While the sting and anguish of yet another blowout loss on the football field to the Michigan Wolverines is still agonizingly fresh for everyone, the No. 25 Ohio State men’s basketball team faces their biggest test of the season thus far when they travel to Durham on Wednesday to take on the No. 17 Duke Blue Devils.
Like a stern but loving mother telling her son to “keep his chin up” after the first real heartbreak of his life, I’m here to tell you that while this loss to Michigan will sting for however many years, history tells us that the men’s basketball Buckeyes could have an upset brewing thanks in part to that loss.
On Nov. 26, 2011, Luke Fickell’s 6-5 Ohio State Buckeyes marched up to Ann Arbor for the season finale and lost a back-and-forth battle with Brady Hoke’s Wolverines, 40-34. Denard Robinson had 337 total yards and scored five touchdowns, while Braxton Miller had 335 total yards of offense and three scores. Following that season, Urban Meyer was named the next head coach at Ohio State.
Three days later on Nov. 29, 2011, the No. 3 Duke Blue Devils traveled to Columbus to face No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge in front of a sold-out crowd at the Schottenstein Center. Thad Matta’s Buckeyes ran Mike Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils off the floor, 85-63. Aaron Craft, William Buford, Deshaun Thomas, and Jared Sullinger all chipped in 17 or more points in the rout.
Fast forward one decade.
On Nov. 27, 2021, Ohio State once again marched up to Ann Arbor to face the Michigan Wolverines. In a dominant 42-27 victory, Michigan snapped Ohio State’s winning streak in the rivalry at eight years, and — unbeknownst to OSU fans at the time — began their own winning streak. Hasan Haskins tallied 169 yards on the ground and five touchdowns as the Buckeye defense could not match Michigan’s physicality.
Three days later on Nov. 30, 2021, the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils traveled to Columbus once again to battle the unranked Buckeyes in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. Despite being huge underdogs and trailing by 13 at halftime, Zed Key and E.J. Liddell powered Ohio State to victory with 34 combined points. The Buckeyes sent Coach K out with a loss in his final Big Ten-ACC Challenge appearance.
Fast forward one year.
On Nov. 26, 2022 — you know the rest. Michigan beats Ohio State... again.
And this Wednesday, Ohio State travels to Durham to battle a ranked but very inexperienced Blue Devils team on the heels of an absolute shellacking at the hands of the now- No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers. Since 2011, Ohio State men’s basketball is 2-0 in their games immediately following football losses to Michigan. By happenstance, both of those wins were over the Duke Blue Devils.
Is this an oddity that will be broken this week, or will it go down as one of the oddest trends in Ohio State history after they knock off Duke Wednesday night at Cameron Indoor? For the sake of everyone’s mental health right now, let’s hope it is the latter.
Here’s why it can happen
We’ll have a more in-depth preview on Wednesday morning, but here’s the meat and potatoes of why Ohio State can beat Duke.
- Jon Scheyer is still figuring things out. It’s his first time as a head coach, and he’s in charge of arguably the most iconic brand in all of college basketball, with more resources at his disposal than anyone else in the nation. Ohio State might be getting them at the right time.
- This is one of the worst shooting teams in Duke history. The Blue Devils counter poor shooting with size that could give Ohio State trouble, but as a team they’re still shooting just 29.1% from beyond the arc. This is their worst mark since at least 1985, according to ESPN and Sports Reference. In their two losses this season, Duke is a combined 5-of-40 from three-point range (12.5%).
- They’re even younger than Ohio State. Aside from their coach being much younger than Ohio State’s coach, the players themselves are figuring out college basketball, too. Duke is starting four freshmen and one senior this season, and that senior — Jeremy Roach — left Duke’s loss to Purdue on Sunday with a foot injury. His status for Wednesday is unknown. 6-foot-11 freshman forward Kyle Filipowski is averaging 15.4 PPG and 9 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils, but Duke’s other three freshmen starters (Tyrese Proctor, Derek Lively Jr., and Mark Mitchell) are averaging 19.1 points per game — combined.
Certainly, history won’t repeat itself on Wednesday night... right? Ohio State will be the underdog in betting terms, but neither Duke nor Ohio State fans forget what happened last season — and many still remember 2011. Plus, Duke is coming off of an ugly loss that exposed a few areas of concern.
After facing each other in back-to-back seasons and the Big Ten-ACC Challenge soon going the way of the dinosaurs, it’s highly unlikely Ohio State and Duke will play on each other’s home courts again for a very, very long time. Another win over the Blue Devils could give the Buckeyes and their fans bragging rights for decades, until these two teams face off again some day down the road.
And if the history tells us anything, it’s looking pretty darn possible.