Penn State. Ohio State fans will not forget this season for many reasons but maybe the main reason is Penn State. The Buckeyes fell to the Nittany Lions in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament Friday Night and that put them at 0-3 on the year against them. It has been hard to watch for Buckeye fans when it comes to Penn State. All that aside, it has been a fantastic year for Ohio State and they are heading to the NCAA tournament.
Now let’s take a look at what a season it has been for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
It was a very up and down preseason, with it mostly being down. Starting point guard Ja’Quan Lyle left the team, Thad Matta resigned as Ohio State’s head coach in June, their top two recruits Darius Bazley and Dane Goodwin decommitted and ultimately went to other schools and they were coming off a year of no NCAA tournament or NIT.
There was not a lot of hope this season and most people viewed it as a rebuilding year and a year for Holtmann to get used to his new team and for the team to get used to a new coach. However, Holtmann and the seniors on this team had different ideas.
The two big things Holtmann did once he got on campus was flipping star recruit Kyle Young from Butler to Ohio State and bringing on graduate transfer Andrew Dakich from Michigan. Both guys came on campus and immediately made an impact and provided valuable minutes off the bench all season long.
Ohio State had a good non-conference but they missed out what could have been a couple good wins. They finished 9-4 but they had Butler and Clemson down by double digits in the second half and lost both. Those two losses plus their two losses to Gonzaga and North Carolina gave them no good wins during this non-conference schedule, but they avoided any bad losses and went into conference play feeling good about their play thus far.
Ohio State started conference play with two games in early December and they were 2-0, beating Wisconsin and Michigan in two convincing games. They then started conference play back up in January with a win over Iowa and then they pulled off the upset at home against the then No. 1 Michigan State Spartans. This win propelled Ohio State to a 9-0 start in Big Ten play and put them at 16-4 overall, exceeding all expectations. Of course, once Penn State came to town they were 9-1 and suffered their first loss in the Big Ten Chris Holtmann era.
After the Penn State loss, they got two more home win over Indiana and Illinois and that set up a showdown between the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette. The Buckeyes were 11-1 and Purdue was 12-0 so this was the game of the year. Ohio State won 64-63 on a Kieta Bates-Diop put back with 1.6 seconds left.
This was a huge win and put Ohio State 2-0 against Michigan State and Purdue. After that, they beat Iowa easily and then lost to Penn State (again) and Michigan which was the only time this year they had back to back losses. They finished out conference play 15-3 and 24-7 overall. They climbed as high as No. 8 in the nation and had people excited about basketball in Columbus once again.
Most people did not believe Ohio State had any type of chance for an NCAA tournament spot and at best would finish the season in the NIT. This team proved everybody wrong and will be dancing come Selection Sunday. Even though they lost their first game in the Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State is still sitting firmly at the 4-5 seed range. They will be in the NCAA tournament and still have the talent and coaching to be a tough out. They have at least 12 days before their first game so they will have plenty of time work things out and be fully prepared come tournament time. They will be every interesting to watch and see how they perform on the biggest stage.