Although Ohio State's schedule was leaked a little earlier, the full Big Ten basketball schedule was released last night on BTN, along with the new Big Ten Tournament format. Now that we know Ohio State's full basketball slate, we can dig a little deeper into what it means.
It is late August, so take this with the appropriate grain of salt, but on the surface, it appears that Ohio State's Big Ten portion of the schedule breaks well for the Buckeyes. Ohio State only plays the overwhelming league favorite, Wisconsin, once, and that's at home on the very last game on their schedule. The Buckeyes also get two more manageable games, with a home date against Purdue and a trip to Penn State, before facing the Badgers.
The Buckeyes also only draw Michigan State once, but that game will be on the road, on Saturday, Feb. 14. Ohio State travels to Michigan for their next game, followed by their one game against Nebraska, making that likely their toughest three game stretch of the year.
The Buckeyes will play each of the Big Ten newcomers only once this year. Maryland comes to Columbus on Thursday, Jan. 29, in the middle of what is probably Ohio State's softest patch of the Big Ten schedule, to the extent that such a thing exists in such a tough basketball league. The Buckeyes will travel to Rutgers on Sunday, Feb. 8.
Ohio State's nonconference schedule, if looked by cumulative RPI from last season, may be their weakest in recent memory, even though there are still good challenges at the top. Ohio State will get five games under their belt before hitting the road to face Louisville on Dec. 2, and will travel to Chicago to face North Carolina near the end of their non-Big Ten season. Marquette will come to Columbus very early in the year, with only UMass-Lowell serving as a tuneup game, but with the Golden Eagles breaking in a new coach and with significant size issues on their roster, that still projects to be a game Ohio State *should* win. Splitting Louisville and North Carolina would be viewed as a success, but losing both wouldn't necessarily be a disaster.
As far as the rest of the slate, on paper right now, none of the mid or low majors that Ohio State has scheduled projects to provide a major test, although every year one or two of the teams will provide a stiff one anyway. Wright State, Morehead State and High Point might be the best bets for putting a scare into Ohio State, but a loss to any of those teams should be viewed as a major disappointment.
The other big announcement was the creation of an additional day in the Big Ten Tournament, to accommodate the now 14 teams in the league.
The larger bracket will put an even bigger premium on grabbing a top four seed in the league, as those teams will get a double bye. I assume Rutgers will play on the first day (most likely in the #14-#11 game), and perhaps some combination of Penn State, Northwestern and Purdue, and I imagine Wisconsin will grab one of the double byes, but the rest of the league could end up in a all sorts of different directions. Ohio State will probably be in contention for one of those top four bids, which could make the season finale against the Badgers even more interesting.
Outside of the three game swing of At Michigan State, At Michigan and Nebraska, Ohio State's schedule is broken down into what appears to be more manageable chunks. The Buckeyes start their B1G schedule with back to back home games against Iowa and Illinois before traveling to Minnesota and Indiana. None of those are easy games, but none are against teams projected to compete for a league title and going 3-1 in that stretch isn't unreasonable. After hosting Michigan, Ohio State gets seven games in a row against teams that less likely to be near the top of the league (Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska). After a three game murder stretch, Ohio State has Purdue, at Penn State, and then the Badgers.
If Ohio State can stay healthy, and get development from their young scorers, they should contend for a spot near the top of the Big Ten, and a strong NCAA seed. If they don't, they probably shouldn't blame their schedule.