For years during the Thad Matta era, Ohio State was criticized by many for their lack of premier matchups in the non-conference.
Those criticisms won't stand during the second year of the Chris Holtmann era.
The Buckeyes are set to play two road games against teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last year (Cincinnati, Creighton) and a neutral site contest against UCLA as part of the CBS Sports Classic. Add in a home games against Syracuse and Patriot League power Bucknell, and Ohio State's upcoming schedule already features five teams that were in last year's Big Dance.
Prior to the 2018-19 season though, Ohio State's non-conference schedules have largely been dull.
In the final year of the Matta era, the Buckeyes played just two ranked opponents in the non-conference, losing to both UCLA and Virginia. What's more, Ohio State also lost to Florida Atlantic, a team that finished 10-20 on the season.
The 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons also featured just two games against ranked opponents, with Ohio State winning just one of those games (Kentucky, 2015).
Holtmann has openly advocated for a slightly more challenging schedule than Matta had at Ohio State, but this year could be the most challenging the Buckeyes have had in a long time.
Ohio State is set to open the season against the Bearcats, who are coming off of a 31-win season, and moving back into a renovated Fifth Third Arena. The Bluejays cracked the top-25 on multiple occasions last season before losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Kansas State. UCLA and Syracuse have been down in recent years, but the basketball blue-bloods still backed into the tournament last season, as the Orange advanced all the way to the Sweet 16 after much speculation as to whether or not they deserved to be in the Big Dance.
On the surface, it looks like a nice change of pace for the Ohio State basketball program to be playing in more competitive games, but it also a heavy risk. The Buckeyes are welcoming a handful of new players to the program this season, and the new-look team won't have much time to get acclimated in game situations before being thrust into the spotlight.
Of the 16 players on Ohio State's roster, only six played significant minutes last season. Overall, the team has six newcomers, while only five will be eligible to play in 2018-19 (CJ Walker will sit due to transfer rules). It remains to be seen whether or not this more difficult schedule will favor the Buckeyes or not, but it should at least create more competitive games early in the season, which could benefit the young team as the postseason arrives.