|Who:||Ohio State Buckeyes (19-12, 11-7)|
|When:||Thursday, 6:30 p.m. ET|
|Where:||Bankers Life Fieldhouse|
|Vegas Line:||Ohio State -6|
|Enemy Blog:||Land Grant Holy Land|
The last time Penn State played Ohio State, the Buckeyes were kind of an enigma. They were good enough to beat Kentucky on a neutral floor, but bad enough to lose to Louisiana Tech at home. With the regular season behind us, it's quite clear what kind of team Ohio State is: a more talented version of Penn State. They lost to every team ahead of them in the Big Ten standings except for Iowa, beat every team below them in the conference, and got blown out against the Big Ten's four-best teams. They're just as capable of competing with Purdue until the final minutes as they are capable of struggling to put Illinois away in OT. They can shoot lights out and go scoreless for four minutes in the same game.
In their only meeting of the season, Penn State ran into the good version of the Buckeyes, all while playing without Josh Reaves. Additionally, Shep Garner played on a bum ankle and struggled, going 1-for-9 from the field with 3 points. Those two constraints won't be an issue for the Lions this time around.
Scouting The Opposition
Keita Bates-Diop went for 22 points on January 21, two off his season high. Jae'Sean Tate, the second-leading scorer in that game with 15 points, is out for the rest of the season. Without Tate, Ohio State slid Mickey Mitchell into the starting role and as expected, he has not been nearly as effective as Tate. This allows Penn State to focus on the other two players who burned them in the last meeting, Bates-Diop and Marc Loving. If the Lions are able to limit Loving and Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes will be hard-pressed to get production out of the rest of their cast.
What To Watch For
Will the #WhyNotUs bus catch on fire for two years in a row? If Penn State is able to effectively shut down Bates-Diop and Marc Loving, it stands a chance to win its opening Big Ten Tournament game for the second straight year. The Lions need to be aggressive from the start, employing a similar game plan to what they used against Illinois – force Ohio State to need a career game from one guy but make the rest of the cast ineffective. Lock down on defense, win the turnover battle, and avoid long droughts, and this should be an interesting game.
Ohio State is the team missing a key player this time around. Penn State is a much different team than what Ohio State saw the last time they played. The game will be close, with the team who makes their FTs coming away with the win. Penn State 69, Ohio State 67