Despite an early win against Michigan in Big Ten play, the Ohio State basketball team has been hounded by questions and doubt about its lack of marquee victories this year. The Buckeyes were 1-7 against ranked opponents heading into Sunday’s Michigan State game and appeared destined for a middle seeding in the NCAA tournament because of it.
Funny how perspective can change with just one impressive effort.
Now the Buckeyes have a resume that includes victories over two Top 10 teams and another Top 20 team (Wisconsin) and zero losses to “bad” opponents. Feeling confident from an instrumental win against the Spartans and with Indiana looming, it is not difficult to envision a scenario where Ohio State overlooks lowly Northwestern.
Thad Matta’s primary job Thursday will be ensuring this doesn’t happen. The Buckeyes almost lost to the Wildcats at home and always struggle against them in Evanston.
In fact, it took a Jared Sullinger buzzer-beater for Ohio State to escape Northwestern with a win last year, and when the Buckeyes were ranked No. 1 the year before, in Evanston they only won by a measly point.
There is historical precedent for a favored Matta team to struggle in these games. He must remind this year’s squad not to join this list.