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Ohio State men’s basketball non-conference schedule to have a heavy SEC flare this season

Buckeyes are set to take on three SEC opponents in the non-conference portion of their schedule.

NCAA Basketball: Alabama A&M at Ohio State Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

The schedule is far from set five months before the season begins, but the big dogs Ohio State will play in the non-conference portion of their schedule this season have already been identified. Of the potential five Power 5 conference teams the Buckeyes could see this season in the non-conference, three are from the SEC, giving this year’s non-con schedule an unusually strong scent of southern hospitality.

In addition to the three SEC squads — which we will discuss momentarily — the Buckeyes will also face off with West Virginia in a neutral site game in Cleveland, and either the Oregon Ducks out of the PAC-12 or the Santa Clara Broncos out of the West Coast Conference.

That leaves five open games for “bye” games, although we’ve seen in recent years that at times bye games can be anything but. The Buckeyes have had close calls with Akron and Niagara at home in recent years in games that were supposed to be tune-ups for Big Ten play. This season, the Buckeyes will welcome Oakland (Nov. 6), Merrimack (Nov. 15), and Western Michigan (Nov. 19) at home, with at least two more games yet to be announced.

Ohio State has played just two SEC teams since Chris Holtmann became Ohio State’s head coach in 2017. The Buckeyes beat Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic in 2019, and were beaten by Florida in 2021 while participating in the Fort Myers Tip-Off tournament.

The Buckeyes have not played three SEC teams in one season since the 2010-2011 season, when they beat Florida and South Carolina in the non-conference portion of the schedule and lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16. That Ohio State team finished the season with a 34-3 record.

Noteworthy non-conference opponents

Texas A&M - Nov. 10

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament Semifinals - Texas A&M vs Vanderbilt Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Record last season: 25-10
Conference standing: 2nd in SEC
KenPom rank: 33

Ohio State will need to go through some grueling conditioning in the fall to prepare for A&M, which was one of the most physical teams in the nation last season. Similar to how they had San Diego State on the schedule right away last season, Texas A&M will set a high bar for the rest of the year in physicality.

The Aggies were a surprise team in the SEC last season, finishing just behind Alabama in the standings. While they do lose one of their big hitters in Dexter Dennis, A&M returns all-SEC honoree Wade Taylor, Tyrese Radford, and former Michigan State center Julius Marble. A&M was top-45 in both offense and defense last year in the nation, according to KenPom.

Alabama - Nov. 24

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament South Regional-San Diego State vs Alabama Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Record last season: 31-6
Conference standing: 1st in SEC
KenPom rank: 4

The Crimson Tide have quickly become one of the premier men’s basketball programs in the nation under Nate Oats, amassing a combined record of 92-42 in his four seasons, plus making two Sweet Sixteens. This particular Alabama team is intriguing because it stands to lose a ton of talent from last year’s SEC Champion team, including the potential No. 2 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, Brandon Miller.

Mark Sears and Jahvon Quinerly could return to provide a nasty 1-2 punch in the backcourt, but both are testing the NBA Draft waters currently and it is not clear if they will be back. Even if Alabama loses its five leading scorers from a season ago, Oats will still field a feisty and competitive team, which will now include former Hofstra star Aaron Estrada.

Kentucky - Dec. 16

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Providence vs Kentucky Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Record last season: 22-12
Conference standing: 3rd in SEC
KenPom rank: 27

Similar to Alabama, the looming threat of Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic hinges on who returns and who does not. Antonio Reeves and Oscar Tshiebwe could both come back and make Kentucky a sure-fire top-25 team once again. If both leave, plus Cason Wallace, John Calipari will rely heavily on his incoming freshman class, which boasts four five-star recruits, all of which are in the top-15 in the 2023 class.

Sometimes teams led by five-star freshmen go on to big things. But Calipari would certainly like to have the stability of returning his two leading scorers from a season ago to pair with one of the most talented recruiting classes in college basketball history. If both of Kentucky’s leading scorers from a season ago leave, this is a team Ohio State could beat in Atlanta.

West Virginia - Dec. 30

NCAA Basketball: Arizona at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Record last season: 19-15
Conference standing: 8th in Big 12
KenPom rank: 19

West Virginia lagged towards the bottom of the Big 12 last season, but got credit for playing in the toughest conference in America and earned an NCAA Tournament bid despite losing 14 games. The offseason has been a rollercoaster for WVU, and your guess is as good as mine if the new transfer additions (Kerr Krissa, RaeQuan Battle, Jesse Edwards) will mesh together or not. All three are likely to start come November.

Additionally, there’s the whole Bob Huggins thing. The Hall of Fame head coach will serve an unpaid, three-game suspension to start the season after using a gay slur during a radio appearance back on May 8. Huggins will be back from his suspension well before Ohio State takes on WVU on December 30, but there’s just a lot of unknowns — on and off the court — for West Virginia.

The winner of the Ohio State - Alabama game on Nov. 24 will face the winner of the Oregon-Santa Clara game on Nov. 25. The losers would face-off in a third-place game


Record last season: 21-15
Conference standing: 4th in PAC-12
KenPom rank: 42

Santa Clara

Record last season: 23-10
Conference standing: 3rd in WCC
KenPom rank: 85