Coach Chris Holtmann and his players are looking for a massive turnaround after an unsuccessful season. The Buckeyes won just five conference games and finished the regular season 16-19. Despite a surprising run to a Big Ten tournament semifinal, Ohio State missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years.
For this season, the Buckeyes will hope its young core and new freshmen can blossom. They carry the momentum from last year’s postseason run in a conference that is not as strong as usual. Here is what to expect and things to know.
Young squad looks to make a name for themselves
Ohio State’s roster boasts 11 underclassmen with two seniors and two fifth-year players, making it among the youngest teams in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have to try to replicate the scoring of NBA draft pick Brice Sensabaugh, who led them in scoring last season primarily off the bench.
Holtmann believes he provided some of that answer with transfer fifth-year forward Jamison Battle from Minnesota, who averaged more than 12 points in both seasons he was with the Golden Gophers. Alongside expected starters Bruce Thornton and Zed Key with a rotation that includes 6-foot-11 sophomore Felix Okpara, OSU could develop the consistent offense it lacked last season.
Freshmen will also have a part to play, with four joining the roster. Former Pickerington Central star and Ohio Mr. Basketball Devin Royal is now in scarlet and grey looking to wow his hometown fans. Joining him are forward Scotty Middleton from Kansas, Minneapolis native Taison Chatman and Ohioan Austin Parks.
Carrying momentum from Big Ten tournament
As disappointing as last season was, the Buckeyes ended on a high note that could bring them some momentum to start this season. As the No. 13 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, Ohio State went on a crazy run, beating Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State to make the semifinals.
The heroics of Thornton catapulted them to that run and gave Buckeyes fans a glimmer of hope. Another aspect that could help the Buckeyes’ chances of returning to the NCAA tournament Madness is the Big Ten’s parity.
The conference only has three teams ranked in the preseason top 25: Purdue (3), Michigan State (4), and Illinois (25). The Boilermakers are the overwhelming favorite behind 7-4 player of the year Zach Edey, but the rest of the conference is as wide open as it’s ever been.
A few upset wins in the regular season could boost OSU’s chances for a good Big Ten tournament seed and a resume that might put it in the NCAA tournament.
Ohio State’s minimum expectation will be to return to the NCAA tournament, but that task will take some massive performances throughout the season. The roster has the talent to make some noise, with nationally televised chances to showcase that talent.
Big nonconference games against No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 21 Alabama, and UCLA are perfect opportunities to impress the committee to be an at-large team. If Ohio State cannot return, Holtmann’s squad will expect it can achieve a spot in the NIT as a consolation.