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Men’s Basketball: No. 22 Ohio State travels to face struggling Northwestern in first attempt to defend ranking

Ohio State sophomore guard Andre Wesson (24) looks to complete a pass in the second half of the game against Maryland on Jan. 11 in the Schottenstein Center. Dakich made three of four three point attempts in the first half aiding Ohio State to a 91-69 win. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

No. 22 Ohio State (15-4, 6-0 Big Ten) will take to the court for the first time as a ranked opponent Wednesday in Rosemont, Illinois, when it faces Northwestern (11-8, 2-4 Big Ten). The Buckeyes had not been ranked since the 2014-15 season and also are at No. 16 by KenPom.com and No. 23 according to RPI.

The first chance to defend those rankings will come at 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Adjusting to being ranked

This is not the first time a Chris Holtmann-coached team has been ranked. However for many of the players on the roster, it is the first time there is a number next to their team’s name. Only senior forward Jae’Sean Tate, redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop and redshirt senior Kam Williams were on the team the last time Ohio State was ranked.

Holtmann said he has not discussed the rankings with his players and does not plan on talking about it with them, but sophomore forward Andre Wesson said he couldn’t help but feel excited about being ranked.

“I can’t really put it into words,” Wesson said. “Just growing up in Columbus, just always hearing about Ohio State and just the down years that we had, people talking bad about us … It’s just good to be ranked again and people talking about us again.”

But as Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said after the Buckeyes upset the then-No. 1 Spartans, teams are going to start to view Ohio State a little differently. This team that began the season as an underdog will now see Ohio State as one of the top 25 teams in the nation.

Holtmann said his team is going to need to be ready because teams will no longer sleep on his squad, and opponents will now start to look at a matchup with the Buckeyes as a chance fortheir respective programs to earn a marquee win.

“I think probably there is an added energy in a lot of ways,” Holtmann said. “And I think our guys are going to need to be prepared and ready for that. We’ll see if they can handle that. Obviously, we’ve got a really, really full week ahead of us, but given where we’re at, I think that’s to be expected. We’re going to get a lot of people’s best shot.”

Projected Starters

Northwestern:

G — Scottie Lindsey — Senior, 6-foot-5, 210 lbs., 14.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1.8 apg

G — Bryant McIntosh — Senior, 6-foot-3, 200 lbs., 13.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 5.8 apg

F — Vic Law — Redshirt junior, 6-foot-7, 200 lbs., 12.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.1 apg

F — Aaron Falzon — Redshirt sophomore, 6-foot-8, 225 lbs., 7.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 0.6 apg

C — Dererk Pardon — Junior, 6-foot-8, 235 lbs., 11.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.1 apg

Ohio State:

G — C.J. Jackson — Junior, 6-foot-1, 175 lbs., 13.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 4.4 apg

G — Kam Williams — Redshirt senior, 6-foot-2 185 lbs., 8.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.6 apg

F — Keita Bates-Diop — Redshirt junior, 6-foot-7, 235 lbs., 20.3 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.3 apg

F — Jae’Sean Tate — Senior, 6-foot-4, 230 lbs., 12.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.8 apg

C — Kaleb Wesson — Freshman, 6-foot-9, 270 lbs., 11.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.2 apg

Scouting Northwestern

Ohio State has thrived throughout the 2017-18 season, but the same cannot be said of Northwestern. The Wildcats have just two Big Ten wins, their only victories against opponents ranked inside advanced statistics website KenPom.com top 100 best teams. Northwestern comes into this game with wins in only two of its past six games.

Northwestern has struggled the most in conference games. It ranks 13th with a 45 percent effective field goal percentage and has the fourth-highest offensive turnover rate at 19.2 percent.

Its offense lives and dies by the 3-pointer. It is 125th in the country in 3-point accuracy at 36.1 percent and has generated 35.1 percent of its total points from beyond the arc (86th-highest rate in the nation).

The Wildcats’ offense has been inconsistent this season, but it has almost always relied on point guard Bryant McIntosh to run the offense. Northwestern’s floor general has one of the highest assist rates of any guard in the nation, assisting on 36.4 percent of his team’s points while he is on the court. McIntosh also has produced the second-most points of any player for the Wildcats, scoring in double-figures in 11 of the team’s 19 games and more than 20 points three times.

“McIntosh is a great passer. Great vision,” Holtmann said. “He can make shots. He’s great at making plays in kind of the midrange too. Floater, mid-range, kind of reversing his course and using a shot fake. He can be really effective.”

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