After a five game losing streak, Ohio State has found some success by winning two of their last three games. These wins include a road win at Nebraska and a home win against Rutgers. However, the Buckeyes need to keep rattling off wins if they want a shot at making the NCAA tournament. The schedule for Ohio State gets a lot easier coming up so let’s break down the upcoming schedule in order to project how Ohio State’s record will look going forward.
February 7th- vs Penn State 7-14 (0-10 in the Big Ten)
Penn State was Ohio State’s Achilles’ heal last year, taking them down on three different occasions. One of those wins was a blowout win, and the other two were last second shots by Penn State. Ohio State looks to get revenge this year against a Nittany Lion team that head coach Chris Holtmann has not yet beaten in his tenure. Although Penn State has no Big Ten wins, they have come close against strong Big Ten teams like Purdue and Iowa. Ohio State must be careful, but the Buckeyes are more talented, score more efficiently, and play better defense. For these reasons, I believe this game sets up favorably for an Ohio State win.
February 10th- @ Indiana 13-9 (4-7 in the Big Ten)
Ohio State takes the road to face the Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana is a very similar team to Ohio State. Indiana started off in the top 25 and looked like a lock to make the NCAA tournament. That was until a seven game losing streak struck the Hoosiers. Indiana, like every year, has plenty of talented players. Romeo Langford, averages 17 points per game, and Juwan Morgan averages 16 points. Additionally, Assembly Hall is one of the toughest places to play which could cause trouble for Ohio State. In their last meeting, Ohio State was able to pull off a memorable victory in their last regular season game last year off of a C.J. Jackson three point shot with one second to go. Just like last year, it will be a challenge for Ohio State to be victorious, but it is possible. The key is for Ohio State to increase their consistency in shooting because both teams are evenly matched from top to bottom. Indiana is given a 62% chance to win this game due to home court advantage, so let’s see if Ohio State can beat the odds.
February 14th- vs. Illinois 7-15 (3-8 in the Big Ten)
Ohio State scored a victory over Illinois in their last meeting 77-67. Although that score looks like Ohio State did not have too many problems, Illinois was up at halftime in that game. A strong second half Ohio State charge led by Keyshawn Woods’ 18 points allowed Ohio State to cruise to the ten point victory. Illinois biggest strength is their scoring. They average more points than Ohio State and have beaten strong Big Ten opponents like Maryland and even scored a 27 point beat down over Minnesota. Trent Frazier is the main scoring threat for the Illini, since he averages just under 15 points per game. However, Illinois has two other players who average double figure point totals meaning that they have multiple guys that could hurt the Buckeyes. On the other hand, Illinois biggest problem is their defense that allows over 75 points per game. Ohio State should again be able to exploit the Fighting Illini’s less than stellar defense in front of the friendly confines of Value City Arena. The Buckeyes are given an 88% chance of victory according to ESPN. With Ohio State being at home, Ohio State should be able to add another Big Ten win over their rival on this Valentine’s day special.
February 17th- @Michigan State 18-4 (9-2 in the Big Ten)
This is the biggest challenge of Ohio State’s next five games. The five game free fall of a losing streak started with the Spartans back at the beginning of the calendar year. Ohio State had a chance to pull off the upset in their last meeting, but foul trouble by the Wesson brothers for Ohio State ended up being their demise in an 86-77 loss. What gives me hope is that Ohio State went toe to toe with Michigan State in their last meeting. So maybe Ohio State will be able to compete once again. However, the chances of winning this game on the road in the Breslin Center are very unlikely, and ESPN agrees with me by only giving Ohio State a 10% chance of victory. The duo of Nick Ward and Cassius Winston and the hostile crowd will be likely too much for Ohio State to overcome.
February 20th- vs Northwestern 12-9 (3-7 in the Big Ten)
Northwestern never has the most talent, but they always figure out ways to scrape out wins. The Wildcats have gotten blown out by every big ten team in the top half of the league. On the contrary, they have gone 3-1 against the bottom half of the league. Ohio State is currently in 8th place, which means they are in the bottom half of the league. As a result they must be weary of this scrappy Northwestern team. Northwestern’s most talented player is Vic Law, who has been playing significant minutes for four years. Home court advantage by Ohio State and their ability to score five points more on average than Northwestern should lead to another Buckeye victory where I expect Kaleb Wesson to have a big game for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State has a high chance of winning at least three of their next five games. If they were to pull off four victories, they would raise their record to 18-8 and 8-7 in the Big Ten. 18-8 or even 17-9 would put them in a solid position for making the tournament as long as they can keep their loss total under about 12 losses. Although the road tests at Indiana and at Michigan State will be tricky, Ohio State has a golden opportunity to make a run for an NCAA tournament bid. Will Ohio State be able to pull it off?