The No. 17 Ohio State men’s basketball team again fell short in heartbreaking fashion to Penn State, losing by one Friday on a near-last-second shot that sent it back to Columbus after just one game in the Big Ten tournament.
But unlike last year, when the Buckeyes fell to Rutgers in their first game of the conference tournament, their season is not yet over.
Despite being sent home from the Big Ten tournament after just one game for the second season in a row, the Buckeyes are not dwelling on past failures in preparation for the challenge March Madness presents.
Senior forward Jae’Sean Tate, one of only three players on the team when Ohio State last reached the NCAA Tournament, said he expects every potential team the Buckeyes could face to pose a challenge with “multiple great players” on every team.
“Everybody who knows about dancing knows that it’s a whole different energy and environment in March. With that, we’ve got to be prepared,” Tate said after the game Friday. “Every team is going to have great scouting and at the end of the day it’s going to come down to tough plays and just the more connected team.”
But the Scarlet and Gray have quite a bit of time before their next game. With the Big Ten tournament being moved ahead one week to play in New York and the first round of the NCAA Tournament not beginning until March 15, Ohio State has a near two-week layoff before it plays its next game.
This break presents a situation that nobody on this Ohio State team has experienced before. It is rare for a team to have such a drastic layoff, and the players will have to focus on balancing the painful loss to Penn State and the time off, leaving the Buckeyes without a clear plan on how to best move forward.
Senior guard Kam Williams said he is expecting a hungrier team that will be ready to get back on its “P’s and Q’s.”
“We got to keep our approach consistent because we don’t know who we got to play,” Williams said. “So all we can do is focus on ourselves and just look at everything that we did wrong today and focus on us and what we can do to get better for any situation that’s thrown at us.”
Penn State clearly has the answer on how to beat Ohio State, which gives the Buckeyes plenty of film to mull over ahead of the NCAA Tournament if they are matched up with a similar team.
Many teams will have star players like Penn State’s sophomore guard Tony Carr, who presents the Buckeyes with a clear matchup problem with his size and top-tier scoring ability and played a big role in their three losses. The Buckeyes will need to be ready to face that level of talent in order to keep their season alive.
“Especially in the [NCAA] Tournament, you’re going to play against studs and obviously Tony Carr is a stud for [Penn State],” redshirt senior guard Andrew Dakich said. “That helps us in a sense and obviously you want to play, you want to move on and have the opportunity to make it to the next round.
“It’s like win or go home. That’s a cliche saying, but it’s true. We gotta wait like two weeks to play, which kind of stinks. But to have this opportunity, we get a second chance.”