Another week, another spicy college basketball-related debate between the two characters who also bring you the Bucketheads basketball podcast each and every week. This week, Connor and Justin are taking a look at which former Buckeyes would complement this season’s team the best.
But first, a recap.
Last week, the guys debated whether the Purdue Boilermakers, who currently sit atop the AP Poll, are really the best team in the country. Matt Painter’s team ran over a tough Duke team that beat Ohio State, but they also struggled a bit with Nebraska and a Florida State team that’s 4-10 this season.
Justin said yes, Purdue is the best team. Connor stuck his head out and said no, and the people did not agree with him. 73% of people agreed with Justin, notching him another win. He leads the all-time series now, 34-33.
After 80 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
As stated at the top, this week we’re talking about Ohio State and only Ohio State. This year’s team is not perfect, losing 3 of their first 11 games thus far — arguably against the best three teams they faced. There are holes and shortcomings with the roster, as there are with nearly every team.
But if Ohio State could add a former player to this roster to really be the cherry on top, who would be the best addition? For the record, we are only considering Holtmann’s guys since he arrived in Columbus, so 2017 onward.
Today’s question: Which Chris Holtmann-era player would best complement this current team?
Connor: Malaki Branham
Man oh man, could this team use Malaki Branham right now. And hey, that was the plan until the young man went ballistic for 35 points against Nebraska almost one year ago exactly and the rest is history.
A week or two ago, I don’t think a guard would be a smart addition to this current team. With Bruce Thornton running point and Isaac Likekele relieving him when necessary, the Buckeyes had no need for another two-guard who can bring it up when needed. But now that Likekele is away from the team tending to a personal matter with his family, the pressure on Thornton to run point for 35-40 minutes per game is growing.
Branham wasn’t a great distributor last season, but he was third on the team with two assists per game. That ability would be so useful right now with Likekele out and freshman guard Roddy Gayle really not showing that he has the capability to spell Thornton at point right now. Sueing has before and it sounds like he will more moving forward, but that’s a rather new development.
On top of his ability to get the ball over the timeline and distribute a little bit, Branham was — clearly — an NBA-ready scorer. He shot 41.6% from beyond the three-point line, but also exceled at those elbow-area mid-range shots. On the season, he shot right around 50% and much of his success was in the mid-range game.
Adding Branham to this team would give the Buckeyes another ballhandler, but also a certified go-to scorer that the current team lacks. Right now Ohio State has three players averaging between 13 and 15.5 points, but none higher than 15.5. If Branham had returned for a second season, he’d be the leading scorer and first option on offense, which would take some of the stress off of Zed Key, Justice Sueing, and Brice Sensabaugh.
But while having a certified bucket is important, the absence of Likekele and the slower progression from Gayle has made a second impactful guard a clear need for this team. Branham — hypothetically — would do that.
Justin: Keita Bates-Diop
Keita Bates-Diop is one of the top Buckeyes to come through the program in the last two decades. Malaki Branham is great, and I enjoyed watching him play every game last season, but let’s look at what this specific team would need. That is a player like Keita Bates-Diop.
Bates-Diop was an absolute killer of a scorer as we all know, but his defense was something that was underrated. He was a long, lanky wing who could defend multiple positions and get rebounds at a high clip. Case in point, he averaged 8.7 rebounds per game his senior season and 5.7 rebounds per game for his career.
Obviously, he could score the rock at a high level as well, averaging 19.8 points per game his senior season and 11.7 points per game for his career. He won Big Ten Player of the Year during the 2017-18 season, and is currently the only player to do that under Chris Holtmann.
Experience cannot be an afterthought here as well. Bates-Diop played four years of college ball and played in many big games, so he could help the talented freshman navigate things on this team.
Branham is great, but Bates-Diop just fits better.
Which Holtmann-era Buckeye would best complement this team?
This poll is closed
Keita Bates-Diop (Justin)
Malaki Branham (Connor)
Some other Holtmann-era player