Before the Buckeyes host Purdue tomorrow night at 7 PM in The Schottenstein Center (ESPN) it’s a given this is a huge game for both teams.
After the Boilermakers and Ohio State contest concludes this game will still be thought of that way.
I’ve struggled to write much lately. The Holidays seem to get busier and busier each year.
I had a good start on a Christmas piece that would’ve handed out presents to Ohio State fans, coaches and players, but the tone was wrong and I needed to rethink and edit if I was going to publish.
It’s been since the UCLA game since I’ve posted anything. The Buckeyes are still struggling to consistently execute, contest after contest, a game plan to show they can dominate an opponent.
Sunday evening’s game at Illinois, after nine days off, was problematic for this team to overcome. The first half exposed a lack of cohesion on defense. In the second half, Ohio State, and particularly, JaQuan Lyle, played much better but couldn’t earn the win.
Possibly the lack of quality play by the Buckeyes in that first half was due to having to knock off the rust of being off for an extended period of time. Let’s hope so.
(As an aside, I hope KBD and Micah Potter were able to heal during that period.)
Now tall, lengthy and athletic Purdue comes to town. The Boilers lost at home in overtime to Minnesota on Sunday. I watched that game. Minnesota surprised me and showed excellence in multiple phases of the game, exhibiting length, skill, and the relentless, effective style of play I’m sure the Minnesota Athletic Department was hoping Richard William Pitino would bring to The Barn.
The Boilers showed well in taking the Gophers to overtime. They are formidable, as well. Caleb Swanigan reminds me in some ways of Glenn ‘Big Dog’ Robinson in terms of body type and results.
He is a more mobile Jared Sullinger.
Massive Isaac Haas provides a unique challenge for an Ohio State team who cannot afford to get beat beat up inside trying to defend his size. Trevor Thompson is going to have to play at the very tip-top of his ability. Any fouls he gets called for have to be quality. Effort, yes. Non-productive effort, no.
Boiler guards PJ Thompson and Carsen Edwards are small, but quick and athletic. Freshman Edwards is a super ball of energy, not always effective, but able to cause havoc.
Ohioan’s Dakota Mathias and Vince Edwards can get things done, as can sharp-shooter Ryan Cline.
Neither team can afford to lose tomorrow night considering both have difficult challenges in their next contest. Ohio State travels to Minnesota. Purdue will host Wisconsin.
If Purdue wins it should breathe a sigh of relief having solidified it’s place among the Big 10 contenders with a conference road win in it’s first try inside the schedule.
If Purdue loses, and then loses to Wisconsin Sunday, the Boilers will have a record of 1-3 and will have ceded a tie breaker advantage to another possible championship team. Sunday’s game is the only time Wisconsin and Purdue meet this season.
If the Buckeyes win, it will be a huge boost to a group searching for confidence. Making the NCAA tournament is a goal for the Buckeyes this season. Purdue brings respect to the table with the tournament committee. Winning provides energy to Ohio State as it heads to Minnesota in The Barn Saturday. Winning conference games at home is a must. Having and sustaining positive momentum is important.
On the other hand, losing to Purdue would continue to poke holes in the Buckeyes psyche. Having already lost at Illinois, then playing two strong teams in Purdue and the Gophers, Ohio State could end up at 0-3 in conference, with a game at Wisconsin looming next.
I hate to say it, but a possible blow out loss would be the worst case scenario. It is for most teams but thinking back to last season, where the Buckeyes lost games against some of the best Big 10 teams by wide margins, it would not signal good things going forward to have it happen tomorrow night.
So, yes, tomorrow night is big for Ohio State.
I know these guys are working hard. As a group I feel they are improving. As a fan, I badly want them to win a game of magnitude. The one tomorrow night against Purdue qualifies. If that’s how I feel, imagine how these young people must think about it.
I hope there is a large and rowdy crowd inside The Schottenstein Center when the Buckeyes and the Boilermakers crash into each other!
Let’s Go Buckeyes!