It’s always a massive struggle to generate mainstream interest in college basketball before February (and it always will be), but events like the CBS Sports Classic have the right idea. Football and the holidays will always be top of mind in December, and by a considerable margin, but the more marquee match-ups you can get schedule before conference season begins the better.
The #15 Ohio State Buckeyes will play their second game in just 17 days at Chicago’s United Center, and this one, 2 pm on Saturday against the UCLA Bruins, figures to draw a much bigger crowd than the previous contest. OSU handily beat the home state Illinois Fighting Illini, a once proud program that has completely fallen off the map, in front of pretty much just friends and family that Wednesday evening.
With an all blue-blood headliner, #9 North Carolina vs. #19 Kentucky tipping off (4:15 pm) after this one (game preview at this link), you can be certain that The House that Michael Jordan built will have at least thrice the “crowd” that OSU played in front of the last time they were here.
#15 Ohio State Buckeyes Preview:
The Buckeyes come 10-1, 2-0 in conference and ranked #14 in the coaches poll, #19 in Sagarin and #26 in Kenpom. Their only blemish of the season thus far was a ten pointer at the hands of an overrated Syracuse team. Chris Holtmann’s team has been playing some pretty good ball, and hopefully enough Ohio State Buckeyes fans have been able to take enough time away from Rose Bowl hoopla, Urban Meyer tributes and yuletide preparations to notice that.
It’s impossible not to root for junior forward Andre Wesson, who literally played with three broken teeth against a very underrated and gritty Bucknell team.
Wesson, as well as everybody else on this OSU team, was needed in order to make sure the Bison didn’t pull off the upset in Columbus.
His younger brother, Kaleb Wesson, enters this game having just scored a career high 31 in a rout over Youngstown State on Tuesday night. He’s the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, and thus the overall player to watch in this game. Also, keep an eye on Keyshawn Woods, Duane Washington Jr. and C.J. Jackson, the Buckeyes’ leading troika of three point shooters.
The Buckeyes have yet to record a true signature win this season, and it looks like the first real chance will come at home January 5th versus top ten Michigan State.
“The Michigans” appear to be the class of the Big Ten right now, with OSU, Wisconsin and Indiana all in contention to be the league’s third best team at this point.
UCLA Bruins Preview:
Obviously many UCLA fans have realized it already, but for those who have not, they must eventually come to grips with the fact that what they once had is gone forever and never coming back. It’s 23 years and counting now since the last national title (not bad by any means, at all, but a catastrophe when you look at this program’s history) and the program is led by a head coach, Steve Alford, who has never even achieved an Elite 8 despite being a Division I coach for 24 seasons.
As for this season, well our friends at Bruins Nation, on the SB Nation platform have summed it up best:
“The mood around UCLA basketball has turned ugly. A combination of widely felt embarrassment, evolving at an alarming rate toward an angry indifference toward the program’s long malaise, has led the scribes to coin a new term: Embifference, to capture the reality.”
As the article articulates, once again UCLA has a very talented squad that is vastly underachieving. Alford has been able to recruit at an elite level, but he just isn’t a big time winner. As for who he is off the court, well it’s been well documented and widely reported on already. The Bruins are fresh off a disastrous home loss to Belmont and they looked absolutely overmatched against the two good teams, North Carolina and Michigan State that they have played this season.
Overmatched is putting it lightly as the Spartans and Tar Heels both absolutely housed them. However, no matter they do against the Buckeyes here it will light years better than how they performed the last time they played in this event in this building.
In 2014, the first edition of this event, Alford brought another unranked UCLA team to town and they got paired up against a Kentucky side that finished the year 38-1.
UK started the game on a 24-0 run and went into break up 41-7. No, it’s not a typo. The 83-44 final score doesn’t actually do the game result true justice.
Prediction: Ohio State Buckeyes 74, UCLA Bruins 51
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, regularly appears as a guest pundit on WGN CLTV and co-hosts the “Let’s Get Weird, Sports” podcast on SB Nation.Follow paulmbanks