The 2016-2017 basketball season is finally over, which means it’s time to publish those preseason predictions for next year.
The 2016-2017 campaign was a disappointment for Ohio State, unquestionably. The Buckeyes lost Keita Bates-Diop for the season due to an injury, lost to Rutgers in the opening round game of the Big Ten Tournament, and missed the postseason entirely.
But KBD should be back next season, along with JaQuan Lyle, Kam Williams, Jae’Sean Tate, and some new recruits. Will the Buckeyes get back into the postseason and begin rebuilding a program that has unquestionably been in decline?
Based on expert predictions, it doesn’t look like many are too optimistic.
The early ESPN Bracketology doesn’t have Ohio State even among the final eight out of the tournament, let alone in the NCAA field. Cleveland.com has Ohio State 10th in their too early Big Ten Power Rankings. So did Maryland’s 247Sports site. Land of 10 has Ohio State 12th. So did BTN.com. And it should go without saying, no major outlet has produced a preseason Top 25 with Ohio State anywhere near the list, or at least, not one that we’ve seen.
A cause for skepticism does seem warranted. After all, Ohio State has had a core of Lyle, Williams, Tate and KBD before, and hasn’t won anything of consequence yet, so why assume that this year is the year they take the jump? Marc Loving and Trevor Thompson won’t be back. The Buckeyes will be young in the frontcourt rotation again. And many other teams in the Big Ten either bring in big time freshman, or return almost everybody from teams that were already good, like Northwestern and Minnesota.
If Ohio State finishes 10th or worse in the Big Ten, they’re not going back to the NCAA Tournament, and then Ohio State’s administration will need to make a hard decision about Thad Matta.
Will that happen? I think it’s far too early to say. The Buckeyes have some roster space now, and they’re continuing to recruit some big name guards in the 2017 class. It’s also entirely possible the Buckeyes pursue a graduate transfer, perhaps to provide depth at either guard spot, or some experienced scoring somewhere on the roster. There’s a decent chance the roster going into next fall is a little different from what it looks like now.
But given how the team has performed over the last few years, they probably haven’t earned the benefit of the doubt. Ohio State basketball has some experienced players. They’ll have some talented younger players, like the Wesson brothers and Derek Funderburk. They have the talent to make a run in the Big Ten and climb back into the NCAA Tournament.
But if they do, they won’t find many press clippings predicting it this Spring.