This week, we took one huge step towards college basketball tipping off, as the Big Ten schedule was officially released. Much like Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame ceremony, it was released in the middle of the day Wednesday, so very few people even realized it happened. The only difference here, is that one of these things is designed to fly under the radar — and the other is the Hall of Fame ceremony for one of the three major sports. Ah, MLB... you continue to amaze us.
Anyway, I digress.
With the schedule out, we’re going to devote this week’s “Nuts!” debate to the schedule, and talk about two games on the 2021-22 slate that caught our eyes in particular. But to get you up to speed, here is what we discussed last week:
Last Friday, Connor and Justin debated who was the best coach in the Big Ten, sans Chris Holtmann (sorry, Chris). Connor went with future Hall of Famer Tom Izzo, while Justin picked the possible Hall of Famer and consistently overlooked head coach of the Purdue Boilermakers, Matt Painter.
In what ended up being a much closer vote than we probably expected, Connor/Izzo won, pulling in 45% of the vote. Painter picked up 37% of the vote, while the ever-popular “other” option ate up the final 17% of the vote (if you voted for Turgeon, kindly seek help).
The victory was Connor’s tenth since we started this series in May, and he now leads the 10-5 overall.
After 18 weeks
(There has been one tie)
But back to present day. If you have not seen Ohio State’s schedule for this season, you can view it here. Which game jumps out at you as the biggest roadblock to a perfect season? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us @LandGrant33 or @BucketheadsLGHL.
Today’s Question: What’s Ohio State’s toughest game this season?
Connor: At Purdue - January 30
Playing at Mackey Arena has been a house of horrors over the past decade or so for Purdue’s Big Ten opponents, and especially for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Since the 2014-15 season, Ohio State is 1-4 at Mackey, with their only victory coming on Keita Bates-Diop’s last-second tip-in back in 2018. No. 14 Ohio State beat No. 3 Purdue 64-63 on their home court on Feb. 8, 2018, ending Purdue’s 19-game winning streak.
Since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, Purdue is 56-9 at Mackey Arena, which is the best home record in the Big Ten over that time. Mackey presents a unique challenge to visiting teams, as the crowd is basically right on top of you. The 14,240-seat arena is much wider than it is tall, which helps keep the noise levels down by the court at ungodly levels. It’s really just a big ole pain in the ass to play at, if you’re a visitor.
During our interview with Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann a few weeks ago on the Bucketheads Podcast, he named Mackey as one of the arenas he thinks are the toughest to play at:
“Purdue has always been one that I think... their fanbase is so incredibly passionate and they come out regardless of what kind of team they’re playing. And the arena is small enough and built the way it’s built, it’s really vertical like Maryland’s in a way. But it’s really tight in there so they’re really right on top of you. So it creates a great environment.”
Ohio State struggled at Mackey last season, losing 67-60 in their Big Ten-opener on Dec. 16. Even with no fans in the building, the spirit of Mackey still lingered, and Ohio State struggled, shooting 37.9% from the field and 6-of-24 from beyond the arc. They also turned the ball over 13 times.
Beyond the historical home-court advantage and logistical headache Mackey provides, another reason this game will be tough is because this year’s Purdue team is going to be really freaking good. Not only will they compete for the Big Ten title, they’ll also be in the national championship conversation come March.
The Boilermakers return their top eight scorers from last season, including Trevion Williams (15.5 ppg), Jaden Ivey (11.1 ppg), Sasha Stefanovic (40% three-point shooting), and Brandon Newman (8 ppg). They also return human skyscraper Zach Edey (7-foot-4), who paired with Williams creates quite a low-post combo.
Ohio State struggled mightily against Ivey and Williams last year in particular. The former hit the game-winning three-pointer in Columbus on Jan. 19, and then had 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting against the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Tournament. The latter scored 16, 16, and 26 in his three meetings with the Buckeyes last year, (19.3 ppg) and his combination of size and passing will likely cause problems again this season.
On top of all that, Ohio State will travel to West Lafayette for this game three days after playing on the road at Minnesota. The Gophers shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge, but the back-and-forth travel won’t help, and the Buckeyes will only have two days to prepare for Purdue after their Minnesota game. That’s not a ton of time to prepare for the team who very well may wind up winning the Big Ten!
Justin: At Michigan - February 12
To start this off, we have to be really honest. The Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team does not have an easy go of it in the 2021-22 season. They play a pretty tough non-conference schedule with Duke, Xavier, Seton Hall, Kentucky, and then likely Florida. Then they get to take on the gauntlet that is the Big Ten basketball schedule.
The finishing stretch to the season will definitely tell the Buckeye hoopers if they are ready for March or not. Thier last four games of the season are on the road against Illinois and Maryland and then home games against Michigan State and Michigan. These will be huge games as they will likely be right in the hunt for a Big Ten regular season title and trying to get a top three or four seed in the NCAA tournament.
My pick for the toughest game is simple. It is at Michigan on Feb. 12. First of all, the Chrisler Center in Ann Arbor is no joke. They have done an awesome job over the past few years of making the arena much more difficult for opponents. It is not an easy place to play regardless of how good the Wolverines actually are.
Which brings me to my next point, Michigan is going to be really good this season. Lindy Sports and Athlon Sports both predicted them to win the Big Ten this season and finish top five in the country.
Returning center Hunter Dickinson is one of the best big men in the country and the Wolverines are bringing in one of the best recruits in the country in five-star forward Caleb Houstan. They are also bringing in transfer from Coastal Carolina, guard DeVante’ Jones, who averaged 20 points per game and seven rebounds per game last season with Coastal.
Plus the Wolverines are extremely well coached with NBA veteran Juwan Howard. This one is pretty simple. It is Ohio State on the road against the best team in the conference late in the season. It is the toughest game on the schedule.
What’s the toughest game on Ohio State’s schedule?
This poll is closed
At Purdue (Connor)
At Michigan (Justin)