For the foreseeable future, I have decided to write Ohio State “Month in Review” articles for the rest of the year, due to the efficiency and consistency with them. With that being said, Ohio State basketball enjoyed a phenomenal month of January. After beginning the month with with blowout loss at Minnesota, the Buckeyes won every game they played except Purdue, who got the successful season sweep of Ohio State, beating them twice in the last two months. For reference, Ohio State’s past two January’s have been horrible, and ultimately were the “make-or-break” month of their season. In order to better demonstrate this, I took a deeper look at the recent history of Ohio State’s January’s.
Ohio State Basketball The Last 5 Years in the Month of January:
2016-17: 3-7 (Lost first 4 games), started season 10-3 (finished season 17-15, missed NCAA tournament; played in NIT)
2017-18: 8-1 (won first 7 games), finished season 25-9; second in Big Ten regular season (Lost in Round of 32 to Gonzaga)
2018-19: 1-6 (Lost first 5 games), started season 12-1 (finished 19-14, lost in Round of 32 to Houston)
2019-20: 2-5 (Lost first 3 games; 4 if a 12/29 loss to WVU is included) started season 11-2 (finished 21-10, DNP/COVID)
2020-21: 6-2 (3 game winning streaks after losses), started season 8-2, currently 14-4.
Ohio State had huge wins against ranked Rutgers, Illinois, and Wisconsin teams, and a huge comeback win against Penn State. Overall, the Buckeyes dominated the month, and are on the verge of cracking the top 10 in the AP Poll. EJ Liddell has scored 20 or more points in 4 of the last 5 games and they’ve gained momentum in the Big Ten.
1/3: 77-60 L @ #21 Minnesota
1/9: 79-68 W @ #15 Rutgers
1/13: 81-71 W vs Northwestern
1/16: 87-81 W @ #14 Illinois
1/19: 67-65 L vs Purdue
1/23: 74-62 W @ #10 Wisconsin
Ohio State entered this game with the 5th most efficient offense in the country (including a 4-game streak of at least 10 made threes), according to KenPom. Even though that streak came to an end, the Buckeyes also got their 5th straight win vs an AP Top 10 opponent, going wire-to-wire against the Badgers. The Buckeyes also moved to 4-0 straight up, and against the spread vs Top 15 teams this year. This game also marked Ohio State’s 3rd ranked road win of the season. In other words, Ohio State has been unbeatable (literally) as an underdog this season, so they are never an easy out and should not be overlooked.
1/27: 83-79 W vs Penn State
This was a make-up game of the previously postponed matchup. This game was supposed to happen after the Minnesota game, until Penn State got COVID-19. Ohio State pulled away early and went wire-to-wire in the first half. Unfortunately, Penn State closed the deficit before halftime, and led most of the 2nd half, until the Buckeyes ended the game on a 19-9 run for the win.
1/31: 79-62 W vs Michigan State
Ohio State ended the month with huge momentum riding their backs right now. This team has become a Final Four darkhorse, and legitimate Elite Eight contender in the upcoming NCAA tournament. The mixture of balanced offense, led by EJ Liddell, and a consistently tough defense has gotten the Buckeyes to where they are right now.
The grind does not stop there, either. With Ohio State cracking the top 10 in the AP Poll for the first time this season at #7, their first test will be a Big Ten Top 10 showdown on the road against #8 Iowa and Luka Garza, who’s averaging nearly 27 points and 9 rebounds per game this season. Ohio State follows that game up with a road test against a surging Maryland team, and home game against Indiana, who’s led by Trayce Jackson-Davis’ 20 points and 9 rebounds per game. After those contests, Ohio State travels to Penn State in a rematch with the Nittany Lions, before heading back home for one of the biggest games of the entire college basketball season: #4 Michigan @ #7 Ohio State. Ohio State finishes up the month with two more games. First, another road rematch, this time against Michigan State. Then, a rematch with #8 Iowa, this time in Columbus. Ohio State plays just one game in March, which will be a home, season finale rematch with #12 Illinois.