On the eve of the Big Ten Tournament the Ohio State Buckeyes currently sit on the bubble. If the season ended today the Buckeyes would be the last team in the NCAA Tournament according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
Certainly dropping the last four out of five games has not helped Ohio State bolster it’s résumé for the NCAA Tournament, and neither has the athletic department mandated three-game suspension of Kaleb Wesson for “a violation of team rules.” Yet despite all the turmoil recently the Buckeyes still have life, if they win some games in the Big Ten Tournament.
This entire season this Ohio State team has shown immense fight, passion and effort. The only problem is that those gritty traits have not translated into scoring or winning of late.
Most recently the disappointing 73-67 overtime loss to No. 21 Wisconsin at home could have been a major turning point in the season for the Buckeyes if they managed to pull off a comeback for the ages. But what if the second half of the game was a galvanizing moment for the team?
The comeback may have fell short, but it appeared Ohio State had found an offensive identity outside of Kaleb Wesson, which could pay huge dividends for the rest of the season. C.J. Jackson finally appears to be healthy again and leading the charge for this offense.
In the loss against Wisconsin, Jackson demonstrated his leadership skills on offense leading the way with 22 points in the comeback. Jackson did an excellent job of driving the lane creating open looks for shooters on the perimeter.
For a team that has struggled to find an offensive identity while Kaleb Wesson is off the floor (either foul trouble or suspension) putting together a 27-5 run against a ranked team without your best player means something is beginning to click.
The development of Justin Ahrens was key to this offensive explosion in the second half of the Wisconsin game. Ahrens gives the Buckeyes a threat on the perimeter that teams must keep in check. His nine points in the second half is a big reason why the Buckeyes were able to mount such a large comeback.
However, Ahrens can’t be the only sharpshooter on the team. Luther Muhammad needs to breakout of his shooting slump, which appears he is on the verge of doing as he made his first three-point jumper in the Wisconsin game since the Maryland game on February 23, 2019.
With Kaleb Wesson returning and providing a presence in the post, a healthy C.J. Jackson and improved three-point shooting the Buckeyes could be a sneaky team in March. It is highly possible that we are seeing this Ohio State team peaking at the right time.
On Thursday at noon No. 8 seed Ohio State will face No. 9 seed Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament. Indiana is the first team out according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi so this is essentially a do-or-die for both teams.
Yes, it will still be an uphill battle for the Buckeyes as they are not in the most ideal situation in the world, clinging to the NCAA Tournament by a thread. However, it is much better to peak in March than in January.
Welcome to March Ohio State, survive and advance.