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Staying sharp between the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments will be a challenge for Ohio State

The nearly two-week break will help Ohio State recharge their batteries, but could make them rusty for the Big Dance.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

“We definitely can’t take too much time during these breaks because other teams are still playing. We just have to physically stay fit, and mentally [sharp] more important than anything because at this point, we’re in as much shape as we’re going to get in for the season.”

-Ohio State guard C.J. Jackson via Nicholas Piotrowicz, The Toledo Blade

With the Big Ten having to shift their conference tournament to a week earlier than normal— so that they could play at Madison Square Garden— Ohio State will have about two weeks off in between the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. The break could be a gift or a curse for the Buckeyes.

The time off should help an Ohio State team that has struggled with depth all year long, and hopefully give the Buckeyes some fresh legs heading into the NCAA Tournament. The downside of having so much time off is that Ohio State will need to find ways to stay sharp and focused for the Big Dance.

Head coach Chris Holtmann does have a plan on how to handle the conference tournament being earlier than normal. When Holtmann was at Gardner-Webb, they had an early conference tournament, but that squad only went to the CIT and not the NCAA Tournament. Holtmann also picked former Butler head coach Brad Stevens’ brain about how to handle the break, as Stevens coached Butler when they were in the Horizon League, which had a considerable amount of time in between their conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament.

If Ohio State is able to handle the long break with a deep NCAA Tournament run, it would be the capper on an incredible first season for Holtmann with the Buckeyes. After being projected to finish in the bottom third of the Big Ten, Ohio State defied expectations to head into the Big Ten Tournament as the second seed. Now the Buckeyes will face their biggest challenge, as the pressure will be ramped up to a level that they didn’t see in the regular season.

“The deeper teams this time of the year, they are a little more difficult to prepare for. Hopefully we’ll have some guys step up.”

-Ohio State men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann via Adam Jardy, The Columbus Dispatch

There’s no denying that Ohio State didn’t look like the same team in their final four games of the year when they lost to Penn State and Michigan, and needed double overtime to defeat Indiana in the regular season finale. Depth was a concern coming into the season for the Buckeyes, with a number of players from the past few years transferring out of the program. A shorter bench could be the undoing of Ohio State in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament.

If the Buckeyes have designs on winning this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament, they’ll need to win three games in three days. At least Ohio State has a little experience playing a number of games in a short span, as in November they played three games in four days out in Portland at the PK80 Classic. A lot more will be on the line this weekend in New York City, with the Buckeyes battling to impress the selection committee to earn as high of a seed as possible for the NCAA Tournament in two weeks.

With the attention Keita Bates-Diop will draw, Ohio State is going to need a few players to step up if they want to make a deep run in either of their postseason tourneys. A lot has been asked of Bates-Diop this year, and it looks like the heavy load might be catching up to him. In his last five games, the redshirt junior is averaging just 14.2 points per game, after averaging 21.4 points per game in his first 13 conference games. At least Bates-Diop will have some time off after the Big Ten Tournament to recharge his batteries before heading into the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s kinda difficult cause as much as you want to have a great performance at the Big Ten’s it’s important. But the endgame is the NCAA tournament. So, we can’t dial back our training too much to peak for Big Ten’s because we still have twelve days until NCAA’s start.”

-Ohio State wrestling associate head coach J Jaggers via Skylar Rogers, The Lantern

This weekend, Ohio State will get a big test ahead of wrestling’s NCAA Tournament, which will take place in just under two weeks, as they head to East Lansing for the Big Ten Tournament. The conference championship tournament will feature 11 teams ranked inside the top 25. The Buckeyes finished the regular season as the second-ranked squad in the country, but they still have plenty of unfinished business.

While there are plenty of storylines heading into this weekend for the Buckeyes, the biggest one is whether or not Kyle Snyder will get to avenge his lone loss of the season. On Feb. 11th, Snyder lost his first match in three years to Michigan’s Adam Coon. It’s very likely that Snyder and Coon’s paths will cross to determine the Big Ten heavyweight champ.

Aside from Snyder, there are a number of other Buckeyes to keep an eye on. Joey McKenna comes into the Big Ten Tournament as the top seed in the 141-pound class, while Kollin Moore sits atop the 197-pound class. Ohio State has a trio of wrestlers ranked second heading into the tournament, with Luke Pletcher at 133 pounds, Bo Jordan at 174 pounds, and Myles Martin at 184 pounds.

Head coach Tom Ryan believes we haven’t seen the best from his team yet, and this weekend would be the perfect time for his wrestlers to show what they have to offer. Not only would bringing home a conference title be quite the accomplishment against this competition, but it would build plenty of momentum for a potential national title run.

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