COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A most unusual men’s basketball season tips off for Ohio State on Wednesday afternoon.
Or, at least, it’s supposed to.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to play Illinois State at 2 p.m. at Value City Arena. But coach Chris Holtmann, entering his fourth season, said the game will be played only if every Illinois State player passes COVID-19 tests on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Holtmann said he hopes that the game is played as scheduled, especially for his team’s sake.
“After 29 practices, they are hoping they can compete against somebody else,” Holtmann told reporters Monday.
It’s the first of two games on the schedule this week. Ohio State is set to play UMass-Lowell at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Covelli Center. Because of a stay-at-home advisory in place for Franklin County, neither game will be played in front of fans.
It’s a period of change for Ohio State after last season ended abruptly with the NCAA Tournament being canceled following the initial outbreak of the coronavirus. The Buckeyes must replace their top scorer and leading rebounder, Kaleb Wesson, a junior who declared for the NBA draft and then wasn’t selected. Also gone are D.J. Carton, who averaged 10.4 points and transferred to Marquette, and Luther Muhammad, who had 30 steals and transferred to Arizona State.
The top returning player is Duane Washington Jr., who averaged 11.5 points. Help comes in the form of point guard Jimmy Sotos, a transfer from Bucknell who led his team in scoring (11.5) and assists (3.9) last season.
Also new to the team is Seth Towns, a graduate transfer from Harvard who attended Columbus’ Northland High School. It is unknown when he will play after knee season in January. Towns sat out the last two seasons because of injury, but before that, he averaged 16 points and 5.7 rebounds while making 44% of his three-point attempts in two seasons with the Crimson.
Other returning contributors include CJ Walker (8.7 points per game) and Kyle Young (7.5).
“We’ve got guys who are playing different roles and new roles than what they did last year,” Holtmann said. “We certainly have some new guys that we’re integrating into our rotation. Like a lot of teams right now, we’re a work in progress this early in the season.”
Ohio State has scheduled six nonconference games — although Holtmann expressed skepticism at the entire schedule being played — with the marquee games being at Notre Dame on Dec. 8 and vs. North Carolina in Cleveland on Dec. 19.
Big Ten play opens with a game at Purdue on Dec. 16 and begins in earnest Dec. 23 against Rutgers.
Here is Ohio State’s complete schedule, with tipoff times and TV broadcasts where known:
Nov. 25 – Illinois State (2 p.m., ESPN2 or ESPNU)
Nov. 29 – UMass-Lowell (4 p.m., BTN)
Dec. 2 – Morehead State (5 p.m., BTN)
Dec. 5 – Alabama A&M (BTN or BTN+)
Dec. 8 – at Notre Dame
Dec. 16 – at Purdue
Dec. 19 – vs. North Carolina (Cleveland)
Dec. 23 – Rutgers
Dec. 26 – at Northwestern
Dec. 30 – Nebraska
Jan. 3 – at Minnesota
Jan. 6 – Penn State
Jan. 9 – at Rutgers
Jan. 13 – Northwestern
Jan. 16 – at Illinois
Jan. 23 – at Wisconsin
Jan. 27 – Purdue
Jan. 31 – Michigan State
Feb. 4 – at Iowa
Feb. 8 or Feb. 9 – at Maryland
Feb. 13 – Indiana
Feb. 18 – at Penn State
Feb. 21 – Michigan
Feb. 25 – at Michigan State
Feb. 28 – Iowa
March 6 – Illinois