Ohio St No.17 looks to bounce back from early tournament exit
The new season can’t start soon enough for the No.17 Ohio State Buckeyes, who remained frustrated after an unexpected premature exit from last spring’s NCAA tournament.
The Buckeyes were on a roll and arrived as the South Region’s No.2 seed, only to be knocked out in the first round by No. 15 seed Oral Roberts in one of the tournament’s biggest upheavals.
Ohio State should have the tools to return to the tournament. The team returns a core of upper-class students who will be supplemented with a few key plug-and-play transfers and a freshman or two.
Returning is All-Big-Ten forward EJ Liddell, who considered making the NBA Draft but ultimately decided against it. Liddell, who led the team with 6.7 rebounds per game and was second with 16.2 points per game, said he wanted to add to his legacy at Columbus.
“I came back looking forward to being one of Buckeye’s greats,” Liddell said.
The Buckeyes were fifth in the Big Ten last season with an overall record of 21-10 and a conference mark of 12-8. They got hot in the Big Ten Tournament, beating No.20 Purdue and No.4 Michigan before falling in the championship game to No.3 Illinois in overtime.
That set up the 75-72 overtime loss to Oral Roberts that stunned the Buckeyes and almost everyone.
“A game is not going to define who we are,” said Liddell. “We have a lot of new guys, a lot of guys trying to find their way into their roles, but very high expectations. I expect nothing less from this group of guys that we have.
MOST IMPORTANT ROLE FOR PROSECUTION?
The departure of the team’s top scorer, Duane Washington (16.4 points per game), to the NBA opens a hole in the Buckeyes’ offense that coach Chris Holtmann hopes Judge Sueing will help fill.
Sueing, who transferred from California in 2019, finished third on the team with 10.7 points per game in his debut season for Ohio State. He shot 49.1% from the field and led the team with 29 interceptions.
“Having this year under my belt, I think, has really added to my game,” Sueing said. “It allowed me to see the game differently, to improve it. By being able to do that, I think as we approach next season I’m going to develop a bigger role and be able to really help this team. “
Sueing and Liddell have been named captains this season, along with forwards Justin Ahrens and Kyle Young, the latter being a popular striker and 3-point threat who has decided to return for a fifth year of eligibility. The inner game will benefit from his physique and his experience.
COMINGS AND GOINGS
The Buckeyes have five newcomers after the start of four.
Graduate transfer guards Cedric Russell, who averaged 17 points and shot 40% of the 3-point range at Louisiana-Lafayette, and Jamari Wheeler, who averaged 6.8 points at Penn State, will help. to anchor the rear area. First-year goaltender Meechie Johnson has shown promise after arriving from high school for the second half of last season. Ohio State also won a real cross with Indiana transfer 6-foot-11 Joey Brunk on board.
2021 Ohio freshman and Mr. Basketball Malaki Branham joins the St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, the high school that produced LeBron James.
A total of six transfer players make up this year’s Buckeyes squad. Holtmann said this was the new standard.
“We have really tried to be selective about which ones we take,” said Holtmann. “Do they match our culture and our environment? This has been very important to us. I think we will always be consistent with recruiting high school students. We are happy with the help we have received from the transfers. .
FIND THE DEFENSE
The Ohio State defense was a weak spot, ranking 197th nationally and allowing more than 71 points per game last season. The addition of Wheeler should help, as he’s a two-time member of the Big Ten All-Defensive squad.
Ohio State opens Nov. 9 against Akron, welcoming fans back to Value City Arena for the first time since 2019. The first non-conference games include No.9 Duke, Xavier and Seton Hall. The Buckeyes also have conference games against Penn State and Wisconsin in December.
“I always tried to play a really tough non-conference,” said Holtmann. “We open with a very difficult. It is the most difficult non-conference program I have ever attended.