This season has been a roller coaster tale for the No. 19 Ohio State basketball team, starting out fast, hitting a lull and then coming on strong.
Until December 29, the Ohio State basketball team looked unstoppable beating Cincinnati, Villanova and Kentucky. I would throw North Carolina in there too, but the Tar Heels are in the midst of their worst season in 20 years.
Then came the loss to West Virginia that began a slide when Ohio State went 2-5 in January. The Buckeyes slipped out of the Top 25 and looked vastly inferior to the team playing in December.
With the 71-63 win over No. 23 Illinois Thursday night, Ohio State has now won nine out its last 11 games. The Buckeyes are peaking and can really prove they are ready for the NCAA Tournament with a road win at No. 16 Michigan State on Sunday.
Can this team contend for the National Championship?
Buckeye Nation was thinking it back in December. January deflated their hopes.
In a season where most of the top teams have experienced rough patches, the notion of bringing home the title is not far-fetched anymore. At the very least, this team could make the program’s deepest run in seven years by making it out of the first weekend.
Maybe Chris Holtmann has a little magic in him to keep his team hot for the next few weeks.
Seeding and draw are important factors though. Here are a few possibilities:
The Buckeyes are bouncing all over in terms of projections, but I suspect they will be a No. 4 or No. 5 seed as long as they play until Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament.
If they wind up in the West they’ll play in Cleveland, but likely face Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 should they make it.
If they wind up in East, they’ll play in Tampa. The No. 1 seed in the East is a toss-up, likely going to San Diego State, Dayton or maybe even Florida State.
The Midwest would be difficult. The first weekend would be in Sacramento. If they make it out, Kansas is waiting in the Sweet 16.
If the Buckeyes land in the South, they’ll head West and play in Spokane. Like the East, the No. 1 for the South is not known, but Baylor might lock it down by the winning the Big 12 tourney. That’s a favorable route.