The Ohio State Buckeyes head into the 2015-16 campaign with a bunch of fresh faces that will be gracing the basketball floor, which should make for an interesting season for 11th year head coach Thad Matta.
The most notable loss for the Buckeyes from last season was D'Angelo Russell to the Los Angeles Lakers. But the Buckeyes are losing production from Amir Williams, Sam Thompson, and Shannon Scott, who contributed over 25 points per game for the Buckeyes last season, as well as over 12 rebounds per game.
But of course, Thad Matta brings in a slate of fresh faces into the Buckeye basketball fraternity, in three four-star guards JaQuan Lyle, Austin Grandstaff, and A.J. Harris. Also coming into Columbus are forward Mickey Mitchell (four-star), and forward/center Daniel Giddens (four-star). Mitchell will not see time in this one, as he has not been cleared to play by the NCAA.
Key returning players for the Buckeyes include Jae'Sean Tate at forward, and Marc Loving, who averaged 8.8 and 9.4 points respectively last season. Both players are expected to make significant contributions not only on the stats sheet, but in leadership as well for a very young Buckeye team. Guard Kam Williams will be entering his sophomore year with the Buckeyes, and should be sharing ball handling duties with freshman JaQuan Lyle.
For the Walsh Cavaliers, they are coming off of their second consecutive appearance in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference semifinals, where they were knocked off by Ferris State. They are returning key starters in Jesse Hardin Jr., Trey Fletcher, and Zac Carter, all who averaged double figures for the Cavaliers.
Walsh will have Connor Keck playing this season, after he missed all of last year due to blood clots in his lungs. Chall Montgomery is another player that missed last season due to a torn ACL, and is expected to be back this season along with Keck, who was cleared as recently as mid-October to play again. Montgomery was supposed to play a huge role for the Cavaliers last year, and his return will be huge for the success of the team. The return of those players are expected to give Walsh the depth that they were missing last season.
Head coach Jeff Young also expects freshmen to play key roles for the team this upcoming season for Walsh, including 6-foot-8 center Antonio Thomas out of Chicago, and a plethora of guards. The depth and continuity will help Walsh greatly, who lost 7 of their first 8 games in conference play due to the aforementioned injuries and lack of depth.
Numbers to know
The Buckeyes have not won less than 20 games in the Thad Matta era, and while expectations aren't necessarily high for this team, considering they received no AP poll votes and just two USA Today votes in the preseason poll, the Buckeyes have decent returning talent, and some great freshmen coming in, and keeping that steak alive is certainly on the table.
Ohio State will be facing eight teams in the preseason AP top 25 poll this season. The Buckeyes will face No. 6 Virginia and No. 19 Connecticut in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge December 12. Then, the Buckeyes will face the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats in the CBS Sports Classic. And of course, the Buckeyes have conference games against Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes freshman class includes five four-star players who are expected to be the future of Ohio State basketball. This appears to be one of the first years in a while that there isn't a whole bunch of continuity with the team, but with a bunch of pieces in this class, Ohio State basketball should be in a good place with Lyle, Giddens, Grandstaff, Mitchell, and Harris.
Cast of characters
Lyle should be yet another great guard to look forward to like we did in D'Angelo Russell last year. He is largely expected to be one of Ohio State's leading scorers on the season, and will have to immediately step into a role where he is one of, if not the main ballhandler for this Buckeyes squad. Expect to hear his name a lot on Sunday.
Loving, like Lyle, will be one of the more important players on this team. He is the only junior on the team, and will need to be an anchor for the Buckeyes. His 3-point shooting is one of his better abilities, and should contribute largely to him being one of the leading scorers on this young team.
Jesse Hardin Jr.
Hardin, a senior, led the Cavaliers last year with 16.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest. He was All-GLIAC First Team for the second consecutive season last year, and is expected to do the same this year. He is easily one of, if not the best player on this Walsh team. He can score in a variety of ways, and at 6-foot-2, can really rebound for his size.
The 6-foot-6 forward from Irontown, Ohio averaged 13.9 points for the Cavs last season. He has dropped weight and increased his strength in the offseason, according to his coach, and increased his range on his jump shot, so he should be able to better stretch the floor this time around.
How to watch
Game time: 4:05 ET
Radio: 97.1 The Fan
Streaming: BTN+. You can create an account to watch the game here for $9.99 a month.