You didn’t think those strange upsets in college hoops’ opening weekend last week would stop there, right?
Ohio State, you’re the next, and latest, victim.
The Buckeyes took a bad loss at home on a very busy night in college basketball, an interesting Friday in the sport (with more than 60 games taking place). No loss was more embarrassing than this one, though. OSU fell 73-68 to a team that went .500 against D-I competition last season, a Sun Belt program picked to finish eighth in the league for 2015-16.
Get this: It was the first nonconference home loss for Ohio State since 2008, and the first nonconference home loss to a team outside a major conference in more than 15 years. Texas-Arlington had multiple stretches were it held a nine-point lead.
So, yep, it’s not good. At least the football team’s still undefeated? That’s the reality at the moment for Ohio State. In the big picture, few people right now care about this loss, but it will no doubt hurt in a big way for Thad Matta’s team when the NCAA Tournament selection committee sifts through the résumés in mid-March. Nothing drops a team a seed line or two down like a home L to a program that fails to crack the RPI’s top 150. (And it’s possible UT-Arlington will wind up doing just that.)
The main issue: Ohio State is no doubt a team that misses D’Angelo Russell, arguably the most valuable freshman in the nation last season, a guy who was drafted No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers over the summer. The Buckeyes are trying to figure out how to replace all that Rusell brought to the table, and with 13 turnovers and just one steal against UT-Arlington, it’s clear there are grooves still to cut.
Matta probably burped up some disgust over his team going 13 of 27 from the foul line. Shooting below 50 percent from the free-throw line is brutal altogether, but to do it at home is all the more stunning. UT-Arlington’s Kevin Hervey led all scorers with 18.
OSU will try to get right Tuesday night with a home game against Louisiana Tech. A win there is important, because games against Memphis and Virginia come thereafter for the Buckeyes.