The wait is over. By this time next week, Ohio State will have already played live basketball, on their home court, with fans in the seats. Sure, an exhibition against the Silverswords of Chaminade will only tell us so much, but seeing the team play in front of a crowd, with lineups introduced, lights shining bright, and fouls actually being counted is the closest thing to college hoops we’ve had since April. More on this Ohio State team momentarily.
Last week, Connor and Justin made their picks for this season’s Final Four in Houston. Both guys picked North Carolina and Houston to fill out half of their Final Four. But Connor went with TCU and Miami, while Justin took Creighton and Virginia.
It was close (ish) — Justin’s Final Four received 56% of the vote, and Connor’s picked up the remaining 44%. Justin’s Final Four seemed more reasonable to the people, so he wins last week’s debate.
After 73 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
As previously stated, we’re back to talking about the Buckeyes this week. To earn the coveted double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament, you have to finish in the top four in the conference. Chris Holtmann’s Ohio State teams have earned that double-bye in one of the four B1G Tournaments they’ve competed in — back in 2018. Last season, they finished tied for fourth, but lost tiebreakers and wound up with the 6-seed.
Will they slide back into the top four this year?
Today’s question: Will Ohio State be a top-four team in the Big Ten this season?
For the first time in awhile, I do not think that the media polls and preseason services are disrespecting Ohio State with where they are picking them to finish in the Big Ten. The preseason media poll has them pegged as the No. 6 team in the conference, while the Field of 68’s Almanac picked Ohio State to finish fourth. Anywhere from four to six feels acceptable, to me.
Especially during what’s expected to be a “down” year for the B1G, the Buckeyes waltzing into the top-four and earning a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament would shock very few people. Hell, Wisconsin wasn’t even picked to finish in the top eight last season, and they won the league! Anything can happen.
But unfortunately, I think this team resembles the 2018-2019 team that went 8-12 in conference play a lot more than the 2017-2018 team that went 15-3.
For starters, this looks like a team that’s going to struggle shooting the ball from outside. Sean McNeil will knock down his fair share of three-pointers, but beyond him, Ohio State doesn’t have any established threats. Justice Sueing and Gene Brown have shown that they can connect from out there, but not consistently. Brice Sensabaugh’s three-point shooting has been hyped up quite a bit since he committed last year, but relying on a freshman to become a 36-40% shooter from outside is a longshot.
Holtmann said Sean McNeil "has the ability to put the ball on the floor some and score the ball in a variety of ways" in addition to his well-known sharp-shooting ability.— Jack Emerson (@jackemers) October 13, 2022
Ohio State finished No. 111 in defensive efficiency last year according to KenPom, so the only way to go — hopefully — is up. Adding Sueing and Oklahoma State transfer Isaac Likekele will give the Buckeyes two very flexible pieces on defense, so switching should become a lot smoother and fewer mismatches will happen off those screens. But also relying on four freshmen to not make freshmen mistakes is asking a lot out of them.
Holtmann: "I don't think I've coached a team that's going to rely on freshmen the way this team is going to."— Connor Lemons (@lemons_connor) September 26, 2022
In short, this team isn’t going to burn the nets from deep, and will have some extended dry stretches on offense. At the same time, they should be a fine defensive team, but not great and certainly not elite on that end. Throw in needing to rely on four freshmen to play crucial minutes on top of that, and there’s just too many variables to confidently say Ohio State will be a top-four team in the Big Ten.
First of all, everyone knows I tend to be an optimist.
So let’s start with the obvious. As I have mentioned before, I like to do tiers more than rankings when it comes to teams and players. Tier 1 in the conference this season is pretty set. Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois in whatever order you prefer at least seem like the favorites coming into the season. As we saw last season, anything can happen and the games are decided on the court, but these are the three that stand out early on.
After that, you have teams like Iowa, Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, and Rutgers in tier 2. These are the teams that should make the NCAA Tournament, but likely are not contenders to win the conference for whatever reason or flaw they have.
I think these will be the teams that finish 4-8 (wouldn’t be surprised if Penn State snuck in to the top eight but that’s a conversation for another day). It isn’t implausible that Ohio State can finish in the top four and beat Michigan State, Purdue and Iowa head-to-head.
This is also the space where the Buckeyes tend to live under Chris Holtmann. Since Holtmann took over, the Buckeyes have finished in the top five in the conference four times out of five and the top four of the conference twice. This isn’t the Buckeyes’ worst team since Holtmann took over, so it should pretty much be expected at this point.
It is very difficult to truly project where this Ohio State team will finish because of the injury concerns and the reliance on freshmen. However, it seems Justice Sueing and Zed Key are fully healthy, and the freshmen have been impressive in practice thus far, so I am comfortable being optimistic and picking them to finish fourth. I would be pretty shocked if the finished above any of the big three though.
Will Ohio State be a top-four team in the Big Ten this season?
This poll is closed