Expected to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten, the Ohio State Buckeyes continue to win and move up the rankings ahead of the new year. With wins over Youngstown State and UCLA last week, the Buckeyes, who are now 11-1, moved up to No. 13 in the latest AP Top 25, their highest ranking of the season.
The Bruins may not be ranked, but it was one of Ohio State’s toughest non-conference games of the season and the scarlet and gray made it look easy, especially in the second half. Leaning on their defense, the Buckeyes took care of UCLA, 80-66, in the Champions Classic in Chicago this past Saturday.
That win came a few days after they beat Youngstown State in Columbus, 75-56. While Ohio State may have won by 19, they trailed, 25-22, at halftime. They couldn’t find their groove in the first half but with 53 second-half points, they took care of business in the end. Kaleb Wesson scored a career-high 31 points while also notching seven rebounds and three assists while shooting 10-of-14 from the floor and making 11-of-13 free throws in just 23 minutes.
Chris Holtmann’s squad has continued to impress and outperform preseason expectations, much like they did last season. The Bucks may not have the most talent on the floor every game, but there are two things Buckeye Nation can always count on: Holtmann’s Buckeyes will outwork their opponent and be very solid defensively. Those types of characteristics are why the head coach is beginning to build a very special foundation in Columbus, one that Thad Matta once had in his early years at Ohio State.
With the Big Ten being one of the best conferences in college basketball, Ohio State is one of six teams ranked in the conference. The others are No. 2 Michigan (nine first-place votes), No. 8 Michigan State, No. 15 Wisconsin, No. 23 Indiana, and No. 24 Iowa.
After suffering its first loss of the season, the Kansas Jayhawks dropped to No. 5 in the rankings. Arguably the most talented team in the country, Duke is once again back atop the poll this week while Duke for the second time this season after receiving 35 of the 64 first-place votes. The Blue Devils are not only must-watch television simply because of the players they have, but they are the best team in the country as well.
The Buckeyes have just one non-conference game remaining this season, which is their next game when they host High Point on Saturday afternoon.