The Big Ten awaits, but until then there is business to take care of in the ECAC. This is a vitally important season for the Buckeyes, transitioning from its Logan Schuss-led reality to something a little different but with similar expectations. The schedule provides for infinite possibilities, but Ohio State still needs to prove that its ready to cement itself as a consistently relevant national power.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
We're a Power Team Now
February 9: @Johns Hopkins; March 1: Penn State; March 15: @Denver; March 25: Notre Dame
Three of those teams -- Penn State (ninth); Denver (seventh); and Notre Dame (fifth) -- were in the top 10 of College Crosse's fall rankings; the remainder -- Johns Hopkins (14th) -- was in the top 15. This is an elevated nonconference schedule, one that features unique matchups and the potential to earn lots of power points in case the ECAC's automatic bid doesn't inure to Ohio State. The beauty for the Buckeyes, though, is that these opponents aren't bunched together on the schedule: Hopkins opens Ohio State's agenda, but it exists on an isolated basis wherein the Buckeyes can recuperate quickly without an elite opponent looming on the immediate horizon; Penn State comes after a nice tune-up against Marquette, a second-year program that Ohio State will get at home; Denver comes in mid-March with the Buckeyes should have its identity solidified with five games under their belts; and the date against the Irish precedes two manageable games against Jacksonville and Delaware. So, while Ohio State did put some punch in the out-of-conference portion of its schedule, it's dispersed throughout the slate.
Here's Free Money
March 21: Bellarmine; April 12: Michigan; April 19: Air Force; April 26: @Fairfield
The Buckeyes have experienced back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances just once in their lacrosse existence: Between 2003 and 2004, under the guidance of now-North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi. Since then, Ohio State has existed in the national consciousness but have been unable to string together consecutive season worthy of bids to The Big Barbecue. The program's 2014 season, though, sets up nicely for the Buckeyes to head toward another May adventure: Ohio State's biggest impediments to the NCAA in conference play -- Denver and Loyola -- are looking to crush skulls outside of the ECAC this spring; the Buckeyes get three of its four league games at home; and Ohio State is hosting the ECAC Tournament in 2014, a huge bonus for the Buckeyes. Nick Myers has everything in his favor for this upcoming season (including a team that has top 10 potential), and Ohio State needs to take advantage of all these preferable circumstances.
February 16: v. Massachusetts (at Jacksonville, F.L.)
Ohio State has made the trip to Jacksonville the last two seasons to play in the Moe's Southwest Classic at EverBank Field (which makes sense in a world where games on the moon are a legitimate possibility, preferably at MoonBase Hopkins), and Ohio State has had good success at the event, dropping Denver in 2012 (10-9) and getting past the host Dolphins in 2013 (9-6). In 2014, though, the Buckeyes face a dangerous and wounded Massachusetts team, and given the fact that a lower-ranked team has pulled an upset in every year of the event going back to 2011 (Penn State beat Denver in 2013; Ohio State beat Denver in 2012 (although both teams were unranked, Jacksonville also knocked off Navy that year); and Notre Dame edged Duke in 2011), the Buckeyes need to come correct in an odd environment that is going require a lot of travel early in the year.