Time to take stock of Ohio State by deciding how much to invest in men’s basketball, remembering that past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Are the Buckeyes a buy or a sell? Based on their up-and-down performance thus far, going all-in is risky. That said, it is worth noting what OSU was doing a year ago, especially considering how closely this season mirrors last. In a volatile market like college hoops, previous trends can shed light on where things may be headed.
You don’t need to be a wolf of Wall Street to predict how Ohio State will fare as it moves into the Big Ten tournament the Buckeyes open against Purdue at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and then into the NCAA Tournament. Simply analyze the numbers at similar points of the 2018-19 and current seasons to see if you should invest or flee.
Then: Last season’s Buckeyes fashioned a 12-1 record through Christmas before the wheels came off. They dropped five straight games and six of their next seven, then followed with three consecutive wins.
Now: The current Buckeyes went 11-1 through Christmas before losing four in a row and six of the next seven, followed by three consecutive wins.
Then: Ohio State sputtered after righting the ship, with three losses in five games through late February. Then Kaleb Wesson’s three-game suspension contributed to three straight losses and an 18-13 mark entering the Big Ten tournament.
Now: After it appeared they turned a corner with three consecutive wins into early February, the Buckeyes lost two of their next four before things clicked again. They have won four of their last five and nine of their last 12 to improve to 21-10.
A bull market? Perhaps, except what to make of Sunday’s 80-69 loss at Michigan State in the regular-season finale? It could be that Ohio State struggled because of tired legs, which is understandable. Coach Chris Holtmann is using a six-man rotation until (if?) Kyle Young returns from his ankle sprain and (if?) freshman D.J. Carton becomes available. He took a leave of absence in late January to deal with mental health issues.
It appeared the No. 19 Buckeyes ran out of gas defensively against the No. 16 Spartans, but don’t read too much into it. Michigan State senior Cassius Winston (27 points) used Senior Night to showcase his last game at the Breslin Center. Winston will be playing in the NBA next season. He’s going to make teams lacking NBA-caliber talent look bad.
It would not be a shock if the Buckeyes bounce back against Purdue, which they defeated by 16 points at home on Feb. 15. If so, they get a rematch with Michigan State on Friday.
A similar scenario played out last season, when the unranked Buckeyes played No. 6 Sparty in the quarterfinals after dispatching Indiana in the second round. Michigan State won 77-70, in part because Wesson played only 16 minutes, finishing with seven points and three rebounds before fouling out.
Are the current Buckeyes better than last year’s version at the same point of the season? Yes, but not significantly so. Last year’s team ranked 151st in offensive efficiency; this one is 43rd. The current group ranks 191st in turnovers per possession, exactly where last year’s team was at this time.
Recall that last year Keyshawn Woods exited basketball’s version of the witness protection program — the senior guard remained hidden for much of the season — to spark Ohio State to a 62-59 win against No. 24 Iowa State in an NCAA first-round game before OSU lost 74-59 to No. 11 Houston in the second round.
The Buckeyes will need a similar uptick from someone later this month if they are to reach the Sweet 16. Perhaps Luther Muhammad fires up some offense? Even then, investors should be wary. Ohio State is worth taking a risk on for one NCAA win. After that, the ROI looks bearish.