It's amazing how much a single win changes things. After dispatching Purdue at home yesterday, Ohio State has returned to the AP Top 25, all but assured themselves of an NCAA bid, and can now look at how they can improve their seeding. After back-to-back disappointing road losses to the Michigan schools, the Buckeyes can now feel much better about their future chances, and there's still opportunity to make up ground.
With two regular season games to play, Ohio State sits at 21-8, 10-6 in conference, and No. 23 in the AP Poll. The Buckeyes travel to face basement-dwelling Penn State on Wednesday, and conclude the regular season at home against the Big Ten's best, Wisconsin.
Where does Ohio State sit right now as far as bracket projections, and where could they end up by Selection Sunday? Let's take a look.
Using the official NCAA RPI numbers, Ohio State is 36th, jumping from 44 after beating Purdue. That's more than high enough to historically grab an at-large bid. Wisconsin is currently sixth, meaning the Buckeyes could still jump quite a bit if they're able to pull off the home upset. In case you were wondering, Ohio State's best win of the season, Maryland, is 10th.
Bracket Matrix projection
7 seed against Mississippi
The Bracket Matrix averages out the projections of dozens of bracket projections, from the big names at ESPN and CBS, to smaller sites that still boast impressive prediction powers. The Buckeyes rose a seedline after beating Purdue, and if they're able to sweep their last two games, could easily jump another seed, especially if other teams struggle.
7 seed against NC State
Joe Lunardi shares the Bracket Matrix projection, giving the Buckeyes a shot against the Wolfpack, with 2 seeded Arizona waiting in the next round, in Portland, should Ohio State advance. That's a lot better than Kentucky, which was the common scenario a few weeks ago.
8 seed against Ole Miss
The CBS projections have typically been more conservative towards Ohio State this season, and Palm and company didn't bump Ohio State up after knocking off Purdue. Should the Buckeyes defeat the Rebels in this scenario, they'd be faced with the unenviable task for taking on Duke, in Charlotte. Let's hope this one doesn't come to pass.
Big Ten Tournament seeding projection
So here is where things gets tricky.
The Only Colors has the full (and complicated) list of seeding scenarios and tiebreakers, but for the sake of discussion here, we'll focus on the most likely destinations for Ohio State, between the 3-6 seeds (the Buckeyes could tumble as far as the 8th seed should they lose out, but that isn't likely). Getting a top 4 seed is especially important, as that provides a double bye, but as long as the Buckeyes don't drop their next two games, they should be able to secure at least a single bye.
The Buckeyes are a little stuck, since they lose tiebreakers to both Iowa and Michigan State, on account of being a combined 0-3 against the two teams, so they'll need help from both if they want to climb far in the standings. But the good news is, even a 6 seed wouldn't be so bad for Ohio State. Grabbing the 3 or the 6 spot puts Ohio State on the other side of the bracket as Wisconsin. If the Buckeyes fall to 6, they'll need to take out a Nebraska/Northwestern caliber team in their first game, and then likely either Purdue or Michigan State to get to the semifinals. That would be a nice win for Ohio State, and then the Bucks would likely face Maryland.
The worst case scenario isn't so much about seed, but who they face. Getting Iowa and Wisconsin would probably be the worst case scenario for Ohio State, given how the Buckeyes have matched up with the Hawkeyes this season, and missing both would be ideal.
If Ohio State can avoid a bad loss in the conference tourney, and if they beat Penn State, they shouldn't fall below a 7 seed in the NCAAs, and there are chances to climb into a 6, or maybe even 5 spot, if they're able to make a run. After everything that is happened this season, that wouldn't be so bad at all.