First posted at Inside The Shoe
The majority of people I have spoken to and heard on various sports shows seem to agree that losing at least one game during the regular season helps a team in the long run. They don't have to deal with any questions about an undefeated season and can just focus on the game at hand. I do not buy into this philosophy, for several reasons. Ask any of the players on the team that question, if they think they need to lose a game in order to win the championship.
I would expect every single one of them to confidently respond "No". David Lighty, William Buford, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale; they all know what it is like to lose regular season and tournament games. Jared Sullinger's Columbus Northland team lost in the State Championship last season after winning it the year before. Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas each lost games throughout their high school careers. My point is it's not like none of the players know what it is like to lose. All of the guys on this team know what it is like to win championships (be it state high school titles or Big Ten or high school conference championships) and know what it is like to lose in tournament games.
The Buckeyes have also had plenty of nail-biters this year. The last game against Northwestern, at Iowa, at Illinois, and at Michigan, as well as home games against Minnesota and Penn State. All of these games were decided by 5 points or less and went down to the last possession or two. So it's not like the Buckeyes haven't been tested all year. They went on the road and beat two very good teams in Florida and Florida State before conference play even started. In their biggest game of the year, they beat #10 Purdue at home by 23, and the game was never in doubt. If your team has more talent, better coaching, and is just plain better than every other team (and all these may be true about the Buckeyes), then there really is no reason for that team lose.
Now, while I don't think the Buckeyes need to lose a game before March, I do think it is very possible they will drop at least one contest. With a home and home against Wisconsin, rematches with Minnesota, Purdue and Illinois, a home game against Michigan State, and then the Big Ten Tournament, it would be easy for Ohio State to slip up once or twice. Ohio State has had off games this year and still prevailed because they are the most complete team in the country. If they are having a cold shooting night, they can go inside to Sullinger. If teams crowd the paint, they can drain open jumpers. If a team tries to slow the game down to limit Ohio State's offensive possessions (see: Northwestern), they can fall back on their superb defense.
Only 7 teams have gone undefeated and won the NCAA National Championship since 1900. It isn't easy to do. No team has done so since Indiana in 1976. Ten teams have had undefeated regular seasons and lost in the post-season tournament (including the 1961 Buckeyes, who were 27-0 before losing to Cincinnati in the Championship game...). Numerous others lost in conference tournaments. If Ohio State loses before the NCAA Tourney, it's not the end of the world. But I won't be panicking if this team is undefeated heading into March, because they very well could be the 8th team to run the table for the entire year, and that is what every fan should be hoping for.