A lot of people expected the Ohio State Buckeyes to be in the title game of the Big Ten Tournament. Very few people outside of Happy Valley expected their opponent to be the Penn State Nittany Lions. But that's the match-up we'll have in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament from Conseco Fieldhouse this afternoon.
The Buckeyes got here by defeating Northwestern on Friday afternoon by a score of 67-61, and besting the Michigan Wolverines yesterday, 68-61. This will be Penn State's fourth game of the tournament. They started things by beating the Indiana Hoosiers on Thursday night, 61-55. They then moved on to the quarterfinals, where they defeated the Wisconsin Badgers by a score of 36-33, and got past the Michigan State Spartans yesterday afternoon, 61-48.
Over at Along the Olentangy, they seem pretty confident of their chances to cut down the Conseco Fieldhouse nets this afternoon.
Ohio State's biggest offensive advantage over Penn State is in their diversity of scorers, and the path to taxing the Penn State defense was set out in the last battle between these two teams. Forwardand guards and the aforementioned Diebler all scored double digits against the Lions on March 1st, while Battle was held in check by a stifling Buckeye defense. If the Buckeyes can continue their offensive efficiency from that game, they should stretch the Nittany Lions across the court and pick up right where they left off. Everything works off of Sullinger, and when the freshman phenom is on, the entire Ohio State offense is on. When the Nittany Lions spent two bodies on guarding Sullinger in the paint, Buford had an easy lane to the basket and Diebler had space to shoot his 3's.
Four of their five starters are seniors, and that experience has helped them play a bit above their statistical bearing. The defensive turnaround is truly bizarre, but I attribute that to desperation for an NCAA tournament berth and poor shooting from opponents. It is a tournament, so anything can happen, but Penn State's failure to launch on Senior Night has removed any fear I have of them. They're a solid team with a great player in Talor Battle, but we've already seen what happens once Battle is bottled up and the opponent is shooting well. I don't expect another 21-point victory, but I also don't expect another nail biter like the first game against the Nittany Lions in Columbus.
However, over at Black Shoe Diaries, they think they have a pretty good shot at pulling off the upset.
Penn State's senior class might well be heading to the NCAA Tournament by day's end, win or lose, but it has never beaten Ohio State. You can bet that's somethingan Co. would like to check off their college career bucket list in their final conference game. It's not going to be easy by any means. The Buckeyes have an extra day of rest and a deeper bench to throw at a paper thin Penn State lineup playing its fourth game in four days, but it's hard to beat a team three times in one season. With two games between these teams already in the books, Ohio State will have no secrets against Penn State. The question is whether the Lions can make the most of what they know is coming.
Tip-off for the Big Ten Tournament Championship is set for 2:30 PM Central time, and you'll be able to watch all of the action on CBS.