Ohio State man-handled Illinois 89-70 Tuesday night. After Mike Davis scored the opening basket for the Illini, it was all Ohio State as they led for the rest of the game. While the win came at home against a team that had lost 7 of its past 11 games, it was an impressive victory nonetheless for the Buckeyes. Not only did the Bucks win in impressive fashion, they did so after a brutal stretch in their schedule.
By: Justin Mertes-Mistretta
Following Ohio State’s loss to Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, OSU had to play Michigan State at home and travel to Purdue. The Buckeyes started the season 24-0 and held the No. 1 spot in both polls for four straight weeks before losing two of those three games. Sure, they lost two straight games on the road, but who wouldn’t have with that schedule? Purdue and Wisconsin are a combined 30-0 at home this season.
It’s hard to vote a team to be No. 1 after they lose two of their past four games, especially when a team, with the same amount of losses – Duke – doesn’t lose that week. However, when comparing resumes, Ohio State makes a far more impressive case for No.1.
Duke is 2-0 against the AP top 25, but both wins came early in the year against Michigan State at home and Kansas State, both of which are no where near the current top 25. Ohio State on the other hand is 4-2 against the top 25. The wins came against two similar underachieving top 25ers but also includes a road win against then No. 10 Florida and No. 12 Purdue at home. While many people wrote off the Florida win earlier in the year, it is looking better and better as the season progresses. The Gators lead the SEC and are projected as a No. 3 seed in ESPN’s Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology.
While both teams have suffered their two losses on the road, Duke’s are relatively much worse. The Blue Devils lost to a Florida State team that Ohio State beat by 14 points on the road. The Dukies also lost to a very sneaky St. John’s home team, but is still a worse loss than Ohio State’s at Purdue.
Finally, the Big Ten is a much tougher conference than the ACC from top to bottom. Once a powerhouse conference, the ACC has seen a decline over the past couple years. The ACC, which usually owns the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, has lost the past two years. Outside of Duke and North Carolina, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team from the ACC that will win a game in the tourney this year.
Sure, Ohio State has experienced many close calls – three point or less victories at Northwestern, vs. Penn State, and vs. Minnesota. None of these teams are contending for a National Championship, but they all had the then undefeated Buckeyes highlighted on their schedule.
Maybe the close wins have been a downgrade in the eye of the voters, especially compared to Duke, which has won by more than 10 in every win but two. But when has the eye-test ever been used in rankings? I suppose it’s kind of like combining religion and government, it’s inevitable.
Even if the voters do look at the eye-test, I’m not so sure Ohio State doesn’t win that vote too. The Buckeyes have four players averaging double digits in points, a great combination of youth, talent, and experience, and one of the best head coaches in the land.
If it’s any consolation, Ohio State is ranked No. 1 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings (kenpom.com – check it out, but make sure you have a couple hours to spare).
He has Duke ranked second.
When it is all said and done it won’t matter which team was ranked No. 1 in week 16 of the regular season. It matters which is No. 1 on April 4.
Justin Mertes-Mistretta is a senior editor for TheSport Bank.net. Follow him on Twitter at MertesMist_tsb or read his blog here.
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