Ohio State Basketball: Buckeyes Need Strong Big Ten Tournament for March Madness Berth

Feb 18, 2024; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes interim head coach Jake Diebler yells from the bench during the first half of the NCAA men’s basketball game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Value City Arena. Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch

Jake Diebler has his Ohio State Buckeyes on a roll since he took over as head coach when Chris Holtmann was fired in mid-February.

Before Diebler was promoted, Ohio State Basketball was 14-11 and nowhere near an NCAA Tournament bid. But the long-time Buckeye assistant coach took the team’s struggles as motivation to make his team better and shock the basketball world. Ohio State went from having a single Quad One victory to having five Quad One and Two victories in the past two weeks.

Diebler has not had an easy path as the head coach, though. He was promoted five days before welcoming second ranked Purdue to Value City Arena. Purdue was seen as unbeatable for a struggling Ohio State basketball team which fired its head coach earlier in the week.

I attended the game on February 18th, which will go down as one of the best moments in Ohio State basketball history. Coach Diebler’s first game as head coach finished with the first court storming by the nuthouse since 2021 when the Buckeyes upset No. 1 ranked Duke Blue Devils.

The student section flowed out onto the court as Buckeye Nation celebrated on the Block O while singing Carmen Ohio to end the afternoon.

Diebler changed the energy in the locker room and has completely shifted the culture and how the Buckeyes have been playing on the court.

The win against Purdue put the Ohio State back in the news of Bracketologists as a team that could possibly make a late season run to the tournament. Sitting at dead last in the Big Ten, the Purdue win put hope back into Buckeye Nation. Games would have barely 8,000 people in the stands would grow to having on average 13,000-14,000 fans after Diebler took over.

As of March 12th, the Buckeyes are on the Next Four Out for majority of Bracketologists with the Big Ten Tournament being do or die for their hopes.

Ohio State has a favorable side of the bracket with their first matchup coming against 7-seed Iowa, another team on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

The winner of the game Thursday night will still maintain bubble status, as the loser will start getting prepared for an NIT run. If the Buckeyes were to pull off the upset against the Hawkeyes, then that would put them in a matchup with 2-seed Illinois which beat Ohio State by thirteen earlier this season. If Ohio State were to pull off another upset that might be enough to push them into the Last Four In conversation.

— NKY Bracket Guy (@BracketNky) March 11, 2024 

However, if Ohio State can pull off back-to-back upsets, they would make the Big Ten semifinals for the second straight year. Only this time they would face either Michigan/Penn State/Indiana/Nebraska depending on the previous outcomes. If they can make the Big Ten finals that would surely be enough for an at-large bid into the tournament.

Right now, this is all speculation. The Big Ten tournament decides the fate of the Buckeyes rollercoaster season. Jake Diebler has done a fantastic job rebounding what was heading to be another disappointing season into a much-needed improvement. Once again Ohio State can shock the basketball world in the Big Ten Tournament like they did a year ago. 

The next two to four games are the most important of the season. Win two 0r three out of the four games, then the committee will have to think very hard not to include the red-hot Buckeyes in the Field of 68. Win the whole tournament and the Buckeyes earn an auto bid with the upmost momentum. Likely receiving an 8-10 seed in the tournament, Ohio State would get a chance to continue writing their miracle story. 

If the Buckeyes are unable to make the NCAA Tournament, the new NIT rules state the top two NET rated teams in each Power five conference who do not make the tournament would receive an automatic bid to the NIT. This still gives Ohio State a chance to play for something even if they get left out of the big dance.

Ohio State takes on Iowa in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament Thursday March 14th at 6:30 PM on BTN Network.