Ohio State was a team that disappointed everyone come March, but where exactly did their season take the wrong turn?
On February 14th, they ranked a season high 4th in the country, but it was all downhill from there. After beating Penn State by 10, and improving to 18-4, Ohio State hit the hardest part of their season. In their final 4 games, they would have to play the three best teams in the Big Ten and it was not going to be easy. Going into their first game against Michigan, Ohio State was the hottest team in college basketball, holding the most quadrant one wins in the country. Michigan was coming off of a two week quarantine period and many thought this was Ohio State’s game to lose. With 2 minutes left in the game Ohio State trailed by three, and off of a careless behind the back pass, Michigan took a 5 point lead and ran away with the game.
While this was a bad loss for Ohio State, it was acceptable, as Michigan was ranked 3rd in the country. Following this outing, Ohio State would face the Michigan State Spartans, where they would lose their second straight. With two games left before the conference tournament, Ohio State had to face Illinois and Iowa. Some may call the Iowa game manslaughter, as Iowa was able to exploit every weakness of Ohio State and walk away with a 16 point victory. Ohio State would battle against Illinois, but in the end they dropped their 4th straight and ended the season with a record of 18-8.
Ohio State finished the year 5th in the Big Ten, and would only get a bye for one game in the conference tournament, while the top 4 teams were able to watch for two. Their first game was against Minnesota, and should have been a double digit victory, but a second-half collapse by Ohio State allowed the Gophers to only lose by 4. Once again, against Purdue in the quarterfinals, Ohio State had an 18 point lead at half, but a comeback by the Boilermakers forced overtime, where the Buckeyes were able to get the victory. The season started to look like it was taking a turn as Ohio State got by Michigan without forward Kyle Young playing. In the conference finals, Ohio State played the hottest team in basketball: the Illinois Fighting Illini. Once again, they were without Kyle Young, but that didn’t stop a second half push from Ohio State to force overtime. In overtime, Ohio State lost by 3, but they battled and looked like they could make some noise in this year’s tournament.
“In the South Region, seed number 2….Ohio State, and they will be playing 15 seed…Oral Roberts.” Those were the words that the men of Ohio State heard on March 14th. The Oral Roberts Golden Eagles, led by Max Obmas, were not going to go down without a fight. Many selected Ohio State to be in their Final Four but in the matter of hours, their dreams would be shattered. Ohio State came out the gate slow, and never sped up. After losing the first half by 3 points, Ohio State was destined for a second half run but it never came.
The team was being carried on the shoulder of EJ Liddell, while Duane Washington missed shot after shot. Washington had a chance to win the game for Ohio State in regulation, but missed and the game would go to overtime. In overtime, Ohio State found themselves down 3 with less than 10 seconds left in the game. They missed their first attempt, but Washington would get a wide open look, where he would miss it, and Cinderella had officially crashed the ball. From Ohio State’s offensive mistakes, to the amazing offensive play by Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor, many brackets were busted, and many fans had their hearts shattered.
So where did Ohio State go wrong? Was it the game against Michigan, was it the absence of Kyle Young, or was it just simply the player playing more poorly? It was a mix of all of those things, as Ohio State lost all their momentum going into the tournament, and ultimately fell in the first round. The Buckeyes were a team that disappointed many people in this year’s tournament, but expect them to be back next year with more fire than ever.