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Ohio State men’s basketball vs. North Carolina: Game preview and prediction

The Buckeyes travel to New York City to take on North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic today.

NCAA Basketball: Georgia Tech at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After hosting Rutgers last Thursday, Ohio State will hit the road for the last time in 2022, traveling to New York City to take on North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic. This marks the eighth time the Buckeyes have played in the annual event, and the third time they have matched up with the Tar Heels in the classic.

Following a loss to Duke in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Ohio State has won its last two games. The last time the Buckeyes were on the court, they opened up their Big Ten schedule with a thrilling 67-66 win over Rutgers. The game with the Scarlet Knights was a back-and-forth affair, with the contest being a one-possession game for the final 13 minutes.

In his first year at Ohio State after transferring from Wright State, Tanner Holden hit one of the most dramatic shots in school history, hitting a three-pointer as time expired to give the Buckeyes the win. The triple was the only basket of the game for Holden. The buzzer-beater was the first “walk-off winner” for Ohio State since Evan Turner’s three-pointer in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament against Michigan.

While Holden was massive at the end of the game, Zed Key was tremendous throughout the contest for the Buckeyes. The big man recorded a career-high with 22 points and tied a career-high with 14 rebounds. The double-double was the sixth of Key’s career, with four of them coming this season. Through nine games, Key is averaging 14.3 points per game, and 8.7 rebounds per game, with both averages leading the Buckeyes.

Ohio State was missing a couple of players against the Scarlet Knights, as Issac Likekele missed the game because he returned home to deal with a family emergency. Eugene Brown III hasn’t been able to play yet this season for the Buckeyes because of a concussion. With Likekele out of the lineup, Brice Sensabaugh started his first game of the season. The talented freshman scored 13 points against Rutgers and is second on the team with 14.1 points per game. Sensabaugh has hit half of the 36 three-pointers he has attempted this season.


Today Ohio State will make its first trip to Madison Square Garden since the 2018 Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes have played at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” 36 times, posting a 23-13 record. Two of those games have come against North Carolina, with the Tar Heels winning the 1946 National Semifinal game, as well as the 2009 2K Sports Classic. North Carolina is 12-3 all-time against Ohio State.

In the most recent meeting between the schools, Ohio State dominated the Tar Heels 74-49 in Chapel Hill in the 2019 ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Today’s game is the third time the schools have met in the CBS Sports Classic. North Carolina beat the Buckeyes in Chicago in the inaugural event back in 2014 and also won when the teams met again in 2017 in New Orleans.

Ohio State has won the last three games they have played in the CBS Sports Classic, and is 4-3 all-time, giving them the second-best record amongst the four teams that annually participate in the classic. The only team with a better CBS Sports Classic record than the Buckeyes is the Tar Heels. The last time Ohio State played in the event was in 2020 when they beat UCLA in Cleveland. Last year’s game against Kentucky was canceled because of COVID-19 issues. Kentucky went on to play the Tar Heels in Las Vegas, blowing out North Carolina 98-69.

Even though last year’s loss to Kentucky was disheartening for the Tar Heels and Hubert Davis, they didn’t let it define their season. Last season was Davis’ first season as head coach of his alma mater, replacing legendary coach Roy Williams. Davis and his team got better as the year went on, finding their groove in the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels not only ended the coaching career of Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski in the Final Four, North Carolina nearly won a national title, falling to Kansas 72-69 in the championship game.

North Carolina had a rough stretch of games that started out in Portland in the Phil Knight Invitational. After losing their first game of the season to Iowa State in the semifinals, the Tar Heels were outlasted by Alabama 103-101 in four overtimes in the consolation game. Just a few days later, North Carolina was downed 77-65 by Indiana in Bloomington in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and in their first game in December they lost their ACC opener at Virginia Tech.

The Tar Heels have put an end to the four-game losing streak, winning their last two games. The most recent victory come on Tuesday night when they hammered The Citadel 100-67. North Carolina hit a season-high 15 three-pointers and recorded 24 assists on 32 field goals. Caleb Love led the team with 17 points in the game, while Northwestern transfer Pete Nance had 16 points.

There will be an entertaining battle down low today between Zed Key and Armando Bacot. The North Carolina center recorded his 55th career double-double on Tuesday, scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Bacot now has 62 where he has pulled down at least 10 rebounds in a game. For the season, Bacot is averaging 16.4 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game.

Bacot is second on the team in scoring, with Caleb Love averaging a team-high 18.0 points per game. It will be rare to see Love off the court during today’s game since he has played at least 30 minutes in all but one game this year. Love had one of the most ridiculous lines in the four-overtime loss to Alabama, with the guard playing 58 minutes in the game.

North Carolina has two other players averaging double figures in scoring this year. R.J. Davis is averaging 15.2 points per game, and Pete Nance is putting up 13.0 points per game. Rounding out the starting lineup is guard Leaky Black, who is averaging 31.5 minutes per game. The Tar Heels aren’t a very deep team, as they only have three other players who are averaging more than 10 minutes per game this season.


After a stretch that saw them travel to Maui and then down to Durham for a showdown with Duke, Ohio State has been able to catch their breath a bit since they haven’t played a game in over a week. The Buckeyes do have to deal with not having a couple of key players in the lineup today, since Issac Likekele will miss his second straight game, and Eugene Brown III is still recovering from a concussion.

North Carolina has won the majority of matchups with Ohio State over the years, but the last time the teams met, the Buckeyes easily beat the Tar Heels on their own court. North Carolina is the one team in the CBS Sports Classic field that the Buckeyes have yet to defeat in the annual event. If there was ever a year to beat North Carolina in the event, this would be the year.

Even though the Tar Heels have some star power in Caleb Love and Armando Bacot, Ohio State feels like a more complete team right now. The Buckeyes have Zed Key to match up with Bacot, Justice Sueing to do a little bit of everything, fabulous freshmen Brice Sensabaugh and Bruce Thornton, as well as impactful transfers Sean McNeil and Tanner Holden.

This has all the makings of being a very entertaining game, as well as a matchup that we could see in the NCAA Tournament. Right now it feels like North Carolina is still trying to find their identity because of their limited bench, while Ohio State feels like a team that knows who they are. With veterans like Sueing and Key, the Buckeyes are able to put things together just a little better and squeeze out a win at Madison Square Garden.

ESPN BPI: Ohio State 59.2%
Time: 3 p.m. ET

LGHL score prediction: Ohio State 74, North Carolina 70