Big Ten Non-Conference Schedule Analysis: Ohio State BuckeyesPosted by KTrahan on November 1st, 2012
The Big Ten microsite will be analyzing the non-conference schedules for some of the Big Ten teams in the coming weeks. Today, we continue with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Check out their full schedule here.
Where we left off: Ohio State sure isn’t afraid to play anyone, and the Buckeyes proved that with last year’s non-conference schedule. OSU played Florida in the second game of the season, drew Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and played at Kansas. The Buckeyes won the first two but lost in Lawrence without top forward Jared Sullinger. Even the rest of the non-conference slate wasn’t a slouch, as OSU also visited South Carolina. That kind of schedule helped prepare the Buckeyes for a tough Big Ten slate, and they’ll be tested again this year before conference play begins.
Major tournaments: Ohio State will play some top-tier teams this non-conference season, so there’s little to nitpick, but the one criticism of the Buckeyes’ schedule is that they’re playing in a lackluster tournament. OSU will compete in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff, matching up with Rhode Island followed by either Washington or Seton Hall. Those games will be played in Uncasville, Connecticut, and games against Albany and Missouri-Kansas City — one before and one after the Uncasville games — will be played in Columbus. Washington would be a decent opponent, but considering the other tournaments around the country, this isn’t the most exciting set of match-ups around.
Toughest opponent: This is a toss-up between Duke and Kansas, as both will be very difficult opponents, but we’ll go with Duke since that game is on the road. The Blue Devils will be hungry for a win after last year’s beatdown in Columbus. Duke returns a strong, experienced team from last year, with seniors Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly leading the way. They’ll have more experience than OSU early on and could use that to their advantage, especially with the Buckeyes playing on the road.
Most important game: As we mentioned in the team preview, this is a very young and very talented team. The talent is why the Buckeyes are ranked No. 4 in the preseason AP poll, but talent can only take you so far and OSU will need to prove that it can put everything together right away with a difficult non-conference schedule ahead. The Buckeyes will get their chance in the season opener, as they take on Marquette on a ship in Charleston, South Carolina. The Golden Eagles won’t be nearly as good as they were last year, but they’re still a formidable opponent and it’s important for the confidence of OSU’s young players for the Buckeyes to start off on the right foot. If Ohio State wins its opener, it should be fine. However, if the Buckeyes lose that one, the non-conference season could be a disappointment.
Trap game: We’re projecting here, but it’s likely that Ohio State will beat Rhode Island and Washington will beat Seton Hall, causing the Buckeyes and the Huskies to meet in the championship of the Basketball Hall of Fame Tipoff. That game will be between the visit from Marquette and the trip to Duke, and Washington could catch OSU looking ahead or catch the Buckeyes over-confident from a win over Marquette. In order to have a special season, OSU must take care of business against good but not great teams. The (hypothetical) Washington game gives the Buckeyes their first test in that regard.
Analysis: Ohio State’s schedule this year should be a model for the rest of the elite teams in the country — get the obligatory cupcakes in, but also schedule some marquee matchups. The Buckeyes are going to make the NCAA Tournament no matter what, so what do they have to lose? Games against Marquette, Duke and Kansas (and possible Washington) will give us some entertainment value and also prepare the team for the Big Ten slate. With such a young, talented team, it’s hard to predict what will happen this non-conference season. This team is certainly capable of winning all of its big matchups, but it’s also capable of slumping in the spotlight and struggling before Big Ten play. The non-conference schedule will be crucial for the young players to gain confidence before the conference season, and the Buckeyes will certainly be learning on the big stage.