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Ohio State Men’s Basketball vs. Rutgers: Game Preview and Prediction

The Buckeyes will look to get above .500 in conference play as the Scarlet Knights come to Columbus

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Seton Hall Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

With the calendar flipping to 2024, that means the Ohio State men’s basketball team has 18 conference games remaining on the regular season schedule. The Buckeyes (11-2, 1-1) will start the new year with a home game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (8-4, 0-1).

Rutgers has been slipping as of late, losing by double-digits to Mississippi State and beating a 2-13 team Stonehill 59-58, thanks to a Derek Simpson go-ahead jumper with 12 seconds left.

Ohio State has had an interesting start to the season, only losing to a solid Texas A&M team early in the season, but let an 18-point lead to Penn State slip on the road to fall to 1-1 in the conference after taking down Minnesota at home, 84-74.

The Buckeyes have only beaten Alabama, Santa Clara, UCLA, and West Virginia, and all of those teams have struggled early on this season. Ohio State seems like a tournament team, but they will need to get some quality wins in conference play to help their seeding.

That starts tonight.


Preview

NCAA Basketball: Stonehill at Rutgers Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Buckeyes are led by their sophomore backcourt duo, Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle. Gayle is coming off a sensational game in the Buckeyes’ overtime win against West Virginia, recording a career-high 32 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists.

Thornton is averaging 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, as well 1.5 steals per contest. Gayle is averaging 15.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

Senior forward sharpshooter Jamison Battle makes up the three-headed scoring trio for Ohio State, adding 14.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. Battle is shooting 42 percent from three-point range. The Buckeyes’ centers get involved as well, with sophomore Felix Okpara averaging 6.3 points and 6.4 boards while senior Zed Key averages 9.7 and 5.9.

Rutgers is led by Aundre Hyatt, who is one of two Rutgers players scoring in double-digits, averaging 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, while center Cliff Omoruyi is averaging 11.4 points and 9.1 rebounds in addition to his 3.4 blocks per game.

Rutgers’ struggles are on offense, ranking No. 240 on KenPom on offense while sitting at No. 16 on defense. They are shooting just 39 percent from the field, 29 percent from the three-point line, and 64 percent from the free-throw line.

The Scarlet Knights are averaging 67.5 points per game and allowing 61.4 points per game. By contrast, the Buckeyes are averaging 79.3 points per game and giving up 64.5 points per game.


Prediction

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Clare Grant/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

This is a sneakily very important game for the Buckeyes. They are 11-2, but they have not beaten anyone of true substance except Alabama and possibly Santa Clara, depending on how their conference season goes. West Virginia will get better as the season goes along, but their year was doomed before it began.

Rutgers has not been good this season as it awaits the arrivals of Dylan Harper and Ace Bailey next season — two top-five recruits who are both committed in the 2024 class. They beat Stonehill — a team with two wins this season— by one point, and the Skyhawks were also missing two starters.

The Buckeyes have not looked overly impressive after the Penn State debacle, but the important part is that they are 3-0 since. It didn’t have to be pretty, but they had to beat UCLA and West Virginia. They did that, and now they need to beat Rutgers to move to 2-1 in Big Ten play.

Another reason this is an important game is the upcoming schedule for Ohio State. After Wednesday night’s contest, the Buckeyes are at Indiana, home against Wisconsin, and at Michigan. Those are likely three toss up games, so a win heading into that stretch would be key.

Rutgers is an elite defensive team, but the Buckeyes have the advantage of featuring multiple weapons on offense. This will be a tough watch offensively, but ultimately, I think the Buckeyes will be able to score enough to separate from the opposition, and the Scarlet Knights’ lack of offensive pop will be the difference maker.


ESPN BPI: Ohio State 80.9%
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: Big Ten Network

LGHL Score Prediction: Ohio State 74, Rutgers 65