Maintaining success has never been more difficult in college basketball. The combination of the transfer portal and the NBA Draft makes each offseason both eventful and potentially transformative for most programs.
Now that the smoke has mostly cleared following the 2021-22 season, we’ll go team-by-team in the Big Ten to assess which programs are set up for success, and who might take a step back.
Next up is Ohio State. Chris Holtmann is entering his sixth season as the man in charge in Columbus. The Buckeyes finished the 2021-22 campaign with a 20-12 overall record including a 12-8 mark in league play. During his time as OSU, Holtmann is 107-56 overall, and 58-40 in the Big Ten.
- E.J. Liddell (19.4 PPG),
- Malaki Branham (13.7 PPG),
- Kyle Young (8.2 PPG),
- Jamari Wheeler (7.1 PPG),
- Justin Ahrens (4.8 PPG),
- Meechie Johnson Jr. (4.4 PPG),
- Cedric Russell (4.2 PPG),
- Joey Brunk (2.4 PPG),
- Jimmy Sotos (1.8 PPG)
- Zed Key, C (7.8 PPG),
- Justice Sueing, SF (6.0 PPG),
- Eugene Brown III, SG (3.5 PPG),
- Seth Towns, SF (3.8 in 2020-21),
- Kalen Etzler, F (Redshirt)
- Tanner Holden, SF (20.1 PPG at Wright State),
- Sean McNeil, SG (12.2 PPG at West Virginia),
- Isaac Likekele, SG (7.1 PPG at Oklahoma State)
Freshmen (Rankings from 247Sports Composite)
- Roddy Gayle, SG (4-star, No. 43),
- Bruce Thornton, PG (4-star, No. 44),
- Felix Okpara, C (4-star, No. 59),
- Brice Sensabaugh, SF (4-star, No. 62),
- Bowen Hardman, SG (3-star, No. 307)
RETURNING MINUTES: 23 percent (per barttorvik.com)
WHY IT WILL WORK
Yes, Ohio State lost a lot of important pieces including two NBA Draft choices. But they picked up transfers who should be able to make an impact, and they have the top-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten. Holtmann has had an NCAA Tournament team every season in Columbus, and he has a proven ability to work with what he has available. Sueing was on a path to stardom before an injury, and now he can step into the leading role with Liddell and Branham gone, Key is a reliable veteran big man, and McNeil is a proven scorer at the high major level.
WHY IT WON’T
This is a team full of question marks. Can a freshman point guard lead the way in the Big Ten? Can Sueing regain his trajectory towards being a high-impact player? Will Holden’s production translate to high major? Can chemistry be developed on a team with so many disparate pieces? Are any of these freshmen ready to contribute in their first season? Typically, that many questions lead to one answer — no, it won’t work. With much better talent, this was already a team that collapsed late in the season last year, losing three of four in the league and its Big Ten Tournament opener to Penn State. In light of all that, the outlook is not promising.
What do things look like in Columbus if this season goes off the rails? If say, the Buckeyes go 7-13 in the Big Ten, that would mean Holtmann is merely a .500 coach in the league over his last five seasons at OSU, with double-digit losses overall in each of those campaigns. Would the natives get restless? Do they even pay enough attention to basketball to care? Holtmann can of course survive a down season, but he can’t afford another mass exodus after it. This freshman class may not produce stars this year, but it needs to turn into the foundation of a bright future.
BIG TEN OUTLOOK: Middle of the pack, bottom half.
MORE BIG TEN OUTLOOKS:
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