It's been leaked in piecemeal for the past few weeks, but now we finally know who Ohio State will be playing in their out of conference basketball schedule for next season. The narratives are already starting from national writers/internet trolls that this schedule is "super soft". But is it? Let's take a look.
Nov 9th: Morgan State Bears – MEAC
2012-2013 record: 17-15 (10-6)
2011-2012 record: 9-20 (6-10)
2010-2011 record: 17-14 (10-6)
The Bears have been a middle of the pack-ish squad in one of the worst basketball leagues in America over the past few years, although they have occasionally played high major teams fairly closely at the start of the season. Morgan State will return their leading scorer Justin Black, but this is probably not a team Buckeye fans should be worried about only beating by single digits.
Nov. 12: Ohio University Bobcats – MAC
2012-2013 record: 24-10 (14-2). Lost to Denver in NIT First Round
2011-2012 record: 29-8 (11-5). Lost to UNC in Sweet 16
2010-2011 record: 19-16 (9-7) Lost to East Tennessee in CIT Quarterfinals.
This would have been a much more terrifying game two seasons ago, but the electric DJ Cooper isn't walking through that door this year (well, maybe he will, but as a spectator. You know what I mean). The Bobcats graduate a lot of quality players, but given the wild nature of the MAC, some sort of postseason berth isn't necessarily out of the question. Expect Ohio to give Ohio State everything they've got, but it shouldn't be enough to beat an experienced Ohio State squad.
Nov. 16: @ Marquette Golden Eagles – Big East
2012-2013 record: 26-9 (14-4). Lost to Syracuse in the Elite Eight
2011-2012 record: 27-8 (14-4). Lost to Florida in the Sweet 16
2010-2011 record: 22-15 (9-9). Lost to UNC in Sweet 16.
It's disappointing that these two squads couldn't tangle on The Boat last year, but thanks to a home-and-home agreement, Buckeye fans will still get a chance to see the Golden Eagles. Even though Vander Blue won't return after an ill-fated decision to declare for the NBA draft, Devante Gardner and Jamil Wilson return to a well coached squad that should make some noise in the newly reconfigured Big East. This should be a tough game for the Buckeyes, although not an impossible one by any means. Should be an exciting early test, especially for the Ohio State front court.
Nov. 20: American University Eagles – Patriot League
2012-2013 record: 10-20 (5-9).
2011-2012 record: 20-12 (10-4). Lost to Buffalo in CIT First Round
2010-2011 record: 22-9 (11-3).
I'm fully aware I'm probably the only person on the Internet who is really geeked about this series, since I attended American University from 2005-2006 before transferring to Ohio State. The Eagles have enjoyed some success over the last few years, but the wheels completely came off last year, and their coach, former UVA headman Jeff Jones, has left for ODU (that's Old Dominion, not Ohio Dominican). Expect me to be reeeeally active on Twitter that week, and to write a particularly in-depth game preview, but with American replacing their best coach and their two leading scorers, don't expect a particularly close game.
Nov. 25: Wyoming Cowboys – MWC
2012-2013 record: 20-14 (4-12). Lost to Western Michigan in CBI Quarterfinal.
2011-2012 record: 21-12 (6-8). Lost to Washington State in CBI Quarterfinal.
2010-2011 record: 10-21 (3-13).
The Cowboys started the season 13-0, and with plenty of RPI possibilities in the MWC, the season suddenly looked very promising for Wyoming. Then their leading scorer, Luke Martinez, went out with an injury, the Cowboys fell into a meat grinder, and the team overall sort of fell apart. The top three scorers on the Cowboys have all graduated, so this might not be the season Wyoming wins 25 games or anything, although they could still be feisty enough to make a postseason tournament. Fun fact: their leading returning scorer is Larry Nance Jr., son of former Cleveland Cavalier great Larry Nance. Small world!
Nov. 29: North Florida Ospreys – Atlantic Sun
2012-2013 record: 13-19 (8-10).
2011-2012 record: 16-16 (10-8)
2010-2011 record: 15-19 (10-10).
I was really excited about this game for a second, but that's when I realized that I had North Florida confused with Florida Gulf Coast. North Florida is not the team that had the electric underdog run to the Sweet 16; North Florida is the team that played Ohio State back in 2011-2012 and lost by 35 points. The Ospreys return some pieces from last year's squad and some improvement is probably likely (how much? I'm prognosticating about Atlantic Sun basketball in July), but the Buckeyes should roll here. On the bright side, Ospreys is a pretty cool nickname for a basketball team.
Dec. 4: Maryland Terrapins – ACC* (soon to be B1G)
2012-2013 record: 25-13 (8-10). Lost to Iowa in NIT Semifinals.
2011-2012 record: 17-15 (6-10).
2010-2011 record: 19-14 (7-9).
The Terps have been down for a little while, and they turned a Top 5 pick in the NBA draft into only an NIT bid in a weak-ish ACC, but the team has been recruiting better and should compete for an NCAA slot this season. The Terps were a very young team last year, but Dez Wells, Nick Faust, Seth Allen and Charles Mitchell all come back for the Terps, along with freshman point guard Roddy Peters. This should also be a good test for the Buckeyes, in what could be one of the more exciting home games of the year.
Dec. 7: Central Connecticut State Blue Devils – NEC
2012-2013 record: 13-17 (9-9).
2011-2012 record: 13-16 (10-8).
2010-2011 record: 19-12 (11-7).
The Blue Devils may have struggled a little last season, but they could be feisty in the NEC this year, and if nothing else, they shouldn't be boring. They bring back Kyle Vinales, a 6-2 guard who averaged 21.6 ppg last season, and his running mate, 6-5 Matt Hunter who added 15.7. Almost everybody of consequence in their rotation was an underclassman last season, and with some other NEC schools experiencing more turnover, the Blue Devils have a chance to really improve. Enough to beat Ohio State? Not likely, but improve enough to look a little better for DAT RPI.
Dec. 11: Bryant University Bulldogs-NEC
2012-2013 record: 19-12 (12-6). Lost to Richmond in CBI First Round.
2011-2012 record: 2-28 (1-17)
2010-2011 record: 9-21 (7-11).
Raise your hand if you knew Bryant University was a real college before you saw the schedule. Put your hand down, liar. The Bulldogs have undergone an impressive transformation, going from one of the worst teams in the entire country to one that is competing for postseason berths. Like the Blue Devils, the Bulldogs return some solid young talent. Dynami Starks, a 6-2 guard with an *awesome* name, led the way last year at 17.7 ppg, with his 6-6 running mate, Alex Francis, right behind him at 17.4, creating a dangerous 1-2 punch. The Bulldogs can get up and down the floor, but it's doubtful they'll see anybody like Aaron Craft in the NEC. BOLD SUMMER PREDICTION: Either Bryant or CCSU will grab the NEC auto-bid and make the NCAAs this year, making Ohio State look a little better, since the Buckeyes will beat them both.
Dec. 14: North Dakota State Bison – Summit League
2012-2013 record: 24-10 (12-4). Lost to Western Michigan in the first round of the CBI.
2011-2012 record: 17-14 (9-9). Lost to Wyoming in the first round of the CBI.
2010-2011 record: 14-15 (8-10).
Now that the Nate Wolters reign of terror in the Summit League is over, the Bisons may be in great position to make a move. Leading scorer Taylor Braun returns (15.4), along with second leading scorer and leading rebounder Marshall Bjorklund, and if that isn't a North Dakotan name I don't know what is. Those two will create a formidable low-major front court. I could see this game being interesting for a half or so, and don't be surprised if you see NDSU in the NCAAs this season.
Dec. 18: Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens – CAA
2012-2013 record: 19-14 (13-5).
2011-2012 record: 18-14 (12-6). Lost to Butler in the first round of the CBI.
2010-2011 record: 14-17 (8-10).
In a league wracked by defections, the Delaware Blue Hens may end up being one of the strongest remaining programs. Devon Saddler, with his 19.9 ppg and 4.5 boards, returns, along with Jarvis Threatt, which could create a strong backcourt to battle James Madison, Northeastern, and Drexel for the CAA's likely lone bid to the Big Dance. The Blue Hens will be small, but they shouldn't be terrible, and shouldn't be a total blemish on a computer ranking.
Dec. 21: vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish – ACC (game in NYC)
2012-2013 record: 25-10 (11-7). Lost to Iowa State in NCAA Second Round (round of 64).
2011-2012 record: 22-12 (13-5). Lost to Xavier in NCAA Second Round (round of 64).
2010-2011 record: 27-7 (14-4). Lost to Florida State in NCAA Third Round (round of 32).
The Irish may have underwhelmed in the postseason, but they've been a consistent program in a demanding conference over the last few years, and should present a stiff, though not insurmountable challenge for the Buckeyes. Jack Cooley is gone, but leading scorer Jerian Grant returns, along with Eric Atkins, and 6-10 Ohioan Garrick Sherman. This is a game the Buckeyes could certainly lose, but a win here would look great for the computer profile, especially away from home (although I'm told there are a handful of Buckeye fans and alums in and around New York City).
Dec. 27 or 28: Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks – Sun Belt
2012-2013 record: 4-23 (3-17).
2011-2012 record: 3-26 (2-14).
2010-2011 record: 7-24 (2-14).
Okay, there isn't any sugarcoating this. This is a really bad basketball team, and I'm not sure what their prospects are to become a dramatically less bad basketball team for this season. You're allowed to play one or two of these each year though without it being a problem (see, Chicago State, Houston Baptist, etc). The Warhawks do return most of their key contributors from last year, but those key contributors were also sub-300 in scoring and rebounding per game. I'll go out on a limb and say they win at least six games this year, but this should be a chance for the Bucks to get everybody some PT before B1G play.
So there you have it. It's possible, even probable, that if Ohio State is close to as good as we think they'll be, they will probably lose no more than one of these games. It's true that this year's slate is a little lighter on blue blood programs than with other seasons, but it does feature two likely NCAA squads outside of Columbus, and potentially five teams that will make the NCAA, with only two, maybe three truly HORRIBLE teams. That's not so bad.
Remember, the Buckeyes didn't really have a big win until B1G play last year, and that turned out okay for them. Given that this squad is breaking in LaQuinton Ross into a probable lead scoring roll, and will try to get young players lots of playing time before the rugged league schedule, a more moderate pre-conference slate may not be the worst thing in the world.