Buckeyes headed back to Indianapolis, where they hope to play — and win — this time
Just like they did during this week on last year’s calendar, the Ohio State men’s basketball team will board a Wednesday bus pointed toward Indianapolis. The Buckeyes will pack clothes for a lengthy stay, hopes of a deep tournament run and the belief that they can take the first steps toward a March to remember.
The difference is that this year they should get the chance, and they sort of need it. The Buckeyes were in Indianapolis when the 2020 Big Ten tournament was canceled roughly seven hours before their Thursday game with Purdue was to tip off. This year’s team, carrying a four-game losing streak that includes Saturday’s 73-68 loss to Illinois, was to arrive Wednesday evening and await the winner of a game between No. 13 Minnesota and No. 12 Northwestern at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Prior to departure this year, Holtmann said last year’s weirdness hadn’t yet crossed his mind.
“It might be a little déjà vu,” Holtmann said. “At that point everything was normal. Restaurants were full. The hotel was buzzing, and then it wasn’t buzzing as much once everything started to shut down that early morning. It’ll be interesting to see how we feel, but I think all of us will just be focused on (who we play).”
The Wildcats and Golden Gophers each present issues. Northwestern split the season series with the Buckeyes, while Minnesota handed Ohio State its largest defeat of the season when it won 77-60 on Jan. 3. Since then, the Gophers lost 12 of their final 15 games and entered the postseason on a seven-game losing streak. Should Ohio State win Thursday, it will face No. 4 seed Purdue, which swept the season series, Friday afternoon.
The days of rest have been critical for a few reasons. They’ve allowed the Buckeyes to work on themselves a little bit more without a known opponent to plan for, and they’ve also allowed a few guys to work their way closer to full health.
Holtmann said Justice Sueing, who has been dealing with a groin injury in recent weeks, underwent an unspecified procedure after the Illinois loss and would return to practice Wednesday after sitting out during the week. Senior Kyle Young continues to shake off the effects of a concussion that kept him from being the same player during his past two games, and his legs are benefitting from the rest. The same has gone for Musa Jallow (ankle) and Seth Towns (knee), both of whom have been limited lately.
“It’ll be interesting to see if we get beyond game one what that (injury situation) looks like afterwards,” Holtmann said.
It’s been a while since that’s been an issue for the Buckeyes. The last time Ohio State played more than two games came in 2014, when it fell to top-seeded Michigan in the semifinals after beating No. 12 seed Purdue and No. 4 seed Nebraska along the way.
Since then, the Buckeyes are 3-5 in the Big Ten tournament with one-and-done appearances in 2017 and 2018. None of that matters much to a team that, after climbing as high as No. 4, will make the drive in search of some reward for what Holtmann said has often been positive play that hasn’t resulted in wins.
“Everybody’s in a good place,” Holtmann said. “But a lot of good things came from that (Illinois) game, and outside of the Iowa game there have been some good things to come out of this stretch. Guys are in a good place right here and ready to get into tournament play.”
Especially now that there will be a tournament to be played.
Ohio State vs. Northwestern or Minnesota
When: 2 p.m. Thursday
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)