NEW YORK — Based on preseason expectations, Andre Wesson and his Ohio State teammates have already overachieved.
Although a 15-3 Big Ten record, a No. 13 national ranking and second-place finish in the conference standings have given the Buckeyes an unexpected national profile, the sophomore forward had something else on his mind as he looked forward to the start of the postseason.
“For me, I need my ring,” Wesson said Wednesday. “We didn’t get the regular-season one, so I’m just looking to go in there looking to get a ring, win it all.”
The Buckeyes open the Big Ten tournament Friday as the No. 2 overall seed and will face No. 7 seed Penn State at 6:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden. The matchup presents plenty of intrigue on its own based on how the regular-season series went, but it also is the first step toward a tangible piece of hardware.
It has been six years since Ohio State last won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and five since it won the conference tournament. This year's Buckeyes had a one-game lead in the standings with four games to play until consecutive losses knocked them from their perch.
“We were right there, but there was a point when we were controlling our own destiny but we didn’t do what it takes to handle our business and that’s on us,” junior guard C.J. Jackson said. “It’s just move onto the next task, try to get this ring, this week coming up.”
That starts with the Nittany Lions, who swept the Buckeyes this season. Ohio State’s 56 points at Penn State on Feb. 15 marked a season low, as did its .133 three-point shooting percentage (2 for 15).
The Buckeyes shot a conference-season-worst 38.9 percent from the field and had a season-high eight blocked shots. In Penn State’s victory in Columbus on Jan. 25, the Nittany Lions' 82 points and .583 shooting percentage were the worst marks allowed by the Buckeyes against a Big Ten opponent.
In its other 16 Big Ten games, Ohio State allowed teams to shoot 40.0 percent and average 62.9 points. Against the Buckeyes, Penn State shot 52.9 percent and averaged 80.5 points. And during the past three years, Ohio State is 2-3 in the Big Ten tournament including last year’s ugly first-round loss to Rutgers.
This tournament provides the Buckeyes a chance to turn the page on a number of fronts.
“I think there’s no question there are still plenty of questions about what we can be and do,” Holtmann said. “I talk to people all the time about that question if this group is going to be a quick out in both tournaments because of our lack of this or our lack of that.”
With that all in mind, it’s been fair to wonder: Would Ohio State really like another crack at the Nittany Lions?
“I would like one, but I have no preference,” Big Ten player of the year Keita Bates-Diop said with a smile Monday.