Buckeyes, Big Ten Struggling At Home

Despite its usual status as a security blanket, the Schottenstein Center hasn't exactly been kind to the Buckeyes, who have endured a 3-3 mark at home in Big Ten play since the start of 2014. A home court disadvantage isn't unique in the Big Ten to Ohio State, however, but the Buckeyes will look to bounce back at home in Wednesday's matchup with Northwestern.

Like Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, there's no place like home.

And for the Ohio State men's basketball team, that might be a good thing.

Before this year, you'd have to go back to the 2004-05 season -- Thad Matta's first in Columbus -- to find the last time that the Buckeyes lost three Big Ten games inside the friendly confines of the Schottenstein Center. But with more than two weeks remaining in the regular season -- and three home dates left on its slate -- Ohio State has already accomplished at least that much this season, although it's not just the Buckeyes who have fallen victim to an apparent home court disadvantage.

Winning at home hasn't come as easily as it has in past years in the Big Ten, with all but one team in the league (Michigan) having suffered multiple conference losses on their home courts. In the last week alone, Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, Illinois and Indiana all dropped games on their own campuses, with Sunday featuring all three Big Ten home teams losing their respective games.

Asked if there's any rhyme or reason to why winning at home in the Big Ten this year has been more difficult than in years past, Matta said that he didn't have the answer.

"I think it's circumstance," Matta said. "I don't know exactly what it is. I think it's just kind of the nature of this league and the nature of college basketball right now."

Losses in general are new to Ohio State's Marc Loving, who knew little other than winning during his storied prep career at Toledo St. John's. Losses at home, however, are nearly a foreign concept for the freshman forward, who admitted to being equally as befuddled by the lack of an advantage that the Buckeyes have found in Columbus.

"It seems like, especially last year, you had to protect your home court. I don't know what the difference is this year, but there's been a lot of teams coming into other teams' homes and getting a clutch victory," Loving said. "That's definitely been surprising."

As one would imagine, scouting reports include information about how well a team plays in its own building as opposed to others. More than that, seeing a home game on the schedule can give a coach a sense of comfort, knowing that factors like travel, hotel stays and opposing student sections won't affect his team on that given night.

This season, however, the notion of a home court security blanket has been shredded for the Buckeyes, thanks to a 3-3 conference record in Columbus -- which has been eclipsed by a 4-3 league mark on the road.

"You had a little bit more of an easy feeling if you were at home, like, ‘Geez, percentage says,'" Matta stated. "But this year it doesn't. I think every game is sort of a one-game type of season. No matter where you're playing, you've got to find a way to play your best basketball."

The Buckeyes' next one-game season comes in the form of a matchup with Northwestern, who for better or worse, No. 24 Ohio State (20-6, 7-6) will host at home on Wednesday night (7 p.m., Big Ten Network). The Wildcats (12-14, 5-8) come to Columbus riding a three-game losing streak, which has included losses to Minnesota, Michigan State and Nebraska.

But regardless of Northwestern's recent struggles, Matta knows that his team can't afford to take the Wildcats for granted -- regardless of their record heading into Wednesday night's game or the venue that it will be played in.

"From top to bottom, this league is as good as it's ever been," Matta said. "There's just nothing easy, no matter who you're playing or where you're playing at. It's a grind."

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