“Another season, another All-American honor for Kelsey Mitchell.”
Ohio State Buckeyes women’s basketball guard Kelsey Mitchell added yet another accomplishment to an already impressive season, as the junior was named a second team All-American by the Associated Press. Earlier this month, Mitchell was named Big Ten women’s basketball’s Player of the Year (coincidentally, she was also the conference pre-season Player of the Year). Mitchell was the Big Ten’s leading scorer, averaging 22.6 points per game and hitting 115 three-pointers on the season, good for second in the conference. In addition, Mitchell was the fastest player in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history to reach 2,000 career points. She is currently third in career points all-time at Ohio State.
The Cincinnati native led Ohio State to a Big Ten regular season title and an NCAA Tournament run that ended in the Sweet 16. As of now, Mitchell has not declared if she will return to Columbus for her senior season with the Buckeyes.
Mitchell was named a second team All-American following her phenomenal first season with the Buckeyes. She followed up her freshman campaign by earning first-team honors as a sophomore, becoming just the third Ohio State player in program history to do so.
Maryland’s Brionna Jones was the lone Big Ten representative on the first-team list, while Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, also of Maryland, made third-team.
“J.T. Barrett is the first to admit that he has areas of his game that need to be addressed during spring practice. But like the Ohio State offense as a whole, it’s important to note that the veteran quarterback isn’t broken.”
The consistent theme that Urban Meyer has emphasized during this offseason, especially on the offensive side of the ball, is “enhancement.” After a shutout loss to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl, the deficiencies which have been lurking under (and sometimes at) the surface of the Ohio State passing attack became alarmingly clear, owing to the need for new co-offensive coordinators and a quarterbacks coach. But, as Meyer has stated often, the system is not broken. It simply needs a boost. Senior quarterback J.T. Barrett is no exception. Despite holding most major program passing records--including 100 career touchdowns accounted for--and leading the Buckeyes to two College Football Playoffs in three years as a starter, Barrett still has room for improvement.
For starters, the offense in general and Barrett in particular are using spring practice to work on spreading the field more. With lapses in protection and receivers who couldn’t quite seem to reel in passes, Barrett was in a down position heading into throwing the deep ball on a given play. Still, he has room to improve on his own in terms of his arm strength and downfield delivery.
Ryan Day, Barrett’s new quarterbacks coach, has also stressed Barrett’s touch and accuracy throughout the spring. In particular, Day has stressed footwork while in the pocket. He has also implemented obstacle drills downfield to improve delivery of passes. All of this is in an effort to get Barrett’s completion percentage, which has declined the past two seasons since his redshirt freshman year, closer to the 65 percent mark he started with.
Finally, Barrett has started to work on improving his chemistry in the offseason. The first three-time captain in program history, Barrett has already earned the respect of his teammates and coaches, but he still has work to do in incorporating new pieces into the offense and working with offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson.
“Worley might be the next best linebacker to come out of Ohio State. He’s a dog out there on the field and he’s on a path to be better than me.”
The Buckeyes might be losing one of their great defensive leaders in Raekwon McMillan to the NFL Draft, but the defense seems to be in good hands under Chris Worley, who looks to fill McMillan’s role at middle linebacker. Despite arriving at Ohio State as a safety, Worley wound up at outside linebacker, competing with future-first rounder Darron Lee for the starting spot. While Lee won the initial battle and wound up starting for the Buckeyes during their national title run, Worley was an easy choice to fill his position once Lee departed the program. Having already changed positions from safety to linebacker, Worley credits himself as being one of the “most dynamic players in the country,” giving him confidence as he makes yet another move from outside to inside linebacker.
That confidence is backed up by McMillan himself, who has watched as Worley prepares to fill the big shoes he left behind. “He’s a great linebacker, and he can be one of the next All-Americans here at Ohio State,” McMillan said. Worley had 70 tackles last season, which was good for fourth on the team, playing next to McMillan.
More than that, though, defensive coordinator Greg Schiano credits Worley’s intelligence in helping him to shift to his new role. “He’s just a really, really smart football player; he’s a guy who I think understands the game at a very high level,” Schiano said.
As Worley works to replace McMillan, he understands that making tackles is just one part of the game. Adjusting the defense on the field and, most importantly, leading the unit are two components that he is already working to turn up heading into the fall. “But I was still a leader last year and I helped a lot of guys out,” Worley said. “It’s another notch now, and I’m ready for it.”
“Everybody is trying to analyze it. The bottom line is we need to win. That’s it.”
A struggling Ohio State men’s basketball program has led to lower and lower attendance in recent seasons. With Thad Matta failing to reach 20 wins for the first time during his tenure as head coach of the Buckeyes, interest in Ohio State basketball has reached an all-time low, with average attendance sitting at 12,324 per home game. The Buckeyes went 13-6 in 19 home games, with a poor 4-5 record in conference play.
Value City Arena is one of the largest basketball venues in the NCAA, with a 18,909-person capacity. Given the scale and the occasional down year, constant sellouts are not expected, and it is not a loud or crazy venue like Duke or Kansas. This year, however, the Buckeyes didn’t sell out at all, and only had two games with attendance above 15,000, and there were large stretches of empty seats that were well-visible even to a TV audience. Even attendance at conference home games was down to 13,258 per game--nearly 600 less than last year. Still, Ohio State’s Jan. 15 matchup against Michigan State was as close as the Buckeyes could get to a sell out, with announced attendance at 17,449.
This season marked the third-straight decline in men’s basketball attendance at Ohio State (though technically, last season’s attendance includes two poorly-attended NIT games, which brings down the total). Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, things aren’t necessarily looking up in the future. There are currently no star players for Ohio State (think how D’Angelo Russell boosted excitement during his one-year campaign with the Buckeyes), and Thad Matta isn’t putting forth a unique or intriguing brand of basketball. Combined with the fact that most of the core roster is returning, that style is unlikely to change heading into next season. Unless Matta and the players on the current roster can generate some excitement and on-court success, it is likely that attendance will continue to spiral downwards.