1 Winner, 11 a.m., ESPN
Game 6: No. 4 vs. Ohio State?, 1:30 p.m.*, ESPN
Game 7: No. 2 vs. Game 3 Winner, 5:30 p.m., BTN
Game 8: No. 3 vs. Game 4 Winner, 8 p.m.*, BTN
No.4 would either be Michigan or Wisconsin. Another victory there could help Ohio State solidify a 4 seed. Any wins above that are gravy.
Long story short, we're still looking at the 4-6 range for Ohio State, making their matchup against Michigan State on Sunday even bigger. A victory there is their best chance at grabbing one more major "feather" in their computer profile this season. A loss, and Ohio State will probably want to beat Illinois *and* a good team in Chicago to feel safe about that top 4 seed line.