Ohio State Basketball: Predicting Outcomes for Buckeyes' Toughest Tests Left
It’s been a somewhat disillusioning season for Ohio State basketball fans thus far.
The Buckeyes have efficiently taken care of lesser foes but are a measly 1-4 against ranked opponents (at the time of the game). Furthermore, Deshaun Thomas is the only player that has consistently found the basket in those marquee contests.
If Ohio State has any hopes of winning a daunting Big Ten, things are going to have to change quickly. Thad Matta’s team is seemingly faced with one or two big games every week in this league, so a few more losses will mean trouble.
Read on to see how the Buckeyes will do in the rest of their tough tests.
January 29 Wisconsin
I think Ohio State is going to find a way to win its next four games and at least temporarily reenter the Big Ten race. Since the game against Wisconsin on Jan. 29 is part of that stretch, the Buckeyes will come away with the victory.
Wisconsin is a dangerously good team that is able to control the tempo and frustrate opponents when everything is clicking. What’s more, Jared Berggren is a matchup nightmare for an Ohio State team that isn’t particularly strong from the center spot.
However, the Badgers are a much different team on the road than they are at the Kohl Center. Yes, I know they upset Indiana at Assembly Hall, but Bo Ryan simply has Tom Crean’s number right now no matter where they match up against each other.
Ohio State will try to speed up this game, and the home crowd will help it do just that. Look for Aaron Craft, Sam Thompson and company to get some easy baskets in transition and simply outlast a good Wisconsin squad in this one.
February 5 at Michigan
I fully expect the 2012-13 version of the Ohio State-Michigan basketball rivalry to play out like the 2011-12 version did.
Last year Aaron Craft virtually hamstrung Trey Burke in the matchup in Columbus but struggled to do so in Ann Arbor. In fact, Burke’s dominance against the Buckeyes at home stuck with Craft so much that he devoted additional film time to studying Burke, a practice that undoubtedly contributed to Craft’s impressive defensive efforts in the Big Ten tournament and this season against his foe.
Ohio State outlasted the Wolverines in the first contest this year, but Michigan will return the favor in February. It will be a heated battle because the key contributors on these teams know each other so well, but John Beilein’s squad will find a way to get the win.
Look for more zone defense from the Maize and Blue after it worked so well in the second half in Columbus.
February 10 Indiana
Indiana may not be running rampant through its schedule like some thought it would in the preseason, but it is still one of the best teams in the entire country.
The Hoosiers have enough talent to win the NCAA tournament in March, and there are strong points in every position group on the floor. Cody Zeller will be an absolute handful for the underwhelming combination of Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams, and Victor Oladipo will use his tenacious defensive skills to make life difficult for the Buckeye guards.
Simply put, Ohio State doesn’t have a reliable enough offense to beat a team as loaded as Indiana. Even if Aaron Craft spurs his teammates to an impressive defensive performance, which I think will happen, and the Hoosiers don’t score as easily as they are accustomed to, the Bucks won’t score enough points to come away with a win.
The one way Ohio State picks up a victory here is if it jumps out to an early lead and rides that momentum to the end. That is how the Michigan game went earlier this year, and if the crowd is alive it could feasibly happen again.
But there’s just too much talent on the other side.
February 17 at Wisconsin
Thad Matta has been the head basketball coach at Ohio State since the 2004-05 season, but he has only beaten Wisconsin in Madison one time. In fact, that long-awaited victory didn’t come until last year.
The Badgers are not as talented as they have been in seasons' past, but they are still dangerous. Just ask Indiana.
If Matta-led teams that featured the likes of Evan Turner, Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. failed to win in the Kohl Center, it is hard to imagine this Buckeye squad doing so.
Bo Ryan will implement a defense that will suffocate Ohio State’s struggling half-court offense. Deshaun Thomas may find a way to get some points, but it won’t be enough to lead his team to victory.
The Buckeyes have had their most success this season when they have picked up the pace, which is exactly what Wisconsin tries so hard to prevent every time out. The slow pace of play and raucous crowd will be too much for Ohio State to overcome.
February 20 Minnesota
If Ohio State loses to Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin as I predicted in the three big games before this one, this will be about as must-win of a contest as a team ranked in the preseason top five can experience.
If this game was at the Barn, I would give the nod to the Golden Gophers. However, Ohio State will be able to frustrate this deep Minnesota team with its defense and come away with the victory.
The primary reason I am picking the Buckeyes here is the air of desperation that could surround this game. If the other ones on this list go as I envision, there will be too much urgency from a squad that is better than its record against ranked teams indicates, especially at home.
This is no disrespect to the Gophers, who I think are ultimately more talented than the Buckeyes at this point, but Ohio State simply needs this win too much to lose.
February 24 Michigan State
Ohio State had a number of chances down the stretch Saturday to come away with a much-needed win in East Lansing. Rather than dwelling on that though, consider the fact that the Buckeyes are more likely to seize those opportunities in Columbus.
Michigan State, like so many other teams, is much more vulnerable away from home. The Spartans have already lost at Miami, on a neutral floor against Connecticut and at Minnesota. What’s more, they struggled at Bowling Green and at Iowa before sneaking away with wins.
Look for the Buckeyes to take an early lead and play solid enough defense to win this one. Deshaun Thomas already proved he can score against MSU’s defense, and some of his supporting cast will be able to lend a helping hand in the comforts of home.
In my opinion the Buckeyes and Spartans are going to mirror each other for much of the Big Ten season—each will be incredibly difficult to beat on their home floor but will struggle somewhat on the road.
March 5 at Indiana
Everything I said in the earlier slide about Indiana applies even more so here.
I can envision a situation where Ohio State upsets the Hoosiers in Columbus behind a raucous crowd and an energetic start to the game. I can’t envision anything like that happening in Bloomington.
Assembly Hall is one of the most difficult venues to play in for even the best teams in the country (just ask Kentucky last year), and it becomes an absolute nightmare for squads that simply can’t match up with the Hoosiers.
Not to sound like a broken record, but the Buckeyes don’t have the firepower to go on the road and outscore a team like Indiana. Cody Zeller will feast on Ohio State’s interior and lead his squad to a 10-15-point win.
Theoretically that means the Buckeyes will go 3-4 in this tough seven-game slate, which would be more than enough to make the NCAA tournament field and probably get a decent seed (somewhere in the five to seven range), assuming they don’t slip up in any of the other games.
It may not be the season many fans envisioned with a preseason top-five ranking, but this can still be a dangerous team spearheaded by a suffocating defense in March.