It’s been covered extensively over the past 24 hours, but if you weren’t aware, No. 16 Ohio State (14,6 7-4) completely locked up Wednesday night against Rutgers, losing 66-64 in the closing seconds in Piscataway. They had an eight-point lead with under four minutes remaining, but did not score again. With a favorable schedule over the next two weeks or so, the Buckeyes had a real chance to force their way to the top of the Big Ten standings. But with Wednesday night’s loss, that chance has more or less dissolved.
Yes, there are nine games still to be played, but the leaders of the B1G (Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin) have just three conference losses apiece. When the smoke clears next month, the Big Ten Champion will likely have four losses, five max. That means — if our projection holds up — Ohio State needs to finish the season either 9-0 or 8-1 to get a share of the Big Ten title. That means fans may be waiting another year at least to see their Buckeyes cut down the regular season nets.
Last week, we looked at the freshmen class in the B1G this season and debated who would be the B1G Freshman of the Year. Connor went with Bryce McGowens, the explosive and lanky guard at Nebraska. Justin picked Malaki Branham, who looks like Ohio State’s next great guard. With 57% of the vote, Justin won. Connor picked up 26% of the vote, and the “other” option cleaned up the scraps (17%).
Your current standings:
After 38 weeks:
(There have been two ties)
With all this talk of conference titles, our Bucketheads got into a minor disagreement over something this week. Is a Big Ten championship more valuable than a deep tournament run? An Elite Eight, perhaps? Connor and Justin give us their thoughts on regular season greatness vs postseason greatness:
Today’s Question: Would you rather see a regular season B1G title, or an Elite Eight run in the NCAA Tournament?
Connor: Regular season B1G Title
Ohio State has won 20 regular season Big Ten titles in program history, which is third-most among all conference programs — behind only Purdue’s 24 and Indiana’s 22. A team’s ultimate goal each season is to win a national championship, and in college basketball that does not necessarily require a conference championship. But up until March, winning the Big Ten is all that Ohio State fans care about, and it’s what the team is focused on, too.
The Big Ten is a historically great conference for men’s basketball and is one of the toughest to win year in and year out. Whomever wins the Big Ten in any given season has truly earned it, likely going on the road to some pretty gnarly venues and leaving with hard-fought wins. It’s become even more difficult since the league went to a 20-game schedule.
As I said on the podcast yesterday, Ohio State fans are starving for a Big Ten title. During the peak of Thad Matta’s tenure, it was almost a given that the Buckeyes would be one of — if not the — favorite to win the conference each season. There was never a question if OSU would earn a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, more so it was if Ohio State would win the regular season title and the B1G tournament, or would they be forced to settle for just one of them?
Annual March 4 tweet:— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) March 4, 2020
William Buford cans it to down Michigan State and give @OhioStateHoops a share of the 2012 B1G crown. pic.twitter.com/X2F4RTmOTw
However, Matta’s final few seasons went less than smoothly. The Buckeyes didn’t win any conference titles, and they also flat-out missed the NCAA Tournament. The decades before Matta weren’t too spectacular either, winning three titles from 1971 to 2005. That’s one Big Ten title every decade, basically — just like where we’re at now.
Holtmann’s teams have been competitive, finishing in the top-five of the conference three out of four seasons. Last year the Buckeyes were one win away from taking the B1G tournament title, but fell to Illinois in overtime. But the regular season title has eluded him through his first five seasons, and as I stated earlier, this season isn’t looking like it will finish with the Buckeyes cutting down the nets, either.
The Big Ten is a premier conference, and kids come to Ohio State to win B1G titles. There’s something special about a banner hanging in the rafters. There’s something special about cutting down the nets and weaving a piece through your hat when you clinch. Fans remember who played for championship teams, they never forget the players who helped deliver a conference title. Regardless of how that team does in the NCAA Tournament the following week, conference titles are forever — a culmination of nearly four months of hard work.
Winning the Big Ten is everything — aside from a national championship, of course.
Justin: Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament
(I miss the Buckeyes celebrating like the above picture.)
Let me make this clear off rip: I personally would be cool with the Ohio State hoops team achieving either of these things. Success is always welcome. That being said, I like the NCAA Tournament more than the regular season, I always have and I always will. The tournament can erase anything you do in the regular season; hence last season for Ohio State. The Buckeyes had a truly phenomenal season all year long, but ran into a solid Oral Roberts team as they were limping into the tournament and boom, no one remembers them as a two seed. They are the team that lost to Oral Roberts.
In their history, Ohio State has won 20 conference titles and has made 14 Elite Eights. So one of those is more rare than the other — and I like rarity. Another interesting stat is that of the 14 Elite Eights that the Buckeyes have made, they have moved onto the Final Four 10 times. It is a good omen that when the Buckeyes make the Elite Eight, history says that they have a great chance to be one of the top four teams in the dance.
The 2010-11 Ohio State team really solidified this side of the argument for me. One of the best teams in the history of the program, 34-3, No. 1 overall seed… and no one cares. They lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 and it truly was a devastating blow to a team that started Aaron Craft, David Lighty, William Buford, Jared Sullinger and Jon Diebler; that is a hell of a starting five.
However, the next season, they went to the Final Four and nothing they could have done in the regular season would have softened the blow from the year, but you know what did? Advancing past the point where UK had beaten them the year before.
It will be the same thing this year, nothing they do in the regular season will fix the scars of the Oral Roberts game. But the NCAA tournament? That can be a healer. Just ask Virginia and Tony Bennett.
What would you rather have, assuming you cannot have the other that same season?
This poll is closed
Big Ten Title (Connor)
Elite Eight (Justin)