Today’s Topic: How Does Kaleb Wesson’s Suspension Affect OSU’s Tourney Chances?
Heading into last Tuesday’s game against Iowa, the Buckeyes were in need of a quality win in order to make a plausible case to the NCAA selection committee that they belong in this year’s tournament.
They got exactly that with their 90-70 victory over the No. 22 Hawkeyes, and everything was looking great.
As long as there wasn’t a stumble on the road at Northwestern, it looked Ohio State had actually done enough to have most experts including them in the field of 68.
And then on Friday, Buckeye head coach Chris Holtmann announced that starting center Kaleb Wesson was suspended for a violation of athletic department policy.
Wesson currently leads OSU in scoring (14.6 ppg) and rebounding (6.7 rpg) and was growing increasingly comfortable in dealing with double teams. It wasn’t just his scoring and his rebounding that will be missed. Over the last few games, he has been passing the ball better than he had at any other point in his career.
Justin Ahrens’ 29 points against Iowa don’t happen without defenses collapsing on Wesson. His ability to find the open man — and Iowa’s inability to do the same — allowed Ahrens to shoot freely all game long. Without that same need to focus on Wesson’s replacement, the entire offense is going to struggle.
Now that being said, we have seen plenty of teams over the years step up when their best player goes down. Every person on the team knows they have to give more than they had been, and so they do. But that only lasts for so long. Ohio State played well against Purdue last year when Wesson was on the bench, but it took some Herculean efforts from the likes of Musa Jallow outside and Andre Wesson down low.
But the Purdue game is what it is. It wasn’t supposed to be an OSU win even with Kaleb Wesson. The more important games are the two after — at Northwestern and home against Wisconsin.
With Wesson, both of those games are winnable. The Buckeyes were headed to a .500 record in conference play, which would have certainly been good enough to lock them into the NCAA Tournament.
Without him, a loss to Northwestern would be disastrous. The committee would understand why Ohio State lost, but when was the last time they gave the Buckeyes any kind of benefit of the doubt when it came to seeding or placement or inclusion?
A loss to Northwestern would have to be canceled out with another quality win, which could be Wisconsin, or could be their second game in the Big Ten Tournament.
Wesson will be back this season, but if he isn’t back during the regular season, the Buckeyes are going to have a much more difficult time bringing home what they seemingly secured last Tuesday against Iowa.
And if they fail to get the job done, it will be really easy for people to point the finger at the reason why.