The Ohio State basketball team's NCAA Tournament dreams dashed with loss to Illinois

The Ohio State basketball team needed a win over Illinois on Friday night to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes alive. They weren't able to get it.

Mar 14, 2024; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes interim head coach Jake Diebler celebrates
Mar 14, 2024; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes interim head coach Jake Diebler celebrates / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Ohio State basketball team was one of the hottest teams in the country heading into their clash with Illinois on Friday. They took down Iowa on Thursday to keep their slim March Madness hopes alive. A win against Illinois was needed to put themselves firmly on the bubble.

In the first matchup between the two teams, the Buckeyes lost by double digits. That was a different Buckeye team though. They had Chris Holtmann leading the team and that game in the middle of a five-game losing streak. Jake Diebler has a different team on his hands now.

It still didn't matter. The Ohio State basketball team fell to Illinois 77-74 after leading by as much as 10. Their NCAA tournament hopes are now likely dashed. They needed that Quad 1 win to help with their resume. Now, they will likely end up in the NIT.

Jamison Battle and Bruce Thornton were the two who were the leading scorers for the Buckeyes. They had 21 and 20 respectively. The lack of three-point shooting is what hurt them. They shot just 27% from deep, a far cry from the 55% they shot against Iowa.

With this loss, it's unclear whether or not Diebler will get the job after the season is over. It's between him and Dusty May for the job. We don't know whether or not Ross Bjork has seen enough from this team under Diebler to give him the job for the next few years.

This is a crushing loss for the Buckeyes. They were really expecting to win this game and move on to the NCAA Tournament. Instead, they end up losing a game they probably should have won. It's a tough pill to swallow for this team.

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Perhaps they get lucky with some other teams on the bubble. It seems unlikely though.