For the first time since November, the Ohio State Buckeyes seem to be in a rut on the basketball court. Not only did they lose two consecutive games to Penn State and Michigan, but they also lost back-to-back games for the first time since early in the season. After going 0-2 last week, the Buckeyes fell from No. 8 to No. 16 in the latest Associated Press Top 25.
With just two games remaining in the regular season, the scarlet and gray will look to get back on track Tuesday night, when they host Rutgers on Senior Night before traveling to Bloomington to face Indiana Friday night. Not only do the Buckeyes need to win their last two games of the regular season to get back in the win column, but they also need to add to their NCAA Tournament resume and gain some momentum prior to the Big Ten tournament, while securing one of the top seeds in the conference tournament.
Although Ohio State was 0-2 this past week, they are tied with Purdue at 13-3 for the second-best conference record in the Big Ten. Although they are both a game behind Michigan State, the Buckeyes control their own destiny for the No. 2-seed in the Big Ten tournament after they upset Purdue in West Lafayette a few weeks ago.
The Buckeyes seem to be a lock for a berth in the NCAA Tournament unless something unforeseen happens. While that in itself is an accomplish given the fact that they were projected to finish 11th (out of 14) teams in the Big Ten and not even compete for a spot in the NIT, head coach Chris Holtmann and the players know that they want to (and can) make some noise in March. In his most recent Bracketology, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Buckeyes as the No. 4-seed in East region. Other teams in that region include No. 1-seed Villanova, No. 2-seed Duke, No. 3-seed Cincinnati, No. 5-seed West Virginia, and No. 6-seed Oklahoma.
Ohio State is joined in the Top 25 by three other Big Ten teams: No. 2 Michigan State, No. 9 Purdue, and No. 17 Michigan, who just beat the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor on Sunday. The conference may be having a down year, but their each one of their top-4 teams can make some noise in March.
Along with the Buckeyes, it was a tough week for some other Ohio schools as well. Xavier lost to Villanova at home but remained at No. 4 in the latest rankings while Cincinnati fell from No. 5 to No. 11 after getting upset by Houston and Wichita State.