We are all well aware of the struggles of Ohio State against ranked opponents this season. Their single win came against the #1 ranked Michigan Wolverines in Columbus. Granted, Ohio State does play in the toughest conference in college basketball and their out-of-conference games against ranked opponents were at Duke and against Kansas. The aggravating part of this Buckeye squad is that Ohio State has shown signs of becoming a top-10 team. They probably would’ve beaten Duke in a neutral location, they should’ve beaten Michigan in Ann Arbor, and they played Michigan State very tough in East Lansing. If you take that Ohio State team, they could have a chance come March.
However, there is a whole other Ohio State team that shows up periodically, that has really made it’s mark on this season. The Ohio State team that lost by 19 at Illinois, 18 against Kansas, 13 against Indiana, and 22 at Wisconsin has made far too many appearances this season.
I have come to believe that the 22 point drubbing in Madison could have been the wake up call Ohio State needed. In a game against Minnesota that could’ve been with won much less effort, the Buckeyes came out and dominated in all aspects of the game. They hustled, played great defense, and even changed up the rotation a bit. Of course, Minnesota has struggled mightily after coming off a pretty nice start to the season, but the talent on that team is very tangible. Ohio State dominated them up and down the floor. It was not the same team that came out against Northwestern and allowed them to keep it close the whole way. Something may have changed against Wisconsin, maybe that so-called fire has been lit under the butt of the Buckeyes.
Something makes me skeptical, however. We’ve seen this happen before. Ohio State comes out and has a great game against Michigan and looks awful against Indiana. It seems that the Buckeyes have made a trend of inconsistency, and just as they start to mesh as a group, they come out flat in a big game.
This could be the chance for Ohio State to buck this trend. Michigan State is a very quality opponent, and has some very big wins against ranked opponents this season. They stomped Michigan, and have played Indiana very competitively on both occasions. Of course, they slid away with a win against these Buckeyes as well.
If Ohio State can come out on Sunday afternoon and beat up on the Spartans, I would say that they hit their stride at just the right time. Come March, the competition is going to be incredibly fierce. Playing the #1 team in the country on the road on ESPN, playing in the toughest conference tournament in college basketball, and eventually making a run in the NCAA tournament, Ohio State is going to have to be that fiercely competitive team that has made a few appearances this season if they want to do anything next month.
Michigan State is going to be Ohio State’s chance to prove that they can hold their own in March. If the Buckeyes revert back to Wisconsin form, March is going to be a gruesomely painful month for Buckeye Nation. It will mean an embarrassment at IU and an early knockout in both big tournaments. If they have the confidence of some great wins at the end of the season however, things could finally be looking up in a somewhat “down year” for Ohio State basketball.
Ohio State has the ability to come out, play inspired basketball, and beat the Spartans. We’ve all seen what happens when Ohio State comes to play. Let’s just hope that they’ve finally turned that mythical corner and are gearing up for a “Cinderella” run come March.