For the second straight season, the Ohio State men’s basketball team appears to be finished playing for anything meaningful — and the team hasn't even plated a game in February yet. The Buckeyes still have at least 11 games left on the schedule, but with a Big Ten record of 3-7 thus far, all signs point to continued frustration and losses over these final six weeks.
More on that mess shortly.
Last week, Connor and Justin debated whether Bowen Hardman, Ohio State’s rarely-used sophomore shooting guard — the “other” guy in that 2022 recruiting class — should get some more run down the stretch. His peers credit him with being the best shooter on the team, and he put up a quick 11 points in eight minutes of mop-up duty against Nebraska last week.
65% of the readers sided with Connor — not a full-throated agreement but a “sure, why the hell not at this point?” The remaining 35% sided with Justin, saying they’d prefer to see former four-star recruit Taison Chatman get more opportunities.
After 137 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
With at least 11 games left, mathematically Ohio State controls its own destiny if it wants to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Obviously, 11 wins would get you in! Realistically, seven might do the trick. Anything less than that... tough luck.
Have there been teams sitting in this same position win enough games down the stretch to make the NCAA Tournament? Yes, multiple Big Ten teams have done it. But the way this team is playing at the moment, do we think this particular group of players and coaches has what it takes to finish the season on a high note?
Today’s Question: Is there any reason to think Ohio State could still make the tournament?
The future of the Ohio State men’s basketball program is pretty murky at the moment. I’m not sure which members of this program — which includes players, coaches, and other staff members — will still be here when the dust settles in April. In order to avoid that worst-case scenario, the Buckeyes would need to win at least seven more games down the stretch.
Based on what my eyes have seen the last few weeks, I don’t think they’re going to come close to getting that.
The toughest thing to swallow in this whole mess is that the pieces of the puzzle should fit. Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle, and Felix Okpara playing through horrendous struggles last year was supposed to pay huge dividends this year. Allowing those freshmen to really grind it out and cut their teeth playing against bigger, older, stronger players last year was supposed to sharpen their game, especially on the defensive end.
A full off-season simmering in the reflection of the worst Ohio State basketball season in the last 25 years was hopefully going to help these guys right the ship. None of that has happened.
This team’s biggest problem is the fact that it once again can’t defend. Last year’s team struggled because it couldn’t get enough consecutive stops to either build a lead or cut into a deficit. I thought that this year’s team had enough defense on the roster to get better in that area. Bruce, Roddy and Felix all would be a year older, plus the additions of Evan Mahaffey and Scotty Middleton.
After about six weeks, it looked like that was the case. For the first time in four years, Ohio State was in the top-50 in the country in defensive efficiency, and looked like a much more well-rounded team. But since then, teams have been lighting it up from beyond the arc against the Buckeyes, and just generally running up the score. Ohio State has fallen all the way down to No. 120 in defensive efficiency — even worse than last season.
The individual pieces look nice on paper. Thornton, Gayle, and Okpara are all pretty solid defenders. But collectively, this team doesn’t know what’s up and what’s down on that end of the floor. They’re once again incapable of getting two or three stops in a row. It’s really hard to see this team winning several games down the stretch when that’s once again the case.
Is the season cooked? Probably. But I have one more optimistic fight in me.
This comes out on Friday, Feb. 2, and the entire season will come down to whether or not they win tonight’s game. If they lose at Iowa, you can start thinking about the fall football season and watching the women’s team hopefully make a run in March.
However, if, against all odds, they actually win a road game at Iowa and break the 14-game road losing streak, the next two games are against Indiana and Maryland at home. Both of those teams are outside of the NCAA Tournament as of right now and struggle on the road, so the chance for a three-game winning streak is not out of the question.
The Buckeyes have 10 regular season games left, and seven of them are against Quad one or two teams. The three Quad three games are all at home, where the Buckeyes have, in general, been pretty good.
Also, the last two games are against Michigan and Rutgers, and they are both bad. So, they have a chance to end the season strong with those games.
At this rate, who knows what will happen. But if they can somehow beat Iowa tonight (I know, I know), they will have a chance to go on a run with how the schedule shapes out (Insert shoulder shrug emoji).
Any reason to think Ohio State still might make the tournament?
This poll is closed