To put it simply, Jae'Sean Tate is the man. He works harder than everyone else, plays a foot taller than his listed height, and provides much needed energy and leadership on the court. It was nearly impossible to watch him last season and not love him. Ohio State is going to need all of that and more from Tate as they head into the season.
After losing a number of seniors and one generational talent, this Buckeye team is left with a glut of young, albeit talented, players on the roster. There aren't many players on this roster who have college experience, period, let alone any record of production, and that's going to make Tate one of the most important players on this year's team.
A look back
Jae'Sean Tate came into the program as the 28th overall ranked prospect in his freshman class. Tate billed out as a high energy 3/4 tweener who could produce off the bench immediately. After filling his role as a bench reserve for a portion of the season, Tate soon forced his way into the starting lineup for the Buckeyes.
Thanks to endless energy, high basketball IQ, and a strong on the court relationship with D'Angelo Russell, Tate was able to become a regular offensive and defensive contributor. Tate averaged 8.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 0.9 spg. He also shot nearly 60% from the field, focusing mostly on high quality looks near the rim.
Despite his successes from last year, Tate did display some limitations to his game. The first, and most obvious, is that he is only 6 foot 4 inches tall and is used primarily as a 4. Every time he steps on the court he is giving up anywhere from 2 to 5 inches to his similarly situated opponents.
The second major limitation from last year is his lack of an effective jump shot beyond the painted area. Tate may be able to assuage the negative effects of his shorter stature by developing a jump shot and bringing bigger defenders away from the basket.
Outlook for 2015-2016
Jae'Sean Tate will probably start for the Buckeyes in the opener against Mount St. Mary's and, barring injuries, likely will not relinquish his spot. Whether or not Matta continues to use him predominately as a 4, or switches his lineups and plays Tate at the 3 will be something interesting to monitor as the season progresses.
Tate will be this team's emotional leader throughout this season. He showed flashes of his raw emotion and energy on the court last year. After having a year under his belt and being one of the few returning starters, expect Tate to take charge of this team early on in the season.
Best case scenario
Best case scenario for Tate and the Buckeyes is that over the offseason Tate drastically improved his jumper. This will allow Tate to become more of an offensive threat around the perimeter and prevent him from getting swallowed up near the basket by larger defenders. This will also allow Matta to give a little more run to some of his younger bigs that can only play the 4 or the 5.
Assuming Tate has improved away from the basket, his defense continues to develop with his active hands clogging passing lanes and allowing Tate to average over a steal a game. Tate continues to be a pest on the block, using grit, tenacity, and basketball know how to frustrate bigger defenders in the paint.
If everything goes right for Tate and the Buckeyes, he could help lead this team to a NCAA Tournament birth and make a case for 2nd or 3rd team All Big Ten.
Worst case scenario
Tate's offensive game remains stagnant, and he isn't able to contribute much outside of the immediate paint, where he is more susceptible to being bullied by larger defenders. The absence of D'Angelo Russell is painfully obvious and Tate doesn't get as many easy looks at the bucket. Tate continues to provide production similar to what he did last season, but without an outstanding passing guard to get him easier looks, and without an established scoring threat to take the pressure off of him, Tate's efficiency drops, as does Ohio State's offense. It's hard to imagine the Bucks as an NCAA team if Tate doesn't improve from last season.