Despite its double digit Big Ten wins, Ohio State's path to the NCAA Tournament was already a bit of a longshot. Now, the Buckeyes' path has gotten much, much harder, as a key player will be missing time due to injury.
As first reported by Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch, Ohio State forward Jae'Sean Tate had an MRI on his left shoulder and the possibility of him missing extended time became tangible Tuesday morning. Tuesday evening, also via Jardy (and then later confirmed by the university), it surfaced that Tate would indeed have to have surgery on the shoulder and miss the remainder of the season. Tate had previously injured his right shoulder at Pickerington Central, but this current injury is on his left one.
Ohio State expects Tate to make a full recovery and be ready for the start of practice in the fall of 2016.
Tate appeared to injure himself near the end of the first half against Nebraska while reaching for a pass, but started the second half. It's possible he further aggravated the injury during the remainder of the game.
Though he notably slapped the floor while guarding Nebraska's Tai Webster, ESPN's Mike Tirico said during Tuesday night's broadcast of the Ohio State-Michigan State game that that wasn't where he injured the shoulder and that it had been a lingering problem. Tate tweeted that this perception was incorrect as well after Tuesday's game.
Immediately after the game, Matta said Tate was dealing with a stinger-type of injury. Monday night on his call-in show, Matta was asked about Tate's shoulder and said, "We're taking a look at it, but hopefully he's going to be fine."
Losing Tate is a significant blow for Ohio State's hopes to finish the season strongly. Tate was third on the team in scoring, averaging 11.7 points per game, and leads the team in rebounds, with 6.5 boards a game. Despite being undersized, Tate was one of the few Buckeyes who can reliably score inside, and a leader in effort plays and offensive rebounding.
With Ohio State having to play without Tate for an extended period, it means extended minutes for Mickey Mitchell and possibly even Kam Williams.
Ohio State probably needs to win two of its next three regular season games if it wants to make the tournament, and the Buckeyes' path isn't an easy one. They host Michigan State tonight, and will also play Iowa at home, and Michigan State again on the road. Without Tate, even winning one of those games could be a tall order.