I was ridiculed ruthlessly for daring to mention Ohio State might make the NCAA tournament in my season preview. (At least I think I was, did. It was a long time ago.) My thinking was the Big Ten might be a bit down, Ohio State had a favorable schedule, and Keita Bates-Diop was coming back from injury. I thought 20 wins might be enough, which I thought was the ceiling for this team. However, in my wildest dreams I didn’t see Ohio State sitting at this position. The Buckeyes are a lock to make the tournament as they head down the home stretch and close out their season. The question is, just what are the new expectations for this season and beyond?
First, let’s tackle the Big Ten regular season race. The beloved Buckeyes are half of a game back from Michigan State, who is likely to win out. Since Ohio State likely must win out to win the regular season crown, I’ll just state right now I don’t like their chances. Up tomorrow is Michigan. The challenges are many. They Buckeyes are on the road, against a rival, who is doing a maize out. While that’s dumb, the crowd will be electric. Electric crowds motivate defenses. Michigan has the best defense in the Big Ten and Ohio State has lost their offensive rhythm a bit, especially since Kam Williams was suspended. However, if the Buckeyes can get past Michigan, I like their chances to win out and then take the number 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament.
Speaking of the B1G Tournament, since Ohio State should likely finish 2nd in the Big Ten due to tiebreakers (I think, they do have the head to head win over Purdue), I envision the Buckeyes at least making the semi-finals, provided Penn State doesn’t come calling in an earlier round. This team has been remarkably consistent since the non-conference season, so a championship isn’t out of the question. Tournament basketball is a crap shoot, however, so I’ll be happy as long as they reach the semis.
Now on to the big dance. Currently the Buckeyes are in the top 10, but that doesn’t take into account their loss to Penn State. If they follow it up with a loss to Michigan, and then make a bit of a run in the Big Ten tournament, I see the Buckeyes hovering around number 12 in the country. They’ll be sitting at a three or a four seed, which means sweet 16. I think that makes a good measure of success. Don’t make the sweet 16, that’s a fail. Make the elite eight or beyond, huge win. Sweet 16 equals satisfaction.
The million dollar question, however, is how much has this early success altered the expectations of the Chris Holtmann era at Ohio State? I remember when Tressell won a national championship in his second season and my dad said, “Poor guy, the fans will expect this every season now.” Since the season is yet to be over, and I am calling a sweet 16 finish without a Big Ten regular or tournament championship, I don’t think it has. I think the fans around town are more optimistic than they were, but they aren’t going to start holding him to coach K levels just yet. That could certainly change if he exceeds my predictions on the season.
Ohio State should finish second in the Big Ten regular season race, semi finals in the B1G tournament, and sweet 16 in the NCAA. Vanilla prediction? Of course, that’s the definition of setting the bar. What SHOULD happen.
How far do you see Ohio State going in the NCAA tournament?
This poll is closed
Bowing out in round 1, to the delight of many
Second round, once they hit the real teams and not the crappy Big Ten.
Sweet 16, because that’s what James said, and James is a smart fellow.
Elite 8, because the Buckeyes are elite!
Final Four. Holtmann is the real deal!
NCAA CHAMPIONS!!! I don’t live in a world where the Buckeyes can fail!!!