Posted: 2:41 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013
By Matt Brown
We've known about Ohio State's non-conference basketball schedule for a little while now, and while it's a little light on a-list talent, the Buckeyes will travel to Marquette, face Notre Dame on a neutral site, and will play Maryland a few potentially plucky mid-major types. Now, we finally have the order of the rest of Ohio State's schedule.
After a mostly soft slate (with the exception of the aforementioned Notre Dame game in NYC on December 21st, the road trip to Marquette, and a home tussle with my AMERICAN EAGLES), the Buckeye's schedule heats up in a hurry. Ohio State will begin Big Ten play with a trip to what should be a very improved Purdue squad, then after hosting Nebrasketball, the Buckeyes make the trip to what should be the Big Ten preseason favorite Michigan State. Four of Ohio State's first six league games will be on the road, and the other home game is against Iowa, who should contend for an NCAA berth after barely missing the cut last season. Ohio State should expect to sweep both early Nebraska games (although the Cornhuskers were very tough at home last year), but the Buckeyes may only be able to split the other four games (at Purdue, at Michigan State, at Minnesota, Iowa).
Ohio State will only play four Big Ten teams once, and fortunately for the Buckeyes, three of them are perennially strong teams: Michigan (which will battle Michigan State for the honor of preseason league favorites), Indiana and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes will also only play Northwestern once, but given how both Wildcats games last year were constant struggles, perhaps Buckeye fans won't be too sad to only see the Purple on their schedule once. Ohio State will host Michigan on February 11th, and Northwestern shortly thereafter on February 19th, with a road trip to Illinois sandwiched in the middle. The Buckeyes will make their trip to Madison on February 1st, and will travel to Indiana near the end of the year, on March 2nd.
The good news for Ohio State is that there isn't really a murder's row on their league schedule. The closest thing to it would be a four game stretch in early February, when Ohio State goes at Wisconsin, at Iowa, Purdue, and Michigan. The Buckeye's dates with Michigan State are spread out at the beginning and end of the league schedule. If they can handle the bunch of road contests early in the schedule, there are plenty of potential wins on the slate.
Granted, this year's Big Ten is still going to be one of the, if not *the* toughest conferences in all of college basketball. While Indiana and Minnesota will probably take steps back, the middle of the conference, including teams like Penn State, Iowa and Purdue, should be significantly improved.
If your goal is just to wrack up a large number of pure wins, Ohio State's schedule seems to set up rather nicely. Barring injury or huge regressions, losing more than one game before Big Ten play would probably be a disappointment, and Ohio State misses a second game with three of the likely top six or so teams in the league. Ohio State won't get too many chances to take out the big names though, so their limited chances against Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana will need to count. Sweeping squads like Purdue and Iowa is great, but it may be tough for Ohio State to grab a 2-seed if they are the squad's biggest resume boosts.
For a team that will have plenty of questions headed into the season, having those goliaths spread out a little bit may be a good thing. Hopefully, the Buckeyes can springboard off of a more forgiving early season slate and attack the Big Ten with confidence.