The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Minnesota Golden Gophers have a 4-5 and 5-5 record respectively and are trying to turn their seasons around at home tonight as they each host beatable mid-major schools. Will either team bounce back tonight or will they continue to let their seasons go into a downward spiral?
Game of the Night: Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (7:00 PM ET | BTN)
The Buckeyes are still searching for answers this season under head coach Thad Matta. On one hand the team has shown moments where they can hang around with a top 10 team in the country, like they did against the Virginia Cavaliers in a 64-58 loss earlier this season, but they also have some dreadful losses against several mid-majors. While some people might not make a big deal about losing to teams such as the Memphis Tigers on a neutral court, losses at home to the UT-Arlington Mavericks and Louisiana Tech Bulldogs are harder to defend.
Much of the Buckeyes struggles this season have to do with the fact that they are just not a good shooting team from the perimeter. They've also struggled from the free throw line, squandering opportunities for easy points. The Buckeyes have shot 33 percent from beyond the three-point line and they've shot a painful 65 percent from the line as well. Not to mention, this team averages 14 turnovers a game. Is it really a surprise to see that they are 4-5?
Junior forward Marc Loving leads the Buckeyes in points per game at 16.8, but he is also averaging 35 minutes a game and you have to wonder how long Matta can keep him going at this pace before Loving gets worn out . Are the Buckeyes done in terms of the NCAA tournament hopes? If they don't win tonight it would be real tough sledding from here on out, making tonight's outing more or less a must win.
The Buckeyes get another chance at another Huskies team in less than a week tonight when they'll take on the Northern Illinois Huskies, a team that is currently 7-1, with their only loss on the road being to the Missouri Tigers. Northern Illinois is coached by Mark Montgomery and can do a lot of things well, with scoring being one of their strong suits as they've averaged 78 points a game. Rebounding wise, Northern Illinois is ranked in the top 30 in the country, averaging 42.8 boards a game, and they are also an unselfish team averaging 17 assists a game, which is ranked 40th in the country.
On paper, the matchup between Ohio State and Northern Illinois looks like a game that will be won inside the paint as neither team is very good shooting beyond the three-point line. The Huskies enter this game with a 34 percent field goal percentage in that department and might need to have a better performance tonight if they want to land an upset.
- Chicago State Cougars vs Minnesota Golden Gophers (8:00 PM ET | ESPN 3)
The Golden Gophers, coached by Richard Pitino, started off the season 5-2 before falling to 5-5 after three straight losses at home. Their recent slump featured two bad losses to mid-majors and a decent showing in a loss to the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Minnesota can put up some points as they benefit from being a good free throw shooting team (they shoot 74 percent as a collective group). Minnesota on offense this season has been averaging a solid 74.8 points a game, but their problem all year has been their defense as they also allow 74.3 points a game. In Minnesota's last six games, they have allowed at least 81 points five times.
Minnesota gets the opportunity to rebound against a 3-8 Cougars team head coached by Tracy Dildy that scored at least 105 points in two out of their first-three games of the season (including a 137-59 beating they gave the Illinois Tech Scarlet Hawks). Take it for what it's worth, but the Cougars gave the Illinois Fighting Illini all they could handle almost a month ago as the Cougars lost 82-79. But then again, the Cougars also just lost to the Northwestern Wildcats 77-35 so the team is somewhere in the middle in terms of being a threat to upset the Golden Gophers. If they can replicate their performance against Illinois, Minnesota could be on upset alert. If they replicate their Northwestern performance...well it'll be another long night for the Cougars.
For Minnesota's sake, with the way they play defense, they better hope that the Cougars team that put up 137 points in a game last month doesn't show up and the one that put up only 35 points in their last game does.