The Buckeyes have seen a number of familiar faces depart this offseason. Whether it's D'Angelo Russell getting drafted #2 overall to the Lakers or Scott, Thompson, Williams and McDonald graduating, numerous starting players and reliable bench contributors are now gone from Columbus and will not be suiting up in the Scarlet and Gray this upcoming season. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Losing Russell is a miserable thing. That goes without saying. However, it is no secret the Buckeyes have been in desperate need of a talent infusion into the lineup. Leaving fault allocation for another day, many of the seniors who have moved on never quite developed into the players they were projected to become.
Over the past two recruiting cycles, the Buckeyes have been able to acquire the talent they desperately needed in order to remain a competitive and successful program. Ohio State will be a talented, albeit young, team as they take the floor this upcoming season. This team will struggle this year, but projects to be something special over the next few seasons. Below is an in depth look at what the lineup and rotations will look like for the Bucks, as well as an analysis as to what each player will be bringing to the table.
Point Guard: AJ Harris
After the departure of Russell and Scott, incoming freshman AJ Harris is the lone true point guard on the roster. For that reason, Harris is almost guaranteed to start despite his youth and short stature. Harris only stands 5'9 but is a technician on the floor. He will be more than capable of running the Buckeye offense this coming year. Throughout his high school career at Dunbar, Harris proved himself to be an apt passer and an above average finisher at the rim. Ohio State fans will enjoy Harris's pass first mentality as he will be able to involve everyone on the court in the offense. Although he could be a liability on defense in switching situations, his ball skills are in short supply on the current roster. While Kam Williams, Mickey Mitchell, or Jaquan Lyle may take the ball up in certain sets, expect AJ Harris to be the Day 1 starter at the one.
Shooting Guard: Jaquan Lyle
Whether the expectations are fair or not, Jaquan Lyle will step in as the D'Angelo Russell replacement for the Buckeyes. Both Russell and Lyle are bigger bodied guards who can score in a multitude of ways on the court. Lyle has a penchant for getting to the rack, taking a bump, and finishing in traffic for possible "and one" opportunities. He has a reliable handle, a solid jumper, and great vision as he creates opportunities for teammates. Lyle will need the ball in his hands to score initially, however. While his jumper is solid, he won't be much of a threat in spot up situations. Lyle will do most of his damage in the paint off the dribble. Lyle will step directly into the scoring vacuum left by Russell and will perform admirably. Buckeye fans should fully expect Lyle to be the primary scoring option on the team this year. While it is highly unlikely he can fill the void left by Russell, (certainly not as a passer) Lyle projects to be a great player for the Buckeyes. They're certainly need him to be.
Small Forward: Marc Loving
This may be an unpopular pick given Loving's struggles throughout the second half of the season and his off the court problems. However, considering the youth and inexperience on this team, the Buckeyes will need Loving's leadership and experience both on and off the court. Despite Loving's struggles at the end of last season, he has the ability to be a knock down shooter from the perimeter and offers great length. The former Mr. Ohio Basketball was on fire from behind the arc last season before his suspension and can provide great spacing for the Buckeyes this year if he is able to return to form. Depending on the development of Kam Williams and Austin Grandstaff, the Buckeyes may be in desperate need of outside shooting in order to free up driving and passing lanes in the middle. Loving can fill that role and then some if he can mature and focus come basketball season.
Power Forward: Jae'Sean Tate
If you have a pulse and have watched any Ohio State basketball from last year, then you love Jae'Sean Tate. Tate's ability to play much larger than his listed size is as astounding as it is inspiring. On a team relatively devoid of upperclassmen leadership, Tate's ability to lead by example and energize his teammate's on the court will be particularly valuable. Also, despite the natural height adversity he faces on the low block, Tate was able to test his mettle on numerous occasions against some of the Big Ten's elite big men and stifle them down low. One concern with Tate heading into this season is his ability to convert on the offensive end. Although he posted a number of double digit scoring games last season, its hard to forget that a bevy of his easy opportunities came thanks to the magical passing of D'Angelo Russell. However, if guys like Lyle and Harris can find Tate down low, he has proven that he can find a way to score.
Center: Trevor Thompson
Trevor Thompson walks into this season for the Buckeyes as one of the bigger unknowns on the roster. Despite his imposing size and tantalizing wingspan, not much is known regarding Thompson's ability to contribute in Columbus. However, given his great size and total lack of experience at this spot (Thompson is the only center on the roster who has actually played in a college game), Thompson is most likely to be named the starting Center come opening night. However, it will not be an easy road for Thompson. Despite being young and inexperienced, Dave Bell and top recruit Daniel Giddens will push Thompson hard for his spot. Before transferring to Ohio State, Thompson appeared for the Virginia Tech Hokies in 30 games and started 10 as a freshman. Look for Thompson to start the season as the number one Center and hopefully provide the Buckeyes with some long awaited consistent play in the front court, especially as an offensive threat.
Off the Bench
Kam Williams will be one of the most important players for the Buckeyes off the bench and will fight for starter's minutes. However, Jaquan Lyle's skill and potential as a creator will likely prevent Kam from seeing many starts. The two most important aspects of Kam's game heading into the season are consistent shooting from behind the arc to create space and Thad finding a way to hide him defensively on the court due to his defensive deficiencies.
Keita Bates-Diop is going to push Loving for starter's minutes at the Small Forward position all season. Bates-Diop showed flashes of brilliance last year with perimeter shooting and length on defense. If he can log more consistent play, or Loving's deficiencies on and off the court permeate, Bates-Diop could become the starter at some point this season.
Austin Grandstaff will bring many of the same offensive qualities that Kam Williams brings to the table as well. They are both capable ball handlers and above average perimeter shooters as well. However, Grandstaff is about three inches taller and won't be as much of a liability defensively as Williams. In short, Grandstaff will be a starter for the Buckeyes at some point during his time in Columbus and could usurp Williams' minutes in a big way this year.
Daniel Giddens is the future of the front court for the Buckeyes. While he is still a bit raw offensively, Giddens will make an immediate impact on the defensive end through altering shots and tending the glass. Giddens has great size and mobility displaying his ability to run the court on breaks throughout his high school career. Provided his offensive game develops well and timely, Giddens will become a force in the Big Ten.
Dave Bell was on the team last year, but sat out while taking a redshirt. Considering how raw he was as a recruit, that was a great decision for all parties involved. However, after some development and experience, Bell may be ready to contribute to a young frontcourt that will need a third big man to rebound and protect the rim. Bell is likely to be that third player, and could play important spot minutes for the Buckeyes.
Most people closely following Ohio State recruiting should be familiar with Mickey Mitchell's jaw dropping high school mixtapes that feature some incredibly nifty handles and passing. Mitchell's skill set projects him to become a point-forward type player with excellent versatility. He can play the two, three, or four in certain lineups. Unfortunately, he will start off a bit buried by the young depth of the team. Mitchell will get a shot early to make a mark and stick in the rotation off the bench, but his biggest games may be to come later.