The Ohio State Buckeyes are struggling, no doubt about it — but they aren’t out of the Big Ten race yet.
We’ve been saying all season that the Big Ten is balanced, and the regular season has proven that to be true. The top team, Michigan State, already has four losses after getting drilled by Indiana last night, Ohio State and Michigan have five, and Wisconsin has six. If The Buckeyes can win their last two games, against Northwestern and Michigan State, they would finish tied for first place.
That’s a big “if” right now. The Buckeyes have lost two out of three at home and three of their last five. In Sunday’s grim loss to Wisconsin, Ohio State had silly turnovers and couldn’t hit free throws, allowing the Badgers to stay in the game and pull out a last-second win. The team seemed disorganized and undisciplined at crunch time. These aren’t the kinds of qualities you want to see as tournament time arrives. If a team can’t figure out to gut out close games, their season is likely to come to an early end.
Tonight’s game against Northwestern will be a good test. The Wildcats are fighting for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament for the first time, and a win over Ohio State would bring that dream a lot closer. Northwestern already has beaten Michigan State this season, and behind their senior and scoring machine John Shurna they are fully capable of hanging another loss on the Buckeyes. If Ohio State hopes to win this game, key players like Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft, and William Buford need to step up and provide leadership at key moments, the team needs to play defense and rebound, and the players need to play smart basketball — which includes making their shots at the charity stripe. It’s time for this Buckeye team to pull together and start playing like a contender.