The No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes are 11-1. They have beaten not one, not two, but three top-10 teams, and it is still December. A nasty, aggressive defense, especially around the basket, has prevented opponents from getting high-percentage looks against the Buckeyes, causing them to struggle. Ohio State is shooting 40.9 percent from 3-point range, which is the seventh best mark in the country.
While the Buckeyes are certainly succeeding as a unit, several players are having their best seasons of their individual careers as well. The freshmen have made a splash too, contributing immediately at both ends of the floor.
Now, we know it is an almost impossible question, but who has been Ohio State’s most valuable player so far? There is a handful of guys who could lay claim to this title, so let’s focus on three guys who I think have had the biggest impact through OSU’s first 12 games:
2019 Stats: 8.8 PPG, 6.4 REB, 1.0 AST, 69.5% FG, 68.8% FT
Young, or “KY” as coaches and teammates often call him, has improved literally every single stat this year in comparison to last season. He is scoring almost three more points per game, grabbing two more rebounds, and has increased his free throw percentage by over 10 percent.
Young does not attempt enough shots per game to qualify for the league lead in field goal percentage, as you need to average five shot attempts per game to qualify. However, if he qualified, his 69.5 percent would be second in the Big Ten this season.
Young has been incredibly efficient this season, and incredibly clutch, especially early on in contests. Against Kentucky, Young scored all 10 of his points in the first half on 4-of-4 shooting in a game Ohio State only led by one at halftime. He had his most productive game of the season in the season opener against Cincinnati, scoring 14 points and pulling down 13 rebounds in the Buckeyes’ eight-point win.
While he doesn’t lead the team in scoring or rebounds, and doesn’t exactly jump out at you after a first glance, Young has improved his game immensely from last season to now, and makes most of those plays old-school basketball fans really appreciate. Be it an offensive rebound ensuring another possession, a big block to stop a layup, or a thunderous dunk off an alley-oop (see below), KY always seems to be in the right place at the right time, ready to make a big play.
Ninety nine points, and alley oop is 2 pic.twitter.com/EqGXOdkLJH— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 7, 2019
2019 Stats: 13.9 PPG, 9.0 REB, 2.1 AST, 1.5 BLK, 45.8% FG, 46.2% 3PT, 78.5% FT
Kaleb Wesson gets most of the headlines when the national media talks about Ohio State, and with good reason. He lost over 35 pounds from last season to now, and has increased his 3-point percentage by over 11 percent, up to a spicy 46.2 percent, which is good for sixth in the Big Ten.
His ability to step outside and knock down deeper shots creates a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches. Do you send two defenders out to guard Kaleb Wesson, leaving the paint vulnerable for someone like Kyle Young or Andre Wesson, or do you leave one person on the younger Wesson, leaving them vulnerable to getting beat by the larger and more skilled big man?
He’s asserting himself on the defensive end as well, increasing his rebounds to nine per game, and blocking 1.5 shots per game. All the while, he isn’t fouling out nearly as much as he once did. This season, Wesson has only fouled out one time in 12 games, and it was in the Buckeyes’ most recent victory over the then- No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats, where he still scored 12 points and grabbed 8 rebounds.
Kaleb dominating early on against the Nits pic.twitter.com/NSYa7QFQEW— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 7, 2019
The scariest part for opposing teams is that his best is almost certainly yet to come. He’s been limited to 25.4 minutes per game this season not because of foul trouble, but because Ohio State has blown so many teams out that he is often pulled early.
His 45.8 percent field goal percentage is currently a career low, but that is sure to move closer to 50 percent as he logs more minutes. His 13.9 points per game is less than last year’s 14.6, but as Ohio State moves into conference play, he won’t be exiting games early like he did so often during the non-conference schedule. Because of this, he’ll play more minutes, and his scoring should increase too.
Kaleb Wesson is having a very good year so far, but it has the potential to be a dominant, All-American type of year when all is said and done.
Duane Washington Jr.
2019 Stats: 11.1 PPG, 1.6 AST, 50% FG, 50% 3PT, 71.4% FT
Okay, be honest. Raise your hand if you saw Duane Washington Jr. turning into an all-Big Ten type of player this year..... yeah, me neither. While Duane was a solid role player on last year’s team, he had some quirks.
First, he shot a ton of 3-pointers despite not being a good 3-point shooter last year. At 30 percent, he was the seventh best on the team, but attempted the second most of any Buckeye last year. The old Duane would just let it fly over and over, with little success. Secondly, he didn’t pass a ton. Washington is obviously a “score first” type of guard, but only one assist per game from any guard shows a lack of awareness and discipline in a game predicated on taking the best shot every single possession.
This year, things have changed. A lot. Washington, who has started 8 of the Buckeyes’ 12 games, is still hoisting 3-pointers like there’s no tomorrow, but this year they’re dropping. Dropping so often, in fact, that his 50 percent 3-point percentage is tied for second in the B1G. He’s become a crafty finisher around the basket as well, with his overall shooting percentage sitting at an identical 50 percent.
Washington's got 17 so far tonight against the Heels pic.twitter.com/N7ZaQmU9f4— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) December 5, 2019
The passing, you ask? Despite an uptick in minutes, his turnover rate has barely gone up, while assists have jumped to 1.6 per game. Washington never lacked confidence, but this year the results are backing up that confidence. Chris Holtmann and his teammates are obviously confident in him as well, getting the ball in his hands enough for him to take eight shots per game, thus far.
While the attention coming into this season was certainly on Kaleb Wesson and the impressive freshman class, Duane Washington Jr. and the sophomore class have made sure they aren’t forgotten. Once he’s fully recovered from his rib injury, look for Washington to heat back up in conference play.
Poll: You tell us, who has been the MVP?
Who has been Ohio State’s MVP thus far?
This poll is closed
Duane Washington Jr.