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Initial thoughts on Ohio State men’s basketball Big Ten schedule

The Buckeyes will have to earn it, but there’s reason to believe a bounce-back could be in the cards for Ohio State this year.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 10 Big Ten Tournament - Ohio v Michigan State Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After a brutal, no good, very bad season last year that saw Ohio State finish 16-19 overall and end up 13th in the Big Ten, Chris Holtmann’s squad needs to bounce back this year.

They need to bounce back to prevent the program from taking a downward turn — one bad year happens every now and then, but two in a row, that’s problematic. They need to bounce back to keep the talent pipeline flowing into Columbus, which includes future recruits as well as the talent already committed to OSU and the talent currently on the roster.

And, let’s face it. They need to bounce back to save Chris Holtmann’s job. The now seventh-year head coach of the Buckeyes has never made the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, but he’d been pretty darn good in the regular season... until this past year. Coming off a less than sterling regular season last year, the popular opinion is that Holtmann needs to coach Ohio State back into the NCAA Tournament this season if he’s long for the job.

Not to make excuses for the head coach or the program, but the Buckeyes got hosed last season with their Big Ten schedule. The chips couldn’t fall much worse for Ohio State with how their 2022-23 schedule came together. They had to play on the road at each of the most difficult venues in the conference. Their home-only matchups were mostly bottom-feeder Big Ten teams, like themselves. And they only had three weekend Big Ten home games last year.

But those scheduling quirks were unlikely to all happen during the same year like they did last season. Collectively, they made it much harder to win games with a young team, although that’s no excuse for how poorly they did — Ohio State fell far short of program and fan expectations.

This year, their luck changed and those scheduling dominoes fell in their favor. More weekend home games, fewer tough road games, and a “softer” beginning and end of the schedule.

Here are just a few of my quick takeaways after looking over the Buckeyes’ 2023-24 Big Ten Schedule:

More home weekend games

Last season, Ohio State only had three weekend home games in their Big Ten Schedule, and they were Iowa, Michigan State, and Illinois. This might not seem important on the surface, but those weekend afternoon games — a Sunday noon tilt on CBS or a Saturday afternoon game on ESPN, for example — are what pull the most fans into the arena and provide the best home environment.

Plus, weekend home games just rule. There’s a type of energy in the building on a snowy, Sunday afternoon for a game against Iowa or Indiana that just isn’t matched if you make that game an 8pm tip on a Wednesday.

Last season, Holtmann reached out to the Big Ten conference and let them know he didn’t love how things shook out with Ohio State’s schedule. This season, the Buckeyes have five weekend home games on their schedule. Coincidence? I guess we’ll never know. But the goal is to win more games, and having more games in the best possible window each week to pack in more fans objectively will help the team.

This season, Ohio State will play Minnesota, Penn State, Maryland, Purdue, and Michigan on the weekend at home. Minnesota, Purdue, and Michigan are on Sundays, and will likely be noon tips. Senior day will be against Michigan on Sunday, March 3.

No trip to the Xfinity Center or Mackey

Holtmann’s overall record at Ohio State took a dip after last season, but still sits at a more than respectable 123-75. However, the Maryland’s Xfinity Center and Purdue’s Mackey Arena are two places the Buckeyes have not fared well at. Last season, Ohio State lost both games at those venues, losing by a combined 34 points.

Over the course of his first six seasons at Ohio State, Holtmann’s teams have a combined record of 2-8 against Purdue and Maryland on the road, with one win apiece at each venue.

Somehow, Ohio State managed to get Maryland and Purdue as home-only opponents this year, meaning they’ll have to come to Columbus but the Buckeyes will not reciprocate the visit. That’s ideal, since the Terps and Boilermakers are looking like they’ll be two of the best teams in the Big Ten.

Senior day is actually on the weekend

Ohio State’s senior day has historically fallen on either a Saturday or Sunday afternoon at the very end of the season against a marquee opponent. If playing Michigan or Michigan State at home wasn’t enough to draw in a big crowd by itself, making it a Noon tip-off on a March Sunday usually ensures that Ohio State’s senior day is close to a sellout.

Last season was anything but. The Buckeyes got an awful deal with their senior day — the final home game of the season was a Wednesday night, 7:00 p.m. tip against Maryland that didn’t couldn’t even fill two-thirds of the Schottenstein Center. There was another event happening the next morning in the arena, so there were no post-game senior speeches.

This year, Ohio State gets their biggest rival at home on Sunday, March 3. It’ll probably be a Noon or 1:00 p.m. tipoff, and the Schott will be buzzing.

A leap day game!

For the first time since 2012, Ohio State has a basketball game on Feb. 29. They’ll face the Nebraska Cornhuskers at home on February 29, 2024, probably at 7 or 8:00 at the Schott. On Feb. 29, 2012, No. 10 Ohio State beat Northwestern 75-73 after squandering a 13-point second-half lead at the old Welsh-Ryan Arena.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

We get a “leap year” once every four years, where February has 29 days. The Buckeyes didn’t have a game on the 29th each of the previous two leap years, 2016 and 2020. There’s only a chance to win on Feb. 29 once every few years — here’s hoping they can knock off the fighting Fred Hoibergs!