The schedule worked out perfectly for the Buckeyes. Absolutely perfectly. Sure, Ohio State has one loss on the hardwood, but the 12-1 Buckeyes have as much momentum as anybody entering the Big Ten part of the schedule.
Ohio State is going to be one of the most rested teams in the country as the conference season begins later this week. The Buckeyes have played 11 of their 13 games in the friendly confines of the Schottenstein Center, and the team will have had six days off before it suits up to face Northwestern at home Dec. 28.
Many of the Buckeyes' games have been against second-tier opponents looking to upset a national powerhouse. Ohio State used these contests as a chance to work with different units and to establish a defensive presence that is as potent as the offensive part of the game. It also gave players time to adjust or heal as necessary. And of course, no one should forget the wallopping Ohio State gave to Duke.
The results are promising. Just take a look at Ohio State's road win against South Carolina Dec. 17. Jared Sullinger exited the game early with an injured foot, and the Buckeyes were left to face a Southeastern Conference opponent on the road without their top scorer. But that proved to be a feasible feat when the team rolled en route to a 74-66 victory.
So far, that's been Ohio State's only road win. The lack of road games might be the weakest part of the Buckeyes' schedule thus far. Their only other road game ended as an 11-point loss to Kansas. The Buckeyes' home game against Northwestern is the only contest that stands between them and a hostile road game against the ranked and undefeated Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana will be coming off a game against Michigan State on the road, probably better preparing the Hoosiers to face the Buckeyes than playing Northwestern will prepare Ohio State.
But at the end of the day, Ohio State has plenty of be proud of. The Buckeyes have one of the best rotations in the country, and for once their inside presence does not fall on the shoulders of one very big man. The other forwards have proven they can step up when Sullinger is in foul trouble, injured, or simply not at the top of his game.
There is extra pressure on the Buckeyes this season, too. The team has underachieved in its recent appearances in the NCAA Tournament, and the football team will not be pursuing a championship during the 2012 season. Sullinger could dart to the NBA draft after this season (or next), and this is William Buford's last season in an Ohio State uniform.
Things are looking up for the Buckeyes this season, but even with a very young team, this might be the best chance Ohio State gets to add another banner to the rafters at the Schott.
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