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Six-seed Ohio State to play the winner of Penn State-Minnesota in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament

The Buckeyes backed into a six-seed after stumbling down the stretch. Could an early round game help re-focus this team?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 06 Michigan at Ohio State Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After losing three of their final four games of the season, Ohio State (19-10, 12-8) fell to the six-seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. This means that instead of having a bye to the quarterfinals, the Buckeyes will in fact be playing Thursday evening against the winner of the 11 vs 14 game in order to advance to the quarterfinals.

The 11 vs 14 game will feature last-place Minnesota vs 11th-place Northwestern. Both teams fell into their positions by losing tiebreaks. The Gophers (13-16, 4-16) tied with Nebraska, but due to a loss to the Cornhuskers during the regular season, lost the tiebreaker, ceding the 13-seed to them. Penn State (12-16, 7-13) finished in a three-way tie for tenth place with Maryland and Northwestern, but due to tiebreaker rules slots in between those two teams in the 11 spot.

Penn State and Minnesota will play Wednesday night at roughly 8:30 p.m. ET on BTN. Ohio State will play the winner of that bout Thursday night at roughly 9:00 p.m. ET.

The Buckeyes played Minnesota twice this season, winning 75-64 in Minneapolis on January 27 and then blowing out the Gophers 70-45 on February 15. First-year coach Ben Johnson has done an admirable job with a team made up of mostly transfers, but Minnesota is prone to long stretches of stagnant offense — even more so than Ohio State.

Ohio State also faced Penn State twice this season, beating the Nittany Lions 76-64 back on December 5, 2021 in State College and then winning again 61-56 in Columbus on January 16. Both games against the ‘Nits were tight and physical, as has become the expectation with most Penn State teams. They are what their record is, but the Nittany Lions have kept it close with most teams this season and are by no means a pushover.

If the Buckeyes win their opening-round game vs Minnesota or Penn State, they will advance to the quarterfinals and face the No. 3 seed, Purdue (25-6, 14-6). During their only meeting this season on Jan. 30, the Boilermakers beat the Buckeyes 81-78 in a shootout at Mackey Arena. After trailing by 20 in the second half, the Buckeyes stormed back to tie the game, only to lose on a last-second Jaden Ivey buzzer beater. The Boilermakers have the strongest offense in the nation, but are one of the shakiest defensive teams in the country of those expected to make the NCAA Tournament.

If Ohio State advances, their quarterfinal game vs Purdue would tip off around 9:00 p.m. ET on BTN Friday night.