Welcome to the second installment of the Big 10’s Off-season Snapshot series. This series looks at the men’s basketball teams in the Big Ten, noting some of their key losses, key prospects, and key returning players. If you missed week one, I covered Michigan State. You can check out their roster break-down here.
Without further introduction, let’s get into Ohio State and week two.
The Buckeyes and Chris Holtmann finished the abbreviated season with a 21-10 record. Yet, that alone can’t summarize the truly unique year Ohio State had. The preseason rankings had them at #18. By week five of the season, they were up to #3 in the AP Poll and #2 in the Coaches Poll.
The seven-game stretch following that top-five ranking would see them lose six of seven games, leading them to be unranked for four weeks in the middle of the season. The up-and-down results characterized a team riddled with inconsistency. They finished the season ranked 19th in the country. But looking to the fall, the question has to be this: how can Coach Holtmann keep building this program’s consistency during the dog days of the mid-season?
Key Losses for Ohio State
DJ Carton is a 6’2″ guard with an explosive first step and a knack for shot creation. In 20 games for Ohio State during his freshman season, he averaged 10.4 points per game while shooting 40 percent from three and 47 percent from the floor. He left OSU in January, and once the season ended, he entered the transfer portal, eventually picking Marquette as his school of choice. This loss hurts the Buckeyes going forward. He was a player with legit superstar potential, and in high school, he was a four-star prospect.
Kaleb Wesson The 6’9″ forward went through massive changes this season. He got his body right, and his game followed. Consequently, the 2019-20 season was his best all-around year for the Buckeyes. He averaged 14 points per game, 9.3 rebounds, and two assists. He showed flashes of what his potential in the pro-game could look like. At the end of the Coronavirus-shortened season, he declared for the draft. This season, as opposed to last year, his selection looks more probable. Going forward, Ohio State will miss his guaranteed offense, and fans will miss his exciting game. But ultimately, the future is bright for Wesson.
Luther Muhammad was a two-year fixture for the Buckeyes. His seven points per game could be counted on by Coach Holtmann. And going into another year with a lack of depth at the guard spot, it looked as though Muhammad would be a starting guard in OSU’s rotation. With his departure, many questions arise as people are wondering what the guard rotation for 2020-21 will look like.
Key Additions for Ohio State
Seth Towns is a graduate transfer from Harvard. He suffered multiple knee injuries during his three-year stint there, but when fully healthy, he is a potential offensive weapon for the Buckeyes. In the 2017-18 season, Towns earned Ivy Leauge Men’s Basketball Player of the Year honors averaging 16 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, and two assists. His health is a big question mark, but Buckeye fans should be excited that Towns is coming home. This is made even more true because the Buckeyes should be able to replace Wesson’s production if he doesn’t come back for a senior season.
Jimmy Soto will be a sit-one play-one, fifth-year senior. Due to eligibility requirements, he won’t be able to play this upcoming season, but when he is eligible, CJ Walker will have graduated. Soto adds a veteran presence to a point guard group in desperate need of one. Though his career splits aren’t impressive at 8.1 points per game, 3.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds, it’s the intangibles he brings to the table that matter most.
Abel Porter, after four years in Utah, is coming to Columbus to play out his last year of eligibility. He doesn’t bring much flair to the locker room, but he will add much-needed depth at the point guard position. Over the last four years, he has averaged 5.6 points per game, 2.4 assists, and 3.2 rebounds. Seeing him in Coach Holtmann’s system will be an interesting look for Buckeye fans.
Eugene Brown’s game shows tremendous upside. The 6’6″ guard is a strong athlete and a great three-level scorer. He possesses a strong physical game and can shoot well off of the bounce as well as the catch. Moreover, he is a defensive monster and brings high-level switchability to the Buckeyes roster. He comes in ranked as a four-star prospect, according to 247Sports, and he is the 19th ranked shooting guard in his class. Brown is projected to be a Power-5 starter for the next few years, and Ohio State fans should be excited.
Zed Key‘sgame is big and bad. The 6’7″ 230-pound power forward comes to Ohio State ranked as a three-star prospect out of Long Island, New York. He’s the 28th-ranked power forward in his class, and he is the fourth-ranked power forward in his state. He can run the floor well and is active in all aspects of the game. He is a low-floor high-ceiling guy, and Coach Holtmann got himself a real gamer in Key.
Duane Washington Jr. played in 28 games last season, and he started in 15 of those 28 games. In his sophomore season, Washington averaged 11.5 points per game on 40 percent field goal shooting. Right before the season came to an end, he tied his season-high of 20 points in a game against Ohio State’s rival, Michigan. Washington is a valuable scorer, and when he’s hot, the basket seems as big as an ocean. So, on an Ohio State team that has gone through some real changes this offseason, he will at least be one constant.
Next Season’s Outlook
Next season’s outlook is a weird one for the Buckeyes. They have had a bevy of recent moves and turnaround. However, that is not unusual for a coach entering his fourth season at the helm. The team showed glimpses of what they could be last season, and with the needed influx of veteran talent, they could be a real threat in the Big 10.
This team, much like it was last season, is uncertain. Yet, Ohio State fans shouldn’t despair… They have a lot of talent in that locker room and a great coach that fits it all.
I am a college basketball writer primarily based in Nashville, covering all mid-major activity along with Big Ten hoops.