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Game by game breakdown of Ohio State basketball’s non-conference schedule

The Buckeyes have a few marquee matchups on the horizon

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NOV 07 OSU at Cincinnati Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

On Tuesday, Ohio State hoops dropped its 2020-21 non-conference schedule. While a bunch of the teams on the list had already been known upcoming opponents, we now have the dates and times of the Buckeyes’ early season matchups.

While the college basketball season seems lightyears away, and we have no idea what the state of the world will be like by the time it comes around, it is still fun to look ahead. With that being said, let’s run through a quick breakdown of each team on the docket.

Oakland Golden Grizzlies - Nov. 11
(Last Year’s Record: 14-19, 8-10)

Ohio State will open up the 2020-21 season with a home game against the Golden Grizzlies — one of the cooler team names in college athletics. Oakland struggled a bit last year, finishing five games under .500 with just eight wins in the Horizon League. The team lost to Green Bay in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament,

The Grizzlies have lost a ton of firepower this offseason, with six different guys entering the transfer portal. They will however return their leading scorer from last season in guard Rashad Williams. The rising junior averaged 19.5 points per game while shooting over 32 percent from deep in 2019-20. This will be the fourth time Ohio State and Oakland have met, with the Buckeyes winning all of the previous three matchups.

Niagara Purple Eagles - Nov. 15
(Last Year’s Record: 12-20, 9-11)

In game two, Ohio State will host Niagara, a team that struggled a season ago in the MAAC. The Purple Eagles did not fare well out of the conference last year, finishing 3-9 against non-conference foes. They were also quite bad away from the Gallagher Center, with a 2-17 record in road contests. Niagara won its final game of the season, defeating Marist in the first round of the conference tournament before the season ended due to COVID-19.

The Purple Eagles head coach knows the Buckeyes quite well, as Greg Paulus served as an assistant coach at OSU from 2014-17. Niagara returns leading scorer Marcus Hammond, a rising junior guard. As a sophomore, Hammond averaged 14.3 points per game while shooting a hot 43 percent from downtown. This is the first ever meeting in the history of the two programs.

Akron Zips - Nov. 19
(Last Year’s Record: 24-7, 14-4)

A third-straight home game to begin the season, Ohio State has an in-state matchup with Akron in late November. The Zips were the best team in the MAC in the regular season, finishing with a 14-4 record and securing the top seed in the conference before the postseason tournament’s unfortunate cancellation. As a result, Akron was the only Mid-American Conference Champions for the 2019-20 season.

Loren Cristian Jackson, the Zips’ top player, is returning for his redshirt senior season. Last year, he averaged nearly 20 points per game, earning the MAC Player of the Year award as well as being named to the Lou Henson All-America team and earning Academic All-MAC honors. During the season, he became the 46th player in Akron history to eclipse the 1,000-point career scoring mark. The two schools last met in 2016, with Ohio State coming away with a 72-63 win in Columbus.

Battle 4 Atlantis - Nov. 25-27
(Matchups TBD)

Ohio State will take part in the Bahamas event for the first time in the 10-year history of the tournament. Being played on Paradise Island, the 12-game, three-day event will take place over Thanksgiving. The actual matchups themselves have not yet been set, but the other teams involved include Creighton, Duke, Memphis, Texas A&M, Utah, West Virginia and Wichita.

Big Ten/ACC Challenge - Dec. 1 or 2
(Matchup TBD)

In last year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Ohio State traveled to Chapel Hill to take on UNC, wherein they dominated the Tar Heels 74-49. As a result, this year’s matchup for the Buckeyes will likely be a home game, but the line ups for the 2020-21 edition of the challenge have not yet been announced.

Towson Tigers - Dec. 9
(Last Year’s Record: 19-13, 12-6)

The Tigers played well enough to finish third in the CAA last season, starting off slow but finishing the year on a 13-4 run. Making it to the conference’s quarterfinals, Towson fell 72-62 to Northeastern, not able to capitalize off the momentum gained in the latter half of the year and after beating that same Huskies team to end the regular season.

The team will be without last year’s leading scorer, Brian Fobbs, who averaged 16.3 points per game in his senior season and became just the sixth player in Towson history to score 1,000 career points. They will, however, still have rising sophomore guard Allen Betrand, who was second on the team in scoring with 13.6 points per game last year. Ohio State has played Towson twice all time, winning both contests.

North Carolina Tar Heels- Dec. 19

(Last Year’s Record: 14-19, 6-14)

It was a down year for the Tar Heels in 2019, a year in which they were ranked as high as No. 5 in the country early on in the season. After winning just six games in conference play, UNC was able to advance past Virginia Tech in the ACC Tournament before getting dominated by Syracuse 83-51 in the second round. As previously mentioned, they lost by 25 points at home to Ohio State during the regular season.

In addition to a top-three recruiting class with a trio of five-star talents, UNC is returning most of its core players, with the exception of Cole Anthony — who is likely off to the NBA Draft. Still, productive guys like Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot and Leaky Black will all be coming back for another season with the Tar Heels. It should be a great matchup in a neutral site, as Roy Williams and UNC are no doubt looking for revenge after last year’s embarrassment.

Morehead State Eagles - Dec. 22
(Last Year’s Record: 13-19, 7-11)

Back outside the Power 5, Ohio State will host the Eagles just before Christmas break. Morehead State did not have a stellar year within the Ohio Valley, finishing conference play with just a 7-11 record before getting bounced in the first round of the conference tournament by Tennessee State. It was a real tough stretch to end the year for the Eagles, finishing the regular season losing six of their last seven contests.

While the team’s two leading scorers from a season ago in Djimon Henson and Jordan Walker have both graduated, Morehead State does have a bunch of young talent, including rising sophomore forward Tyzhaun Claude. The 6-foot-8 big man was third on the team in scoring his freshman year with 9.5 points per game, while leading the team in rebounding with 6.4 boards per game. The Buckeyes have played the Eagles five total times, winning all five contests.

Alabama A&M Bulldogs - Dec. 30
(Last Year’s Record: 8-22, 5-13)

Ohio State closes out its non-conference schedule with a matchup against Alabama A&M. The Bulldogs had a dismal year in 2019-20, winning just eight total games over the course of the year with only five victories inside the SWAC. They were easily dispelled in the first round of the conference tournament, losing by over 20 points to Prairie View A&M. The team lost six of its last eight games to close the regular season.

A team with a bunch of young guys, Alabama A&M will return both of its top two scorers from last year in rising sophomores Cameron Alford and Garrett Hicks. Alford, a guard, averaged 12.2 points per game to go along with a team-high 5.5 rebounds per game, while Hicks, also a guard, averaged 11 points per game and shot 32 percent from downtown. The Buckeyes and Bulldogs have never met in the history of the two programs.