The Ohio State Buckeyes look to move past a forgettable season and do what they know how to do, make the NCAA Tournament.
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Since Chris Holtmann took over, Ohio State has made it to the NCAA Tournament every season one was held. Well, until last year. The Buckeyes crashed and burned, finishing the 16-19 and a shocking 13th in the Big Ten. This isn’t the Ohio State basketball we know, and the Ohio State Buckeyes made sure to retool this season to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
They lose a lot, but that’s not always a bad thing after a season like they just had. They bring back two starters from last year though, including Zed Key, who missed a good chunk of last season, but was arguably their best player when healthy. They also bring in a top 8 recruiting class, with three four-stars, including the #31 overall recruit Taison Chatman.
After Purdue and Michigan State, the Big Ten is wide open, and this Ohio State Buckeyes team is more than capable of making noise, and not only making the NCAA Tournament once again but making a second-weekend run as well.
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Head coach: Chris Holtmann (13th season, 7th at Ohio State)
2022-23 record: 16-19 (5-15)
2023 postseason finish: No postseason
Notable departures: Brice Sansabaugh (NBA Draft), Justice Sueing (Graduated), Sean McNeil (Graduated), Isaac Likekele (Graduated), Tanner Holden (Transferred to Wright State)
Notable non-conference games: Texas A&M (November 10th), Alabama (November 24th), UCLA (December 16th), @West Virginia (December 30th)
PG: Bruce Thornton (6-2, 215, So.)
2022-2023 stats: 10.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, 0.8 SPG, 45.6 FG%
SG: Roddy Gayle Jr. (6-4, 210, So.)
2022-2023 stats: 4.6 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.6 SPG, 44.0 FG%
SF: Scotty Middleton (6-7, 190, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 60 recruit
PF: Jamison Battle (6-7, 220, Sr.)
2022-2023 stats: 12.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.6 SPG (Minnesota)
C: Zed Key (6-8, 250, Sr.)
2022-2023 stats: 10.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.0 BPG, 55.0 FG%
6: Felix Okpara (6-11, 235, So.)
2022-2023 stats: 4.0 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.3 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 58.7 FG%
7: Taison Chatman (6-4, 175, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 33 recruit
8: Devin Royal (6-6, 210, Fr.)
247Sports Composite No. 52 recruit
9: Dale Bonner (6-2, 175, Sr.)
2022-2023 stats: 4.7 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.4 SPG, 44.1 FG% (Baylor)
10: Evan Mahaffey (6-6, 200, So.)
2022-2023 stats: 2.8 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.3 SPG, 0.2 BPG, 56.9 FG% (Penn State)
Ohio State Buckeyes MVP: Bruce Thornton
The Ohio State Buckeyes had expectations for Thornton last year, but no one expected him to be as mature on the court as a freshman as he was last year. By February, it already looked like this is at least his third year in college based on how he was able to run an offense and take smart shots. The numbers don’t pop, as he only averaged 10 points per game and just under 3 rebounds and assists, but he does the little things well, something that every coach and team appreciates.
While he wasn’t known to be a scorer, this completely shifted towards the end of the season, especially after Zed Key’s season-ending injury, which allowed Ohio State to run the offense through him instead of Key. From February 23rd to March 11th, the final eight games of the season, Thornton averaged 16.4 PPG and the team went 5-3.
Thornton also possesses something that many sophomores don’t, and that’s 35 starts under his belt already. Having this type of experience will only help, and will speed up his jump to an all-Big-Ten player this year. This is Thornton’s team, and he needs to take this responsibility and lead them to the promised land.
Ohio State Buckeyes make-or-break player: Jamison Battle
Jamison Battle looked like one of the top scorers in the country after averaging 17 points per game in back-to-back seasons at George Washington and Minnesota. Not only that, but he was doing it efficiently as well, averaging a 46.3 FG% on 13 shots per game. Last year, that all went downhill, as Battle averaged just 12.4 PPG on 37.1 FG%. His rebounds dropped from 6.3 per game to 3.8 per game, and his turnovers increased from 1.3 to 1.9.
So, which Battle are we going to see? If Battle can average 15 PPG on 42% shooting, that is a homerun portal addition for Ohio State. He can be the star of the team and Ohio State can go deep with Battle’s experience and scoring ability. If we see Battle completely disappear and become a low-efficiency scorer and struggle like we saw last year, then not only can he lose his spot in the starting lineup, but that would force Ohio State to rely more on their freshman, something a team never wants to do.
Key analytic: Three point makes per game
Let’s take a look at the last four seasons and where Ohio State ranked in terms of three-point makes per game.
2019-2020: 54th in the country, (19th in final AP poll)
2020-2021: 85th in the country, (7th in final AP poll)
2021-2022: 118th in the country (NR in final AP poll)
2022-2023: 231rd in the country (NR in final AP poll)
Obviously, three-point shooting isn’t everything when it comes to success, but when they are taking and making threes at a higher rate, the team is succeeding. Last year, Ohio State played 35 games. The two highest three-point makers made 60 and 59. That’s under 2 per game. Oh by the way, both those guys (Brice Sensabaugh and Sean Mcneil), aren’t on the team this year. The next highest is Thornton, who made 42 last season.
So, who’s going to start knocking down the deep ball? Will it be Thornton? Will it be Roddy Gayle, who shot 8-9 from deep in the final two games of the season despite making just 21 in the 33 games before? Battle made 59 last year, but shot 31% from deep. It could be one of the freshmen, especially Chatman who’s a talented scorer.
Regardless, they’re going to need to step up. It is hard to succeed in basketball in 2023 if you aren’t making threes, as we saw last year. If they can start hitting threes at a higher rate, this causes the opponent to put more pressure on the perimeter, opening up the paint for guys like Key and Okpara, which will allow them to succeed as well.
Projected conference finish: 11th in the Big Ten
Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Sweet 16