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Ohio State Basketball: 5 Games to Circle on the Buckeyes' Schedule

Scott PolacekFeatured Columnist IVJuly 29, 2016

Ohio State Basketball: 5 Games to Circle on the Buckeyes' Schedule

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    There isn’t much going on in the college basketball world right now. This year’s recruiting classes are all signed, the NBA Draft has passed and memories of last season continue to fade with each passing day.

    So how should hoops fans pass the time during the muggy dog days of summer? Why, look ahead to next year of course (I guess summer barbeques, vacations and spending time with family and friends are also acceptable alternatives).

    Many teams are yet to finalize their 2012-13 schedules, but news of enticing nonconference games seems to trickle out every day.

    Ohio State fans have plenty to look forward to on the scheduling front as well. One of the benefits of playing in the best conference in the country is the guarantee that there will be plenty of marquee matchups awaiting the squad and fans come January and February.

    But when picking the top games for Buckeye fans to look forward to next season, it is a mix of early season clashes and traditional conference battles that stand out. With that in mind, here are the top five games Ohio State fans should look forward to next basketball season.

Duke

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    There are some games in sports that will automatically be circled if they appear on your schedule—a battle with Notre Dame in college football; a trip to Yankee Stadium in baseball, or a showdown with the Cowboys in the NFL.

    A trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium belongs squarely on that list. Throw in the facts that the all-time series between Duke and the Buckeyes is tied at three and that this will be Ohio State’s first ever trip to the historical stadium, and this can be considered a fairly important game.

    Last year, Thad Matta’s bunch decimated the Blue Devils in a 22-point laugher that was actually closer on the scoreboard than on the floor. The Cameron Crazies may have something to say about that this time around.

    Everything about this showdown will be big-time, as ESPN will likely anchor its ACC/Big Ten Challenge coverage around it (as well as North Carolina at Indiana).

    As long as they can stomach listening to Dick ‘Dukie V’ Vitale calling the game, there is no reason Buckeye fans shouldn’t have their school’s first ever trip to Duke on the forefront of their basketball excitement.

Kansas

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    It was all setting up perfectly. The Kentucky Wildcats—the underdog squad that knocked out the overall No. 1 seed Buckeyes the previous season—were awaiting Ohio State in the championship game.

    Only this time the roles would be reversed. Kentucky was the overwhelming powerhouse that steamrolled opponents all year, and Ohio State was set to play the ultimate spoiler.

    The problem was, nobody told Kansas.

    After jumping out to a double-digit lead in the first half of the Final Four game with the Jayhawks, the Buckeyes let a trip to the championship and rematch with Kentucky slip from their grasp.

    While a regular season victory over Kansas wouldn’t eliminate the bitter taste left in Buckeye fans’ mouths, it certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

    Although it isn’t the same rematch that Ohio State was hoping for in March, the Jayhawks come to Columbus on December 22 for a Final Four replay. Unfortunately for Buckeye fans, it will be hard not to rekindle memories of last year’s exit, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is one of the college basketball season’s marquee games.

    Thad Matta will probably have a merrier Christmas if this year’s version turns out differently.

Marquette in Carrier Classic

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    What’s better than the first basketball game of the season after a long summer?

    Starting the season with a showdown against a perennially-ranked Big East team.

    And what’s better than starting the season against a perennially ranked Big East team?

    Playing that game on a boat.

    Instead of starting its schedule against the typical cupcake team from a smaller conference, Ohio State will begin its campaign against Marquette on the deck of the USS Yorktown in the Carrier Classic.

    If you recall, Michigan State and North Carolina did something similar last year and captured the attention of sports fans everywhere. President Obama even attended the game.

    There are so many factors that could possibly come into play—rain, wind, a slippery surface—that there is an extra element of excitement in this matchup.

    Ohio State fans looking forward to something new and different this basketball season should definitely circle this game on their calendars.

Indiana

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    While the game against Marquette on the USS Yorktown provides Buckeye fans with something unique, the showdown with Indiana brings the team back into the realms of the ordinary.

    Sure, these two squads meet every season, but Indiana’s return to prominence ensures that much more will be on the line. Indiana is ranked No. 1 in many preseason prognostications and has to be considered the Big Ten favorite at this point.

    With basically all of his key pieces returning, and a formidable recruiting class to go with them, Tom Crean has the Hoosiers primed for a national championship run.

    This game (really, these two games) will likely go a long way toward determining Ohio State’s place in the Big Ten standings. Last year, these teams split their two matchups, and the game at Indiana was one of the best of the season.

    The Hoosiers ruined Ohio State’s New Year’s Eve last year, so let’s see if the Buckeyes can return the favor in 2012-13.

Michigan

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    When Ohio State and Michigan are mentioned in the same breath, football will be the first thing to come to mind. Sorry basketball fans, that’s just the way it is.

    But ever since Brady Hoke was hired, the hardwood rivalry has heated up. It may seem strange since Hoke is the football coach, but the Wolverine’s basketball program has adopted Hoke’s practice of referring to the Buckeyes as Ohio instead of Ohio State.

    While the taunt has gotten under the skin of some Buckeye fans, it was hilariously ironic for many to see Michigan fall to the actual Ohio University in the NCAA Tournament after a year of using the MAC school’s name as an insult.

    The intensity of the basketball rivalry has ramped up lately for another, more substantive reason: Aaron Craft versus Trey Burke.

    The winner of the point guard matchup also won the game in all three contests last season—Craft in Columbus, Burke in Ann Arbor and Craft again—in blowout fashion in the Big Ten Tournament.

    Throw in the fact that both are from Ohio, and a true one-on-one rivalry is in its beginning stages.

    Although it will probably always play second fiddle to the football game, the showdown between Craft’s defense and Burke’s offense once again makes Ohio State and Michigan must-see programming.

    As it should be.

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