How you feel about the Big Ten may depend on how you feel about the Ohio State Buckeyes. Coming into the season, the Buckeyes weren’t supposed to be much of a factor. They ushered in a new coaching staff late in the spring. They transferred in a backup point guard that was planning to go to Butler. Moreover, their most explosive scorer Keita Bates-Diop, was coming off of an injury plagued year where he only played nine games and received a medical redshirt if needed. Fortunately, everything has come up like roses for the Buckeyes. Now, they still have a chance at the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten with a win and some help.
See, the Buckeyes have to the two biggest wins of the year. When they defeated the Michigan State Spartans early in conference play, the game was a Sunday-shocker. By the time the Buckeyes won eight straight games, the Buckeyes were performing like a legitimate Big Ten contender. However, the matchup with the Penn State Nittany Lions may be their undoing when the final tally is decided. The Nittany Lions ended the winning streak with a game-winning 3-pointer. Then, the Nittany Lions did it again in a 23-point blowout. However, the Buckeyes still had the moxy to go on the road and beat the Purdue Boilermakers in between three recent losses. The Buckeyes split with the Michigan Wolverines. After their bounce back game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, they have one more road game before the Big Ten Conference Tournament commences in Madison Square Garden next week.
The Indiana Hoosiers welcome the Buckeyes to town in their first meeting of the year. The Hoosiers are slight road underdogs entering Friday’s contest. They are (12-5) in home games, so the Hoosiers have a legitimate chance to pull the upset. Yet, if the Buckeyes intend on proving they are a Final Four contender, they need to play at an elite level. Currently, the Buckeyes are (7-5) in road games. They lost their last two road games. As a result, this game is important to show they are capable of winning away from home in March.
The Hoosiers are (17-12) against the spread. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes are (15-13) against the spread. Overall, the Buckeyes are outscoring opponents by almost 10 points per game. Yet, their last two road losses came by 35 total points. However, the Hoosiers are only outscoring opponents by 2.1 points per game. It’s even worse in conference play where the Hoosiers are averaging 67.9 points and giving up 67.1 points per game.
The Buckeyes have four players reaching double figures. Still, they have to make sure Bates-Diop gets back to his natural form. In the last three games, Bates-Diop is shooting 12-of-39 from the field. He is averaging 11 points per game in the last three. Moreover, Bates-Diop hasn’t reached 20 points since a 35-point explosion against the Illinois Fighting Illini on February 4th. It’s the last game of the month and the next time we see the Buckeyes will be in March. Maybe they will be the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. First, they need to take care of business in the season-finale.