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Big Ten Monday Preview and Open Thread: Ohio State Buckeyes Host Penn State Nittany Lions

In tonight's only game, Ohio State faces a must win against Penn State.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There's only one game tonight, with the Buckeyes set to host Penn State on BTN later on tonight. The game actually has some importance as it's more or less a must win for a Buckeyes team that already has eight losses, especially since a loss to Penn State would be a major blunder on their postseason resume. As for Penn State, the Nittany Lions have quickly faded once again in conference play and would benefit from pulling off an upset after another poor start to Big Ten play.

Game of the Night: Penn State at Ohio State (7:00 PM ET | BTN)

The Buckeyes are young and that inexperience has reared it's ugly head time and time again. On some nights the youthful Buckeyes look like a potential tournament team, while on other nights they look bad enough that a NIT bid isn't even a guarantee. Ohio State has hit a recent skid, going 1-3 over the last four games. Even worse is that lone win was against Rutgers while Ohio State has dropped three games by double digits against teams that could have bolstered their resume with a win (Indiana, Maryland, Purdue).

Fortunately for Ohio State, their opponent tonight hasn't been anywhere as good as the teams that have recently beaten down the Buckeyes. Penn State once again has hit a wall in Big Ten play, starting off this season with a lowly 2-4 mark. The team, while always putting in a solid effort under Pat Chambers, still hasn't shown that they can consistently win games in the Big Ten and little has happened in 2016 to show any signs of a turnaround. While Penn State managed to upset a so-so (at best) Northwestern team on the road, the only other win for the Nittany Lions was a home game against Minnesota. Of course Penn State has made it close several times (Maryland, Wisconsin), but that's something they've done in the past as well.

The most painful thing about Penn State's most recent loss to Wisconsin was the fact that the team was held to 32 points for the first 33 plus minutes before scoring 28 points over the last six plus minutes. If Penn State hadn't started off ice cold they could have landed an upset, instead they came up short once again. The team's core of Brandon Taylor, Shep Garner and Payton Banks provides a solid foundation for Penn State, but Chambers hasn't been able to get much of any offensive production from anywhere further down on the depth chart. The end result is a team that is 304th in points per game, 287th in field goal percentage and 311th in three point percentage. When you can't shoot the ball it's going to be hard to win in the Big Ten, especially on the road.

Ohio State should be fully capable of coasting to a win here. At the same time, there have been far too many off nights for the Buckeyes so it'd be foolish to assume an easy win. The talent is definitely there for the Buckeyes, but until they can consistently perform to their potential it's going to be a bumpy ride in Columbus. Ohio State couldn't pull off the upset in West Lafayette last week, with that being partially due to a woefully dreadful night for pretty much every starter not named Jae'Sean Tate (the remaining four starters scoring 16 points in 99 minutes). With a lineup also consisting of Marc Loving, Keita Bates-Diop and JaQuan Lyle, Ohio State has enough options that they should be able to keep the Nittany Lions at bay.

At 12-8 the Buckeyes need to avoid any potential upsets if they want to make a run to the NCAA Tournament. With Illinois coming up later in the week, Ohio State has a chance to enter the weekend at 14-8 with the potential of a resume defining upset over Maryland. Even if the Terrapins are victorious once again, with Wisconsin, Northwestern, Rutgers, Michigan and Nebraska on deck, there are plenty of winnable games over the next month. If Thad Matta wants to turn things around, his team will need to start consistently winning these games. Even more so as there aren't that many more opportunities for quality victories as the schedule starts to soften for his team.