Three words — this is March.
Sadly, barring a historic and unprecedented run in the Big Ten Tournament next week, Ohio State will not be participating in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017. The Buckeyes (13-17, 5-14) are locked in to the 13-seed in next week’s conference tournament regardless of what happens this weekend in East Lansing. Their opponent — the 12-seed — is still to be determined.
Last week, Connor and Justin both picked one Big Ten player they wish they could add to this Ohio State team to make it better. Justin’s choice of Jalen Pickett earned 39% of the vote, Connor’s choice of Trayce Jackson-David got 33%, and “other” picked up the final 28% of the vote.
After 90 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
This week, we’re talking about the Big Ten Tournament. Since we don’t yet know who Ohio State’s first round opponent will be, this question is more about how the Buckeyes have been playing lately versus what we expected of them at the beginning of the season. No team seeded lower than 10 has ever made it to Saturday. Does that change this year?
Today’s question: How far will Ohio State go in the conference tournament?
Connor: Second round exit
I very much like how Ohio State is playing right now, having won their last two games against NCAA Tournament-bound teams in fairly dominant fashion. But that doesn’t overlook the fact that they did still lose 14 of 15 games right before that, and that the personnel hasn’t changed. According to KenPom this is still a defense that isn’t even top-100 in the country, and this is still the unluckiest team in all of college basketball.
With a confidence level of about a six on a scale of 1-10, I say the Buckeyes win their first game Wednesday night. However, I think that may be their final victory of the season.
After Wisconsin’s loss to Purdue on Thursday night, the Badgers slid down to the No. 12 seed, having lost the tiebreaker to Nebraska. Penn State sits one game up with nine total losses. That means unless Nebraska beats Iowa and Wisconsin beats Minnesota on Sunday, Ohio State will play either the Huskers or the Badgers (if both win and Penn State loses to Maryland, we’ll have a three-way tie at 9-11 and things will get tricky).
I feel confident in Ohio State’s ability to beat Nebraska. Despite the record, I think the Buckeyes are the better team even after the 63-60 loss they took to the Huskers back on Jan. 18. This is Fred Hoiberg’s best Nebraska team thus far, but it’s still a team that struggles on offense, having scored just under 68 points per game this season.
They’re also still without one of their top scorers and rebounders in junior forward Juwan Gary. Simply put: this is an Ohio State team that was picked to finish fifth in the conference five months ago. They need to be able to beat Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament.
Wisconsin is a tougher case, as they have more than a few scoring options and beat the Buckeyes pretty easily back on Feb. 2 in Columbus. Chuckie Hepburn, Max Klesmit, Tyler Wahl, Steven Crowl, and Connor Essegian can all go off for double digits on any given night.
Meanwhile the Badgers also boast a top-25 defense that forced Ohio State into 16 turnovers during their last meeting and held them to 27 first-half points. Wisconsin has NCAA Tournament experience on that roster, and to me seem like a tougher test than Nebraska.
If and when Ohio State gets past Wisconsin or Nebraska, the road gets a bit tougher. There are currently six teams tied with an 11-8 record in the Big Ten in the two through seven spots, and Northwestern is currently No. 5. The Wildcats’ ability to knock down perimeter shots crushed Ohio State once this season.
I do not have faith that the Buckeyes’ suspect defense would clean it up to the level needed to win the second time around.
The other six teams tied at 11-8 — Indiana, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, and Iowa — have all beaten Ohio State at least once this season, too.
The Buckeyes have played much better basketball lately — there was a time when I’d pick literally anybody over them because this team simply did not know how to win. The fact that I’m willing to give them one win next week says something about how much better they’ve looked lately, but the results of this season on the whole make me think one win is all they’ll get.
Call it recency bias, call it optimism, call it stupidity. Whatever you want to call it, I am officially buying in.
One caveat here: we will really get a good glimpse into if the Buckeyes are getting hot at the right time on Saturday at Michigan State. Illinois and Maryland are good teams and they are solid wins to build on, but both were at home and Illinois and Maryland are not great teams on the road to put it lightly.
Michigan State has been playing well, and winning in East Lansing is one of the toughest things to do as the Spartans play pretty much for an NCAA Tournament berth.
However, the path to the weekend for the Buckeyes is not insane right now. The Buckeyes are locked into the 13 seed and will be playing in the first game of the conference tournament season on Wednesday.
Even though the Buckeyes are locked into the 13 seed, they are pretty much the only team in the Big Ten that is locked into their seeding outside of Minnesota at 14. So obviously the path to the weekend can change drastically for the Buckeyes bit we are going off the standings as of Thursday night.
More than likely, the Buckeyes will take on Nebraska in the 12-13 matchup. They would need Wisconsin to lose out and finish with a road game against Minnesota which the Badgers should win. Ohio State lost by three 63-60 at Nebraska the only time they played this season and pretty much everyone played poorly. And they still only lost by three on the road. I think they are a better team than Nebraska and will beat them on a neutral floor.
With a win on Wednesday, the Buckeyes would take on Northwestern, who they have already beat by 16 and should have beat them the second time around if Brooks Barnhizer did not have a huge break out game randomly. Plus, the Wildcats rely heavily on their guards and Ice Likekele and Bruce Thornton have been solid on defense recently.
If they win that, they would play Maryland on Friday as the four seed. They just beat Maryland pretty handedly and if it was not for a five-minute stretch in the first game, likely would have beat Maryland at Maryland. I like them to win this one as well.
Then on Saturday would be a date with Purdue and I think that is a loss to end the season.
How many games will Ohio State (13-seed) win in next week’s Big Ten Tournament?
This poll is closed
Zero (one and done)
One (Connor’s choice)
Three (Justin’s choice)
They’re gonna win the whole damn thing