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Creating a Path for the Ohio State Buckeyes to Make the NCAA Tournament

They'll likely have to beat Michigan State at some point.

Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

Trying to figure out the seedings for the Big Ten Tournament a week ahead of the opening day of games will give you a headache. Thankfully for me - and you! - our friends over at Crimson Quarry did all of the hard work for us all. That was written before Tuesday and Wednesday's games, which is important to note because Iowa's loss to Indiana was significant to Ohio State.

To make things easy, let's just assume that the Buckeyes are going to be unsuccessful in their attempt to defeat Michigan State in East Lansing this Saturday on Senior Day for the Spartans. I'm not trying to dismiss the Buckeyes, but it's a big event for Michigan State's three best players, Ohio State just lost at home to the Spartans by 19 points a little over a week ago, and KenPom's projections give the Buckeyes a 9% chance of winning.

Also, for the sake of brevity, we're going to assume Indiana beats Maryland in Bloomington. Is it a lock? No, but Indiana's playing as well as anyone, they haven't lost at home, and the Terps have dropped three of their last four. The game has no effect on Ohio State's seed, just the potential opponent should they advance past their first game.

So let's look at how the other games being played this weekend affect Ohio State's conference tournament seed.

Scenario 1: If Iowa beats Michigan:

This is probably the worst case scenario for the Buckeyes. They'd be the 7 seed, which will pit them against either Penn State, Northwestern, or Nebraska. If they can't win that one, then this will be a pointless discussion and the best Ohio State can hope for is the NIT. The reason it's such a bad outlook for Ohio Sate is that they'll have to play Michigan State once again in the next round.

Scenario 2: If Iowa loses to Michigan and Purdue beats Wisconsin:

This would put the Buckeyes as the 6 seed. The opponent possibilities in the first game are the same three from the previous scenario, unless Rutgers pulls the upset, which is laugh out loud funny. Provided they win that game, the Buckeyes would square off with Purdue in their next game. That seems like a much more winnable game. Purdue's playing well right now, but in the only meeting between the two teams in West Lafayette, Ohio State led the Boilermakers midway through the second half before Purdue finally pulled away. From there, they'd play the winner of a likely Michigan-Michigan State battle.

Scenario 3: If Iowa loses to Michigan and Purdue loses to Wisconsin:

They'll be the 5 seed and will play the winner of the likely Minnesota-Illinois game. After that, it's on to Maryland. The first meeting in College Park was a nightmare, but the second match-up in Columbus went right down to the wire. Of course, in that second game Jae'Sean Tate was the only Buckeye to score in double figures and his services are no longer available. That would setup a battle with Indiana in the semifinals, barring an upset. The only meeting between the two was a blowout win for the Hoosiers in Bloomington.

All things considered, Scenario 2 is probably the one that sets up the best chance for success for Thad Matta's group. Well, unless they create a fourth scenario in which they win at the Breslin Center this weekend.

Whichever way it goes, it's a lot to expect from a group that's young and without one of their best players. Currently, TeamRankings gives Ohio State a 12.6% chance of making the NCAA Tournament field. If they beat the odds, it'll involve the Buckeyes beating a team that's blown them out at least once already this year.

Overall

When it boils down to it, making the tournament is all relative. You don't need to have a sterling resume. It just has to be better than those around you. So if you're a Buckeye fan, in addition to cheering for your own team over the next week and a half, I recommend you hop on the bandwagon of opponents playing any team listed above you at the bottom of this Bracketology chart.