The Ohio state Buckeyes were 12-1 (2-0) in the latter months of 2018. They pulled off solid wins over Cincinnati, Creighton, Minnesota, Illinois, and UCLA. Additionally, their only loss was to a Syracuse team that is coming off a win over top ranked Duke. The Buckeyes were tied for first in the Big Ten with the likes of 2nd ranked Michigan and 6th ranked Michigan State. As for the NCAA tournament (AKA “March Madness”), the Buckeyes were virtually a lock as a top 15 team in the nation. Then disaster struck…
The Big Ten is arguably the best conference in college basketball. Eight teams have been ranked at one point this season and five are currently ranked in the top 25. For this reason, Ohio State was bound to lose some Big Ten conference games. However, for a team that went 15-3 in the league last year to already losing four games through the first six games is a clear reason for worry.
Ohio State was ranked number 14 when they hosted the then 8th ranked Michigan State Spartans for their first game of the 2019 calendar year. Ohio State held a 7 point lead at halftime, and it looked as if an upset was brewing. However, Michigan State, led by star guard, Cassius Winston, and power forward, Nick Ward, were too much for Ohio State’s defense to handle. Those two players combining for 46 points, the shooting for the Buckeyes going cold, and three Ohio State players fouling out all culminated in a second half where the Buckeyes were outscored by 16 points. The final score was 77-86, and the Buckeyes started off 2019 on the wrong foot. If the Buckeyes want to compete for a Big Ten regular season title, they would have to win their home games in Big Ten play. Losses to teams like Michigan State at home are understandable but are highly detrimental. Although this loss was tough, the Buckeyes had a chance to bounce back against lowly Rutgers in the next game.
Rutgers is currently below .500 in win percentage and are 1-6 in the big ten. However, there only win came over the Buckeyes. A measuring stick of a good basketball team is the ability to win on the road. Ohio State have went on the road and have claimed victory over the likes of Creighton and Cincinnati. The Buckeyes looked lethargic from the start. They were only able to manage nine points through the first eleven minutes. This play continued until the Buckeyes found themselves down by 10 points with nine minutes to go. The Buckeyes were able to rally and take the lead. However, down the stretch, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights made more plays by going 3-3 in field goal shooting in the last two minutes. The scarlet and grey of the Buckeyes fell to the Scarlet Knights 61-64. This was the first win over a ranked team for a struggling Rutgers program, who have had little success since joining the big ten. The Buckeyes have now dropped 2 games in a row, and the Big Ten does not get any easier from here.
Next up for Ohio State was a tough road game at the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa came in with a better record than the 12-3 Buckeyes with a 13-3 record. Ohio State came out more energized in this game. They even held a 26-24 advantage. Once again, the Buckeyes second half performance was their downfall. The Hawkeyes were able to use their home crowd and momentum to separate from the Buckeyes. Kaleb Wesson, who averages 15.9 points a game, was shut down by the Iowa front court while scoring only two points and grabbing six boards. With this 62-72 loss, The Buckeyes were officially in a slump. Head coach, Chris Holtmann has never lost this many games in a row at Ohio State. Ohio State had a six day break to try to work out all the demons before they hosted another tricky team.
If Ohio State plans on making noise in the big ten, they had to win this next game against the 19th ranked Maryland Terrapins. However, Maryland was a team on a six game win streak with wins over Nebraka, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Having fallen out of the top 25, Ohio State was never able to get momentum. Starting from the 6:47 mark, the Buckeyes would not take the lead for the rest of the game. Bruno Fernando and Anthony Cowan Jr. of Maryland played a huge impact in their 7th straight win. This 61-75 loss has given the Buckeyes an uphill battle at 2-4 in conference to even compete in the Big Ten.
Is it time to panic? Possibly. The Big Ten does not get easier for the Buckeyes. They host Purdue and take to the road for games against Nebraska and 2nd ranked Michigan. If Ohio State is not able to win any of those, The Buckeyes could find themselves at 2-7 in league play. Ohio State has to keep their loss total under around 12 games to qualify for the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes need to do a bevy of things to turn their fortunes. First, they need to win games at home. Second, they must steal road games against the bottom half of the Big Ten. Third, they must get out of this slump by just simply winning the next game against Purdue. With all the opportunity in the Big Ten, Ohio State has plenty of chances to turn it around and catch fire. However, if this slump continues, the Buckeyes chances of making the NCAA tournament will be in serious jeopardy.