Ohio State and Penn State meet tonight in the 7-10 Big Ten Tournament match up. Neither team has NCAA tournament aspirations, unless the weekend ends with them holding the conference tournament title (although reaching the title game may be enough for Ohio State). The winner of this game draws Michigan State in the third round.
Penn State finished the season 16-15 overall, 7-11 in the Big Ten and had its moments this season, what with beating Iowa and Indiana (both ranked). Unfortunately, the Nittany Lions also suffered a few ugly blowout losses, including a 20-point lost at Ohio State on January 25th.
Ohio State meanwhile ended the season winning five of its last seven games. (The two losses were to Michigan State, but that stretch also included a 68-64 victory over Iowa.) The Buckeyes at 19-12 overall, 11-7 in conference, could make an outside run at the NCAA tournament, but it would probably require three wins this weekend (over Penn State, Michigan State and then in the semis).
But, enough about those two teams independently, let's take a look at how they match up.
The Only Regular Season Meeting
Penn State fell to Ohio State 66-46 on January 25th. It was the only time the teams would meet in the 2015-2016 regular season. Penn State's offensive output the night of January 25th wasn't great. The team shot just over 30 percent from the floor, and struggled mightily from beyond the arc, although their struggled didn't make them hesitate (4-for-25). For Penn State it just came down to them shooting the ball so poorly, and getting outrebounded. They'll have to play better offensively.
In the regular season meeting between these two teams, Ohio State got great performances from Keita Bates-Diop (22 points, 8 rebounds) and Jae'Sean Tate (15 points). Unfortunately, for the Buckeyes, they'll be without Tate, who had a good sophomore year and had a large role offensively and defensively.
The Overall Numbers
Going off the first meeting, it's not like Penn State lit the world on fire from the floor this season, but they're certainly not a 15 percent three point shooting team. (On average they're just over 30 percent.) The task of improving offensively from the first meeting really falls to Brandon Taylor (16.3 PPG) and Shep Garner (14.5 PPG); they'll have to fuel Penn State's offensive and lift those around them.
Ohio State though is stronger in almost any statistical category. The Buckeyes perhaps have struggled with turnovers (almost 13 per game), so for Penn State to win that might be their path if they can force sloppy play and turnover Ohio State.
Ohio State's Youth
Youth can work two ways in March. At times, a young team could gel, realize their talent and make a deep run. On other occasions, young teams may fold in the pressure of one-and-done basketball. Ohio State has talent, young talent, but their ceiling is higher than their record might suggest.
Jae'Sean Tate is out, and he was probably their most dynamic offensive talent. Bates-Diop has feasted against Penn State (at least in their only meeting this season); he's just a sophomore.
JaQuan Lyle might be the wildcard against the Nittany Lions and beyond. He played only 18 minutes in the earlier game against Penn State, but his role has been expanded. He has had an up-and-down freshman season, and found himselfs in Thad Matta's doghouse at times. But, he's extremely talented, and when engaged, he can lift Ohio State with his playmaking ability.