Unfortunately for the Ohio State Buckeye basketball fans, the nonconference portion of the schedule was somewhat disappointing. The Buckeyes lost the only two marquee games they played (at Duke and home versus Kansas) and accumulated a number of victories over inferior competition.
There were some encouraging moments (LaQuinton Ross scoring 22 points against Northern Kentucky and every time Sam Thompson goes for a dunk come to mind), but the two losses have left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
The good news is that conference play is upon us, and Thad Matta’s squad has a chance at redemption. The Big Ten is the best league in the nation, and the champion will undoubtedly earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Read on to see five predictions regarding how Ohio State’s Big Ten season will play out.
It may not seem very bold to say the No. 8 team in the nation will finish in the top three of its conference, but with the Big Ten’s depth this year it really is.
The Ohio State Buckeyes will be competing with the likes of No. 2 Michigan, No. 5 Indiana, No. 9 Minnesota, No. 11 Illinois and No. 18 Michigan State, and that’s not even including dangerous Wisconsin and Iowa teams.
If Ohio State plays its conference games the same way it played the first 35 minutes in Cameron Indoor Stadium, it could win the entire league, but if it plays like it did in the second half against Kansas, it will be a struggle to finish in the top five of the standings.
I think this young team is going to grow over the course of its league schedule to the point where it will be much more formidable than it is now. Nevertheless, it won’t be enough to win the conference.
A top three finish would still get Ohio State a solid seed in the NCAA tournament.
There are two things that an individual player needs to win a prestigious defensive award in today’s college basketball world.
The first thing is rather obvious: he must be a great defender. Aaron Craft is just that for the Ohio State Buckeyes. He is the best on-ball defender in the nation, causes headaches for opposing coaches and point guards every night and can single-handedly change the course of the game on that side of the ball.
The second thing is media attention. Craft garnered that during the NCAA tournament last season when he leapt onto the national scene with his defensive prowess.
This year college basketball fans and writers alike know what to expect from Craft when his opponent has the ball, and as long as he fulfills expectations he will win the Big Ten and National Defensive Player of the Year Award.
And it will be much deserved.
Deshaun Thomas is currently tied for 18th in the country in points per game with 19.8, but that is good enough for first in the Big Ten. The closest fellow conference mate in that department is Brandon Paul, who is 42nd.
Therefore, if Thomas plans on leading the conference in scoring, he is off to a good start.
Thomas is somewhat of a matchup nightmare for opposing teams thanks to his size, ability to shoot, passable post up abilities and ball-handling skills. Furthermore, there is a noticeable fall off on the Ohio State Buckeye roster when it comes to shot attempts between Thomas and Lenzelle Smith Jr., who is second on the team.
That means Thomas will have plenty of shooting opportunities to continue to lead the Big Ten in scoring for the rest of the season.
I already predicted that the Ohio State Buckeyes will finish in the top three of the Big Ten standings but not win the league.
That means they will receive a first round bye in the conference tournament and not have to face the No. 1 seed until the title game. Ohio State also has more depth than it has in recent years, even if the starting lineup isn’t quite what it has been, which means Thad Matta’s team will be well suited for the daily grind of the league tournament.
The Buckeyes will use that depth and their ability to pick up the pace of play with an Aaron Craft-Shannon Scott combination to reach the Big Ten Tournament championship game. They did the same thing last season and rode that momentum all the way to the Final Four.
Ohio State may not win that game, but an appearance would certainly help boost its seed later that day on Selection Sunday's selection show.
After reaching that conference title game (and finishing in the top three of the league), the ultimate seed that Ohio State will receive is a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
That is the exact seed that the Ohio State Buckeyes had last year, and the subsequent matchups were favorable enough to result in a trip to the Final Four.
The Big Ten may very well receive two No. 1 seeds in the Big Dance this season, so if Ohio State can garner a two spot there is a serious chance the conference could send three teams to the final weekend.
Thanks to the strength of their conference, the Buckeyes can receive this formidable of a seed even without any quality nonconference wins on their resume. However, they are absolutely going to need to win some marquee league games, if they plan on doing so.