|Trey Burke takes it to the rim against Aaron Craft, something he did often Saturday night. (US PRESSWIRE)|
The good news for Ohio State is, the NCAA tournament isn't played on the road. The bad: they're not likely to be a one seed when they enter the Big Bracket.
OSU fell to 22-5 Saturday night -- all five of those scratches coming in road games -- when Columbus-bred superstar Michigan freshman Trey Burke cataylzed a 56-51 Buckeyes knock-off in Ann Arbor thanks to a couple of ridiculously tough floating layups in the final minute. Michigan's ascendance and Burke's superb year is another story for another time, perhaps even a post for tomorrow. What a nice home win for them tonight, one that should cement Michigan, at worst, as a five seed.
Ohio State's stumble is the bigger story, though. There's plenty of flux around college basketball's soft bubble right now. Teams like Southern Miss, Illinois, Connecticut, Mississippi State and North Carolina State are giving away games like flowers at a funeral. It's bad over there, but uncertainty abounds elsewhere, too.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ohio State's gotten wobbly on the one line. It's behind Michigan State now, clearly, and Kansas, UNC and Duke (in that order) are starting to cluster with the Buckeyes. Where they fall in the S-curve is a discussion we're better off waiting for until the end of Sunday's games, but in no way does OSU look like or deserve a one seed as of tonight. Additionally, OSU's 10-4 record and head-to-head loss against the Spartans (rematch coming on March 4 season finale -- in East Lansing) means Tom Izzo's team can take command of the conference if it can win at 17-9 Purdue on Sunday.
Ohio State never had the lead against Michigan, so it goes without saying -- yet here I am, saying it -- that the Buckeyes lacked a dominant look Saturday night. It's something that's been evident with this team ever since I wrote this. Many writers are quick to link back to work that makes them look good. Me? I'm an idiot, as many a commenter on this site has attested to. That link there is the latest example, as a reminder. Though I will follow that up by saying I hedged my bet in the post by stating OSU had to have wins over MSU and Michigan to remain in UK's class. Obviously, the test was failed and Kentucky looks leaps better than Thad Matta's team as of now.
The Buckeyes are still an extremely good team (still the best statistical defense against a decent schedule), but recent results and patterns of play suggest they aren't a great one. It's going to take a table run in the regular season and, minimally, a Big Ten title game appearance against someone who isn't Michigan State in order for OSU to earn the right to the one seed back.
It's clear this team lacks the depth, weapons and foul discipline it had a year ago. Only now is it catching up to them nationally.