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Chris Holtmann and Keita Bates-Diop have led Ohio State basketball’s quick turnaround

The new Buckeye coach has started Big Ten play 7-0 in large part due to Keita Bates-Diop’s spectacular play.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Northwestern Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

“I think it’s been all about approach. Our approach every day in practice, our approach pregame. We always say we were picked (to be) one of the last teams in the Big Ten. We’re going to continue to play with that chip on our shoulder.”

Ohio State forward Jae’Sean Tate via Mitch Stacy, Associated Press

Prior to this season, if anybody told you that Ohio State was going to start Big Ten play 7-0, you would have had them committed to the loony bin. Ohio State decided to move on from Thad Matta, their coach for the previous 13 seasons, and had numerous players transfer out of the program. The Buckeyes hired Chris Holtmann from Butler, and while the hire was met with positive reviews, many thought that it would take a few seasons for Holtmann to turn the Ohio State around.

Last night, Ohio State beat Northwestern on the road to improve to 7-0 in conference. Earlier this week the Buckeyes returned to the AP Top 25 rankings for the first time in nearly three years. Despite coming into the season with a roster depleted by transfers, the Buckeyes have found their groove and are currently one of the hottest teams in the country.

Holtmann isn’t the only reason that Ohio State has excelled over the past month and a half. After missing most of last year due to injury, redshirt junior Keita Bates-Diop is playing like one of the best players in the country this year. The forward has been named Big Ten Player of the Week two weeks in a row, and is averaging nearly 20 points per game this year.

What has propelled Ohio State this year is that they are getting key contributions from a number of players. Against Maryland last week, Andrew Dakich netted a career-high 11 points, all in the first half. Last night in the win over Northwestern, Micah Potter put home a season-high 13 points, to lead all Buckeye scorers. Ohio State is proving the doubters wrong, and has injected some excitement into the program a lot quicker than many were expecting under Holtmann.

“Haskins will be penciled in as the starter entering spring camp. And deservedly so, after he orchestrated the comeback win against Michigan. He likely will continue to hold that spot ahead of Joe Burrow and Tate Martell, who are both better runners, come next fall. At least the Ohio State receivers have to hope so. Haskins is a big reason they chose to return.”

Rob Oller, The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State has to replace the winningest quarterback in school history, and somehow expectations for the offense are higher than ever. Not only did Dwayne Haskins give Buckeye fans a glimpse of the future in relief of an injured J.T. Barrett in the win over Michigan, but Ohio State has their top six receivers from last year returning.

Now the big question is how Urban Meyer and the offensive coaching staff responds. Barrett was more of a run-first quarterback, while Haskins is better with his arm than his legs. The Buckeyes will still be able to do plenty of work on the ground with J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber in the backfield, they just won’t be able to use their quarterback running as much.

With receivers like Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, and Terry McLaurin returning for 2018, Ohio State should be able to accomplish a lot more in the passing game than they did in the last few years. As long as the offensive line, which will have to replace Billy Price and Jamarco Jones, responds, the Buckeyes should have another potent offense, which could be even more balanced than in years past.

“You think about attacking the day. That’s something that we try to focus on each and every day. Attack the day, get something out of it. Just don’t come out here and just not get better. You’re out here, everybody’s out here for a reason, so you want to attack the day and get better.”

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett via Dan Hope, Eleven Warriors

So far J.T. Barrett has garnered rave reviews during practices leading up to this Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg. The Buckeye quarterback is feeling right at home with numerous scouts tracking his moves during practices this week. Ohio State often has scouts at their practices because of the talent that they have, but also Buckeye practices have similar intensity to the practices this week, which is making Barrett even more comfortable.

Barrett being relaxed and performing better could do wonders to the quarterback’s draft stock ahead of April’s NFL Draft. Despite being the winningest quarterback in school history, there are questions as to how effective Barrett can be at quarterback in the NFL. Barrett knows there is still plenty of room for improvement in his game, and he is trying to learn everything that he can, but at the same time not drastically changing how he plays the game. And in true J.T. Barrett fashion, he is almost as worried about picking up one more win at the college level as he is about impressing scouts this week.