Buckeyetology: Ohio State on the Outside Looking In For NCAA Tournament

By Andy Anders on January 25, 2024 at 11:35 am
Chris Holtmann
Dylan Widger – USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State's NCAA Tournament résumé stayed stagnant this week, at best.

Stagnation isn't something the Buckeyes can afford at this time.

A Quadrant 1 loss to Nebraska, even if it came in decisive 83-69 fashion, ultimately doesn't do too much to harm Ohio State's standing for the tourney. By the same token, however, a Quadrant 3 win over Penn State isn't doing much to boost that CV, either.

Other teams around the country, meanwhile, have boosted their NCAA Tournament cases with wins in the first two quadrants.

As a result, Ohio State is now on the outside looking in when it comes to the Big Dance. Its Big Ten standing isn't much better.

NCAA Tournament outlook

Seventeen more major bracket projections have been added to Bracket Matrix, the main aggregator used for this segment, since the last edition of Buckeyetology. With 78 projections now cataloged, the Buckeyes are projected to make the NCAA Tournament in only six of them.

Key Numbers: Ohio State
Overall Record 13-6
Home 9-2
Away 0-4
NET 59th
Q1 Record 1-2
Q2 Record 0-4
Strength of Schedule 121st

That's 7.7% of all brackets. Last week, Ohio State was making the tournament in 40 of 61 brackets (65.6%).

Looking at some of the most notable projections, the Buckeyes have fallen from being one of the last four teams in Joe Lunardi's "Bracketology" to not even being one of the first eight teams outside the tournament picture.

Ohio State also falls outside the first four teams out for CBS Sports' Jerry Palm.

Their snubs of the Buckeyes line up with the larger national scene. 77 teams currently appear in more Bracket Matrix brackets than Ohio State, leaving the Buckeyes as the 10th team on the outside looking in. The first four of that group, James Madison, Drake, Nevada and Colorado appear on 37, 34, 32 and 30 brackets, respectively.

FOX forecaster Mike DeCourcy has the Buckeyes among his first four teams out, at least, joining Texas, Providence and Gonzaga.

Ohio State needs to start picking up some Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 wins in Big Ten play to improve its tournament résumé. A combined 1-6 record in those games just isn't getting the job done. While the depth of the conference has boosted the Buckeyes' overall strength of schedule, their nonconference schedule ranks 266th in college basketball.

The Buckeyes' NET ranking has also never been lower this season, as they are now 59th in the country, one spot behind a 14-5 WCC team in San Francisco.

Chances are going to start running out soon to change the tide, but Ohio State has two opportunities to do so in the next week. After a jump in the NET rankings, Northwestern is now considered a Quadrant 1 game for the Buckeyes on Saturday, being on the road.

That's an important upcoming game for Ohio State in general, one that feels necessary for the Buckeyes to win with the team now riding a 13-game road losing streak.

Then, the Buckeyes return home to play No. 10 Illinois, who is 11th in the NET rankings for another Quadrant 1 game.

If Ohio State takes one of those contests, it should cling to the bubble. If it wins both, it could jump right back into the NCAA Tournament picture.

That's easier written than done, however.

Big Ten outlook

Now at 3-5 in conference play, Ohio State is in a four-way tie for ninth league-wide with Minnesota, Maryland and Penn State. Rutgers (2-5) and Michigan (2-6) are the only teams with worse records in Big Ten action.

Right now, the Buckeyes are fighting just to get a singular bye in the Big Ten Tournament, awarded to the conference's top 10 teams while the bottom four duke it out on day one in Minneapolis.

A double bye, awarded to the top four teams, already seemed out of reach last week but now seems practically impossible. Ohio State would need to win nine or 10 of its 12 remaining games to have a prayer of reaching that echelon. With losses for the Buckeyes in four of their last five games, that doesn't feel feasible.

Winning fixes all. But Ohio State is starting to run out of opportunities to start stringing some wins together.

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