No. 13 Ohio State vs. Nebraska
When: 8 p.m.
Where: Value City Arena
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: OSU-IMG Sports Network (63 stations), Sirius 135/XM 196, WBNS-FM (97.1), WBNS-AM (1460)
Records: Ohio State 17-4, 8-0 Big Ten; Nebraska 14-7, 5-3
G C.J. Jackson, 6-1, Jr., 13.1
G Kam Williams, 6-2, Sr., 8.3
G Jae’Sean Tate, 6-4, Sr., 12.4
F Keita Bates-Diop, 6-7, Jr., 19.7
C Kaleb Wesson, 6-9, Fr., 11.3
Key reserves: C Micah Potter, 6-9, So., 4.4; G Musa Jallow, 6-5, Fr., 2.8; G Andrew Dakich, 6-2, Gr., 3.5; F Andre Wesson, 6-6, So., 2.2; F Kyle Young, 6-8, Fr., 1.9
G Glynn Watson, 6-0., Jr., 11.7
G Anton Gill, 6-3, Sr., 9.5
F James Palmer, 6-6, Jr., 15.8
F Isaiah Roby, 6-8, So., 7.4
C Isaac Copeland, 6-9, Jr., 12.3
Key reserves: G Evan Taylor, 6-5, Sr., 7.4; G Thomas Allen, 6-1, Fr., 4.1; C Tanner Borchardt, 6-8, Jr., 1.1; C Duby Okeke, 6-8, Sr., 0.8
After a taxing road trip brought in three more victories, Ohio State returns home to start a four-game homestand under challenging circumstances. With a one-day prep situation, the Buckeyes welcome in a Nebraska team that is one more big win away from playing itself onto the NCAA Tournament bubble midway through Big Ten season.
The Cornhuskers don’t appear anywhere in the Bracket Matrix, which compiles dozens of tournament projections. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Buckeyes as a No. 3 seed in his latest projection, but he doesn’t have Nebraska among either his first four out or his next four out.
Winners of seven of their last nine, the Cornhuskers are 5-8 against top-100 teams in the KenPom.com rankings but coming off a season-changing win. Thursday night, Nebraska throttled then-No. 23 Michigan, 72-52, at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Every Nebraska game after this one comes against a team lower in the Big Ten standings.
After beating Minnesota two days ago at Madison Square Garden, Holtmann addressed the challenge that was up next for his team.
“We have a very quick turnaround and an NCAA Tournament team in Nebraska, I believe, coming to our place on Monday,” he said.
The game is Ohio State’s fourth in nine days.
“It’s something we’re trying to monitor,” Holtmann said. “Our strength coach is doing some things. We’re taking some time (Sunday) with our high-minute guys and doing some extensive rehab and consultation with doctors. We’re keeping a close eye on some things. It is a concern for me. The number of minutes some guys have played, our staff kept telling me to pull guys late in the game. I’m a little more reluctant to do that than I probably should be. We need to have a good recovery day (Sunday), focus in on Nebraska and understand that we need to be ready to go.”
This could be as much a mental test as anything for the Buckeyes.
*He’s still leading the league in scoring and Ohio State is obviously still undefeated, but Keita Bates-Diop had a rougher go of things during that three-game road trip.
Entering the Jan. 14 game at Rutgers, Bates-Diop was shooting 52.5 percent from the floor and 38.8 percent from three. Those have dipped slightly after, during his last three games, Bates-Diop has shot 19 for 52 (36.5 percent) overall and only 2 of 16 (12.5 percent) from three.
Teams are obviously planning more for him than in the past, and Bates-Diop has not shied away from taking his shot despite the pressure. The first time an athletic team really challenged Bates-Diop was when Gonzaga did so in the opening game of the PK80 Invitational in Portland, and he took a season-low seven shots. It was the only time this season he didn’t reach double figures, finishing with seven points in a 27-point loss.
How well he shoots the ball today will be interesting. In its last eight games, Nebraska is holding teams to 38.8 percent shooting including 28.8 percent from three.
*Ohio State has climbed to No. 87 nationally in turnover percentage. The Buckeyes are also 11th in adjusted defensive efficiency (91.9) and 28th in adjusted offensive efficiency (115.1). The last time they finished in the top 30 in both categories was in 2014-15, when they finished 25th and 22nd, respectively.
*Nebraska is 1-5 in true road games this season. Its lone win came at Northwestern, which is playing at Allstate Arena while Welsh-Ryan Arena is being renovated. Those five losses have come by an average of 15.2 points, although the most recent was a two-point overtime loss at Penn State.
*The Buckeyes have already tied last year’s season win total.
What does KenPom say?
According to the advanced statistics of KenPom.com, Ohio State has an 86 percent chance to win today’s game. After climbing one spot to No. 11 in the national rankings following the win against Minnesota, Ohio State is projected to beat Nebraska by a score of 75-63. The Cornhuskers are ranked No. 67 in the country.
Further: Before going to Purdue on Feb. 7, Ohio State is given better than an 85 percent chance to win each of its next four games starting with tonight.
In today's Dispatch, a feature on Kaleb Wesson's growing stardom.
From Saturday's paper, my story on one former coach who saw C.J. Jackson's breakout coming.
From Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden, the lengthy postgame blog after a win against Minnesota.