Ohio State Buckeyes, Chris Holtmann, Zed Key

A big offseason makes up for key losses and puts the Ohio State Buckeyes in a position to win the Big Ten.

CBB Review is once again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the 2022-23 season. Each day we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Coming in ranked number 33 are the Ohio State Buckeyes.

After losing their top two guys, E.J Liddell and Malaki Branham to the draft, Ohio State was forced to look for new options and did so in a big way. First, they bring in the top recruiting class in the Big Ten that includes 4 four-stars. Then, they added three quality and experienced guards to round out the rotation.

With the Big Ten being as up for grabs as ever, there is no reason the Ohio State Buckeyes can’t finish at the top of the conference come March.

To those who have not, click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2022-23 college basketball season.

Head Coach: Chris Holtmann (12th season overall, 6th season with Ohio State)

2021-2022 Record: 20-12 (12-8)

2022 Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Round of 32 Exit

Notable Departures: E.J Liddell (NBA/New Orleans), Jamari Wheeler (Graduated), Kyle Young (Graduated), Malaki Branham (NBA/San Antonio)

Projected Rotation

PG: Isaac Likekele (6-5, 215, Gr.-Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 7.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.2 steals (Oklahoma State)

SG: Sean McNeil (6-4, 205, Gr.-Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 12.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 36.8 3P%, 86.7 FT% (West Virginia)

SF: Tanner Holden (6-6, 200, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 20.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 51.1 FG%, 34.1 3P% (Wright State)

PF: Justice Sueing (6-6, 210, Sr.)

2021-22 stats: 6 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0 assists (2 games played)

C: Zed Key (6-8, 255, Jr.)

2021-22 stats: 7.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, 56.2 FG%

6: Bruce Thornton (6-1, 205, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #47 overall rated recruit

7: Eugene Brown (6-6, 195, Jr.)

2021-22 stats: 3.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, 60.9 FT%

8: Roddy Gayle Jr. (6-4, 205, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #46 overall rated recruit

9: Felix Okpara (6-11, 220, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #62 overall rated recruit

10: Brice Sensabaugh (6-6, 235, Fr.)

247Sports Composite #65 overall rated recruit

Team MVP: None

As crazy as it sounds, Ohio State comes into the season without a sure top guy. Zed Key is solid but super inconsistent. Likekele is a solid game manager, but his lack of scoring holds him back. Sean McNeil is a great scorer, but can sometimes be limited if the three-pointers are falling. Tanner Holden seems like he’d be the top option, but he might not start. Of course, the freshmen are all wild cards and with none being a 5-star we can’t guarantee any will be the sure top guy.

So, it’ll be up to different guys to step up in different situations if the Ohio State Buckeyes want to be successful. They have many players capable of doing so, but it’ll be interesting to see who does so consistently.

Make-or-Break Player: Tanner Holden

Holden was incredible last season at Wright State, leading his team to an NCAA Tournament appearance averaging 20 points per game. He scored 37 in Wright State’s first tournament game, and if he can translate his scoring and all-around ability to the Big Ten, Holden can be their best player and an All-Big Ten candidate. If he can’t make that transition, he can quickly see his minutes diminish, as there are several highly touted freshmen right behind him eager to step up.

Analytic to Know: 345th in steals per game in 2021-22

The Ohio State Buckeyes only averaged 4.5 steals per game last year, and they are hoping the new guys can bump that number up. Holden and Likekele both averaged over one a game, and they are hoping the young guys can add a few more as well. What made up for the lack of steals was the high level of blocks, but with E.J Liddell, who contributed 2.6 a game gone, that will be an issue as well this year.

Team Outlook

This Ohio State Buckeyes team has tremendous depth, with two really solid players at each position. As mentioned earlier, they don’t have a go-to player, so it’ll be interesting to see who steps into that role as the season goes on, especially around conference play. Chris Holtmann has yet to make the second weekend since joining the Ohio State Buckeyes, so there might just be a little more pressure than ever if Ohio State can’t make it there.

The non-conference schedule is very light, with the biggest test being at Cameron Indoor against Duke. Ohio State beat Duke at home last year, so the Blue Devils will look to do the same this year. They will also participate in the Maui Invitational. They will start with a projected top 25 team San Diego State, and could potentially play several highly ranked teams in Arkansas, Texas Tech, Creighton, and Arizona.

The Big Ten has no clear #1. Many project Michigan and Indiana to be the Top 2, but teams like the Ohio State Buckeyes could very easily sneak in. Big Ten features some really talented big men in Hunter Dickinson, Trayce Jackson-Davis, and Zach Edey to name a few. Zed Key is going to struggle in those matchups, so Coach Holtmann will need to devise a creative game plan if Ohio State wants any chance to compete in those games.

Projected Conference Finish: 6th in the Big Ten

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA Tournament Round of 64 Exit

Ceiling: NCAA Tournament Round of 16 Exit