Now that the Olympics are over, the attention of the sports world turns to the release of college basketball schedules.
Alright, so maybe football is a more pressing concern for the time being, but news of non-conference schedules and conference showdowns is beginning to trickle in from various sources.
The Columbus Dispatch recently listed the known portion of Ohio State’s non-conference schedule, and it certainly has a few potential pitfalls.
Of course there are the seemingly mandated cupcake games, but the Buckeyes and head coach Thad Matta have certainly challenged themselves this season.
Here is a game-by-game breakdown of Ohio State’s (known) non-conference schedule.
While TBA typically puts up a good fight, Ohio State should have no problem with them this year.
Alright, bad joke.
But the Buckeyes do have some openings remaining on their schedule and will likely announce four more non-conference games in the coming weeks.
While this is merely prognosticating at this point, I surmise the four teams will not exactly be powerhouses considering the difficulty level and relative lack of home games in the finalized portion of Ohio State’s non-conference schedule.
So, tentatively pencil the Buckeyes in for four victories here.
Marquette lost its leading scorer in Darius Johnson-Odom, as well as defending Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder.
But the Buckeyes have taken hits, too.
Ohio State lost one of its top 10 all-time leading scorers in William Buford, as well as its First-Team All-American Jared Sullinger.
One of these teams has to lose its first game of the season though.
The only thing that is really predictable about this game, which will be played outdoors on the USS Yorktown, is that there will be some relatively inexperienced players lacing it up.
However, I think Ohio State returns a team with more substance and potential than Marquette does—at least for the early part of the season. I also think Aaron Craft will be an invaluable leader when it comes to keeping the young players focused despite the surrounding distractions that this game will provide.
The Buckeyes will win this one and start the year out on the right foot.
No disrespect intended for the Albany Great Danes, but I have little doubt Ohio State cruises to a decisive victory in its first game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off.
In fact, there is a chance this will seem like the real season opener for the Buckeyes and their fans because of the unusual and surreal circumstances surrounding the Marquette game. It will certainly be the first easy win.
A win or loss for Thad Matta’s squad in the Carrier Classic opener will have a motivating impact on this game. The Bucks will either be looking to bounce back from a tough loss or be riding high with confidence after a much-anticipated win.
Either way, it doesn’t look good for Albany.
The Great Danes were a respectable 19-15 last season, but will not have enough firepower to hang with Ohio State.
The Atlantic 10 is quickly becoming the best non-power conference this side of the Mountain West.
With the recent additions of Butler and VCU, the conference that has for so long been dominated by Xavier and Temple is now much more wide open.
However, it would take an amazing turnaround for Rhode Island to have any say in this stronger league. The Rams were an abysmal 7-24 last year.
Some of those top-notch Atlantic 10 teams may be able to hang with the Buckeyes (I would love to see an annual series with in-state Xavier).
Rhode Island isn’t one of them.
Both the Pirates and Huskies are decent teams in power conferences, so it certainly won’t be a walk in the park for Ohio State.
However, the Buckeyes will beat either Washington or Seton Hall.
Let’s start with the Pirates.
Last year’s team didn't make the NCAA tournament, which has to be considered somewhat of a failure if you play in the Big East, even for Seton Hall. Throw in the fact that Seton Hall’s leading scorer Jordan Theodore is gone, and Ohio State will gradually pull away from the Pirates as the game wears on.
If it's Washington, it will be a bit tougher for the Buckeyes to crack. The Huskies were one of the teams that were controversially left out of the tournament last season and made a run to the semifinals of the NIT.
The Huskies lost heart-breakers to Marquette and Duke last season and would love to notch a marquee non-conference win this time around.
This will be a very competitive game but behind the early season experience and leadership of Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State will come away victorious.
But it won’t be easy.
If this was Missouri or Kansas, Ohio State would be in for a challenge.
But it’s Missouri-Kansas City.
There won't be any challenge.
The best thing going for Missouri-Kansas City after struggling all last season is the team’s name—the Kangaroos.
The formula for many of these early season “tournaments” is to schedule a handful of filler games (re: easy wins) for the power conference teams and throw in one or two notable match-ups to lure the fans in.
This is one of those filler games.
It’s safe to say the Duke Blue Devils probably remember the last time they squared off with the Buckeyes.
Ohio State, behind one of its most passionate home crowds in years, thumped Duke by 22 points, a margin that actually made the game appear closer than it really was.
You can bet it may be a different story in front of the Cameron Crazies.
Duke did lose Austin Rivers, but returns many of its key pieces from a year ago, including Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. However, while I think the Blue Devils will jump out to an early lead as the Bucks adjust to Cameron, I predict Ohio State wins this down the stretch.
Frankly speaking, Duke may have been a tad overrated last season (as evidenced by its shocking loss to Lehigh in the tournament) and lost its best player. This showdown is also early enough in the season that Duke’s new freshmen will still be getting their legs underneath them.
Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas both played phenomenal in this game last year. Expect more of the same this time around.
Much of this article focuses on how Ohio State is playing a relatively challenging non-conference schedule with games against Duke, Marquette, Kansas and others.
However, it doesn’t hold a candle to Long Beach State’s slate.
The 49ers travel to USC, Ohio State, Syracuse and Arizona while also playing North Carolina and UCLA.
Good luck with that.
Long Beach played a similarly difficult schedule last season and parlayed it into an NCAA tournament appearance.
However, four starters are gone from that team, including superstar Casper Ware. Nevertheless, the 49ers are still the favorites in the Big West, even with the daunting non-conference schedule.
This game may have been more competitive last season, but Ohio State will still have its hands full with Long Beach. Expect a closer-than-some-would-expect Buckeye victory.
There was a time not that long ago that the Winthrop Eagles were celebrating an NCAA tournament victory over Notre Dame.
That time was not last season.
The Eagles finished 2011-12 with a disappointing 12-20 record and will not pose much of a threat for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes will use this game as a sort of eye in the middle of the storm. It is sandwiched between showdowns with Duke, Long Beach State (perhaps a stretch to include this) and Kansas.
While Winthrop returns much of its roster from a year ago and added a few pieces in recruiting, expect a fairly easy Ohio State victory.
At this point, I am tempted to say Kansas will win this game just so I have the Buckeyes marked down for a non-conference loss.
After all, it is a fairly treacherous slate and would require an impressive effort for a team that lost two crucial contributors to navigate through it unscathed.
But I will resist the temptation and again pick Ohio State to win.
The third time will be a charm for the Bucks after losing twice to Kansas last season, including a gut-wrenching defeat in the Final Four. The biggest difference this year will be a raucous home crowd in Columbus and a team bent on revenge.
In fact, Ohio State enacted a small amount of revenge (not that Florida cares) in a similar fashion in a regular season home game against the Gators the season after they defeated the Buckeyes in the national title game.
Alas, Ohio State will finish its non-conference portion of the schedule with an unblemished mark.
But they will certainly not do the same in Big Ten play. Tune in this weekend for a breakdown of the Buckeyes’ conference schedule.