Ohio (1-1) tested itself with a road game against Cleveland State, a preseason top-5 Horizon League team, and lost on Saturday. The Bobcats took on a risk when scheduling one of the better mid-major programs in college basketball on the road rather than a low-major program or even a Division II program.
While there is a place for programs like Ohio to take on an easier opponent and stack a couple of wins under its belt to ease into the season, there is just as much of a necessity to be tested against a talented and proven program.
At the end of the season, when the selection show announces the 68 teams that will compete in the NCAA Tournament, Ohio's fate will have almost already been decided. If the Bobcats are the last team standing in the Rocket Mortgage fieldhouse in March for the Mid-American Conference Tournament, they will be in. If not, as a member of what has been a one-bid conference for over a decade, Ohio will likely be left out.
Of course, there is more to college basketball than making the NCAA tournament. Ohio losing early season games will hurt the team's chances for the NIT or the CBI, but ultimately, what Ohio needs to do to achieve its ultimate goal remains unchanged.
The more difficult opponents Ohio takes on during this point of the season, the more the team will find out about its strengths and weaknesses. Ohio will have quality experience facing a variety of high-level offenses, different schemes, different pressures and defensive looks, which Ohio will be better prepared to go against come the all-important conference play.
Ohio is set to take on a different Horizon League opponent, Detroit Mercy, in its next game Nov. 18. Although Detroit Mercy has not gotten off to an ideal start, it will still provide Ohio with a Division I test in its second home game.
Ohio will take on George Washington soon after in the first game of the Nassau Championship. George Washington, a team off to a 4-0 start, predicted to finish in the top six of one of the best mid-major conferences, could easily defeat Ohio. Ohio's last nonconference opponent, Davidson, wasn't given the same honors that George Washington was in the preseason Atlantic 10 poll but has already defeated Maryland in the Asheville Championship.
Ohio's record may not be pretty coming out of its difficult nonconference slate, but the experience the team will gain from playing against a variety of different styles in close games will benefit Ohio when it matters.