Last year, Ohio State and Marquette were supposed to meet in the Carrier Classic, but condensation on the court aboard the USS Yorktown canceled that marquee non-conference match.
This year, the teams will start a home-and-home series in Milwaukee, where the 17th-ranked Golden Eagles will put their 27-game home winning streak on the line versus the No. 10 Buckeyes.
While both teams are trying to reload after reaching the regional finals of the 2013 NCAA tournament, both expect to be among the 68 teams with an opportunity to cut down the nets in Arlington, Texas at season's end. Ohio State (2-0) is expected to contend for the Big Ten title, while Marquette (2-0) was the preseason favorite to win the newly reconfigured Big East, and Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams is welcoming this challenge as an early season barometer that could prove beneficial for tournament seeding come March.
"If you study the numbers of coach Matta during his time at Ohio State, you can say any time you play them it's probably going to help you as far as your RPI is concerned," Williams said. "I think their 1 through 4s, they're all guards, some are smaller than others, some are longer than others, but they play with four perimeter players at all times and they put an incredible amount of stress on you in how they play because they're always going to have four guys on the floor who can shoot."
The Buckeyes did have some problems shooting the ball, though, on Tuesday night when they fended off Ohio 79-69 while making 40.9 percent of their shots. Aaron Craft scored 14 of his 18 points from the foul line and Amir Johnson added 14 and 10 rebounds as Ohio State amassed a 38-16 edge at the foul line.
''There was nothing specific said,'' said Craft, who scored nine of his team's final 12 points. ''With the way they were calling it, and we were in the bonus pretty early in the half, we just wanted to be as aggressive as possible. Fortunately enough, we were able to get to the free throw line. We need to make a few more, but that's definitely what won it down the stretch.''
Marquette had similar issues in winning its opener - shooting 36.1 percent in beating Southern but making 33 free throws - before making 54.9 percent of its shots in a 114-71 thrashing of Grambling State on Tuesday night. Chris Otule had 17 points to pace eight players in double figures for the Golden Eagles, who carry the nation's longest active Division I home winning streak into this contest following South Dakota State's 77-69 loss to Montana on Thursday night.
While Marquette likely won't match the 76 points it scored in the paint versus Grambling, both the 6-foot-11 Otule and 6-8 Davante Gardner do provide an advantage inside, with Gardner averaging a team-best 17.5 points.
Craft is one of five Buckeyes scoring in double figures at 11.5 points per game, and will be looking for Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Shannon Scott to continue their strong early perimeter shooting. The two have combined to make 10 of 20 from beyond the arc, and Ohio State is shooting 37.2 percent from 3-point range.
Ohio State leads the all-time series 5-4, but the teams have not met since an 82-70 Marquette victory on Nov. 30, 1994.