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Ohio State in danger of going from top three to the NIT after loss to Penn State

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Penn State players and coaches celebrate a win at Ohio State on Jan. 29, 2014 (USATSI)

Ohio State fans might be surprised by the answer to the following question.

Could January have been a bigger disaster for Buckeyes?

Well, yes, it could have, but just barely. When the month began, Ohio State was ranked No. 3 in the nation and looking like a shoe in for the NCAA tournament and maybe even one of the top-four seeds.

The Buckeyes closed out an atrocious month Wednesday night by losing 71-70 at home in overtime to Penn State. The Nittany Lions snapped an 18-game losing streak to the Buckeyes thanks to a game-winning shot by D.J. Newbill over All-American guard Aaron Craft.

The ramifications are clear. The Buckeyes' 2-5 January (losing those other two games is how it could have been worse) leaves them badly in need of a lengthy winning streak just to avoid becoming a bubble team at the end of the year.

Ohio State will almost surely drop out of the top 25 next week after losing a game on its home court to a Penn State team that is 11-10 overall and 2-6 in the Big Ten. And maybe it shouldn't have taken this long for the Buckeyes to lose the respect they once had from voters.

The Buckeyes have done nothing this month to give anyone the impression they are capable of putting together a string of wins, particularly in a conference as tough as the Big Ten. The last time they resembled the team that reached No. 3 in the nation was while they were making a run in the second half against Michigan State to send that Jan. 7 to overtime before losing to the Spartans.

We'll know all we need to about coach Thad Matta's team by mid-February because the schedule over the next two weeks is the most difficult stretch of the conference season.

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Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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