College basketball scheduling frenzy not likely to impact Ohio State's daunting plans

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra

The talk of the college basketball world for the coming weeks will revolve around multi-team events, games in controlled environments and teams struggling to fill out their 2020-21 schedules. It’s a reality the sport has faced since the mid-September official recommendation to move the start of the season to Nov. 25, a plan that goes along with a reduction in the maximum number of games teams can play this season.

Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann reacts from the bench during a game against Wooster at Value City Arena on Nov. 5, 2017.

The NCAA DI Council approved a plan that will limit teams to a total of 27 regular-season games when factoring in multi-team events, a number that is 31 during a typical season. Further, the Council recommended that teams play at least four non-conference games, largely to help with seeding the NCAA Tournament that is scheduled to be held as usual after last year’s cancelation.

The change in start date, plus uncertainty over COVID-19 testing protocols and individual decisions by each conference regarding what their schedules will look like figures to make the coming weeks as busy as any since the sport was shut down last March.

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But while teams across the country are now grappling with canceled games, rescheduled multi-team events and possible controlled environments designed to play a maximum number of games in a short period of time, don’t expect to see Ohio State spending much time in the fray.

With a cap of 27 games, the Buckeyes’ schedule is largely full.

To start, the Big Ten is expected to play 20 conference games, a number that multiple sources have told The Dispatch is the likely outcome. Given that, Ohio State is in line to play seven non-conference games, three of which were set to take place prior to the new Nov. 25 start date: Oakland on Nov. 11, Niagara on the 15th and Akron on the 19th.

The season will start with an as-yet undetermined opponent as part of what was going to be the Battle 4 Atlantis. That event will be played in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, instead, and will go by an as-yet unannounced name. It will feature eight teams (although Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann mentioned during Monday night’s Buckeye Roundtable radio show that Duke is likely to withdraw and host its own event), giving the Buckeyes three games in the event. The remainder of the announced field is comprised of Creighton, Memphis, Texas A&M, West Virginia, Wichita State and Utah.

When they return to Columbus, they will have a maximum of only four more non-conference games to play – and two of them are already spoken for.

ESPN reported Tuesday that the annual ACC-Big Ten Challenge is expected to be played this year, and a source confirmed that report to The Dispatch. In addition, an annual appearance in the CBS Sports Classic the Saturday before Christmas is still scheduled to proceed, an event that will pit Ohio State against North Carolina this year at a to-be-determined location.

That leaves two more games for the Buckeyes to schedule, should they opt to do so. Indications are that they will attempt to close the schedule with two home “buy” games against mid- or low-major teams.

Without those two games, and without yet knowing the exact Big Ten schedule, we do know that the schedule will be difficult. The lowest-rated Big Ten team a season ago was Nebraska, which was ranked No. 162 according to No currently-scheduled member of the South Dakota tournament was ranked lower than 131 nationally last season, and the lowest-rated ACC opponent, Boston College, as No. 179 last year and is unlikely to be Ohio State’s draw in the cross-conference event.

Add it all up, and it figures to be one of the most challenging, high-level schedules the Buckeyes have possibly ever played – even if two “buy” games get thrown into the mix.