The Ohio State men’s basketball team will host Florida State tonight in the 11th annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
For the Big Ten, the challenge has been a painful reminder that, over the last 10 years, it has been an inferior opponent to ACC. While some years have been closer than others, such as last season’s 6-5 defeat, the fact remains that the Big Ten is winless.
But this season might finally be the time when the Big Ten can flex its proverbial muscles.
With several teams ranked in the Top 25, the conference could finally show it can hang with its opponent from the East Coast.
The Buckeyes will not concern themselves with the struggles of the entire conference. They must worry about themselves.
Florida State is a “very, very good basketball team,” OSU coach Thad Matta said. “They are a team that is obviously on a roll right now winning the Old Spice Classic, which is a great event. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
Like the Tar Heels, who handed the Buckeyes their only defeat of the season thus far, the Seminoles are big and physical.
Matta said he thought both teams would try to force the opposition to play their style of basketball. OSU, being undersized, will try to play fast, while a bigger Florida State team will try to slow the pace of the game.
“They have a lot of different options of how they can play with their size and what their big guys are capable of doing,” Matta said. “One of the biggest challenges when you play a team like this is you’ve got to take great care of the basketball, and you must get good shots the majority of the time down the floor.”
OSU will rely on the penetration ability of junior point guard Evan Turner and its talented shooters, junior Jon Diebler and sophomore William Buford.
On Monday, Turner was named Big Ten Player of the Week for the third time in as many weeks. He also recorded OSU’s third-ever triple-double against Lipscomb on Nov. 24th, his second of the season.
“He’s a cerebral player,” Matta said of Turner. “He’s tuned into exactly what he needs to do. He’ll study and try to find ways that he can help us be effective.”
Last season the Buckeyes traveled to Coral Gables, Fla., and came from behind to defeat Miami in their challenge game.
However, OSU hasn’t fared much better than the Big Ten as a whole against the ACC, going 2-5 with it’s only other win over Virginia Tech in 2005.
Matta and Turner both discussed the Big Ten’s struggles and pointed to matchups as the reason why the conference has yet to come out on top. Both also made it clear, however, that all they can do is worry about OSU and that 1-0 is all that matters.
OSU and Florida State will be the last to play at 9:15. Potentially, the Big Ten could be counting on the Buckeyes to finally end the ACC chokehold.
“I guess if its 5-5, it’ll be like a championship or something,” Turner said with a smile. “We’ll cut the nets and send it to the Big Ten offices.”