When you lose twice to the last-place team, nothing is a sure thing. Thursday night's 65-63 loss to Penn State put everything on the table for Ohio State, including a possibility that the Buckeyes won't win again before the NCAA Tournament. Not a strong possibility. But again, this is anything-can-happen mode. What if that would happen? The Buckeyes have at least three games left before the NCAA Tournament. First comes a road trip to 16-12 Indiana on Sunday, with the Hoosiers' 4-3 home record in Big Ten play including wins over Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa (and losses to Northwestern and Penn State). “It can’t set us back too far, we’ve got Indiana on Sunday,” LaQuinton Ross said outside the OSU locker room Thursday night. “That’ll be a tougher game than playing here. Since I’ve been here, I know what the Indiana crowd is like.” Then Ohio State hosts 22-6 Michigan State the following Sunday, after a week off, with the Spartans 6-2 on the road in Big Ten play. And then there's the Big Ten Tournament, where Ohio State could be anything from the No. 4 seed, with a first-round bye and a game against the 5-12 winner on Friday, to the No. 5 seed or No. 6 seed. That would mean a first-round Thursday game against the No. 11 seed or No. 12 seed. Considering there's a four-way tie for last in the Big Ten right now, seeds nine through 12 are up in the air. But the Buckeyes could see the Nittany Lions again. Any Ohio State fans excited about that possibility? Right now, the Buckeyes are a No. 6 seed in Jerry Palm's latest NCAA Tournament bracket, updated Friday morning at CBSSports.com. They dropped a spot with Thursday's loss. But what if Ohio State goes 0-3 the rest of the way, and is 9-9 in regular-season Big Ten play and 22-10 overall entering Selection Sunday? The Buckeyes are still probably in. Almost certainly in. There are outside factors to consider, like the strengths of the other contenders, and how many upsets there are in conference tournaments that may steal a few at-large spots. As of Friday morning, according to ESPN, Ohio State's RPI was No. 20 in the nation, the overall strength of schedule at No. 19. That's solid. Michigan State will help the strength of schedule, even while three losses wouldn't help the resume. Ohio State has two good road wins at Wisconsin and Iowa and two bad overall losses - both to Penn State. The Buckeyes are 5-5 against the RPI top 50. And by their record, even in a worst-case scenario, history is on Ohio State's side. Since the Big Ten went back to an 18-game conference schedule in 2007-08, there have been 14 teams that have finished either 10-8 or 9-9 in Big Ten play. Ten of those teams received NCAA Tournament bids. Four did not. One of the teams that didn't was Ohio State in 2008, when the Buckeyes finished 10-8 and lost their first game in the Big Ten Tournament to Michigan State.
Could Ohio State possibly miss the NCAA Tournament?
Cleveland Plain Dealer | Mar 1