There's no denying that this year's season didn't go quite as well as planned for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Most felt that it would be a rebuilding period, but that the team would ultimately be able to get right by the end of the year and use that momentum to make the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately, that's not what happened.
Ohio State suffered several early non-conference losses and had long periods of inconsistent play where the Buckeyes couldn't string wins together. The team did perform admirably and secured the No. 7 seed in Indianapolis, but it simply couldn't get enough big wins to advance. Notably, three losses to Michigan State in the final weeks of the season were a big resume hit.
Nonetheless, the team now finds itself in the 2016 NIT and is hoping to make some noise. There won't be any Michigan States in the NIT bracket, but there will be plenty of tough matchups, starting with a game against Akron on Tuesday night.
Here's a look at what Ohio State can do in the NIT.
With the team's mixed resume this season, Ohio State landed as a No. 3 seed in this year's NIT. This means that the Buckeyes will have one very favorable matchup at home before likely being forced to go on the road. The team's first game will come at home in Columbus against a tricky in-state Akron Zips team.
Undeniably, Ohio State will be the favorite in this game. KenPom gives the Buckeyes a 69 percent chance to win and that's not surprising given that the game is in Columbus and that Ohio State is a better team than Akron. Nonetheless, the Zips are a team that can shoot the three and have some big time players, including Antino Jackson.
If the Buckeyes play how the team has over the last few months, this should be a hard fought game, but a win for Ohio State. However, this is far from a guarantee, especially considering that Ohio State lost to two weaker teams at home in non-conference play.
If They Advance
If Ohio State can take care of business against Akron, the team would then move on to face either No. 2 seed Florida or No. 7 seed North Florida. Obviously, Buckeye fans will be hoping for North Florida to pull off the upset, but the Gators will likely move on to the next round.
Florida is a really intriguing team because the Gators have been solid, but really inconsistent all season. The team hasn't won more than three games in a row all season and hasn't won two in a row since early February. Still, it's a tough defensive team that takes care of the ball and maximizes possessions on offense.
If Ohio State and Florida did end up playing, expect a defensive slugfest where a few big shots late in the game could determine the winner. The Gators will be the favorites, but that's a game that the Buckeyes can absolutely steal, even on the road.
After that, Ohio State would likely be looking at a matchup against Monmouth or George Washington for a chance to head to Madison Square Garden. Neither of those would be easy games, but KenPom actually ranks the Buckeyes over both opponents. As such, it's not hard to see Ohio State moving on to the NIT semi-finals, if it can get past Florida.
In the semi-finals, it's hard to project who Ohio State would face, but the odds say that it would be either South Carolina or San Diego State. Both teams narrowly missed the NCAA Tournament and motivation could be a factor for both. Of course, by that time, it's hard to speculate who will be playing the best.
Realistically speaking, it's not hard to see Ohio State making some serious noise in the NIT. None of its matchups are going to be particularly easy, but if it can take care of business against Akron and pull out an upset over Florida, it's not hard to see the team making the trip to Madison Square Garden later this month.