We’re one week into the five-month-long frenzy that we know as the college basketball season, and the Buckeyes are 2-1. Early returns on this team are a mixed bag, with the Buckeyes falling at home to a ranked Texas A&M team and underperforming quite a bit against an Oakland team that was picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten. This week, we’re going to discuss some of our early thoughts on the team.
Last week, Connor and Justin debated what the biggest key will be to bet Texas A&M. Justin said Jamison Battle would be the biggest difference, while Connor just generally said “Hit a bunch of threes.”
Connor’s idea won, although it didn’t play out in real life, as the Buckeyes went 4-for-19 from downtown and lost the game.
After 126 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
This week, the guys are taking in all the data from the first three games and giving their biggest observations of the team. It’s still a bit early to draw any huge conclusions, but there’s been enough basketball to start putting together the identity of this team.
Today’s Question: What have we learned about the Ohio State men’s basketball team through three games?
Connor: Ohio State will only go as far as Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle take them
Neither Thornton nor Gayle were prepared to lead Ohio State last year. It was a bad team, with upperclassmen who weren’t producing at the level necessary for the team to win. Once the calendar flipped to 2023 and it started to become obvious there would be no post-season for Ohio State, Thornton, Gayle, and Felix Okpara got a lot more run. Nobody was expecting them to lead Ohio State to wins last year. The hope was that the experience they gained would help them lead Ohio State to a bunch of wins the next season.
Well, next season is here. And through two games, Thornton and Gayle are Ohio State’s two leading scorers, at 16.3 and 15.3 points per game. Thornton has already proven he can produce against top-level competition, and he’s taken it to another level this season so far. Gayle, however, averaged just 4.6 PPG last season. He’s more than tripled his production thus far, which wasn’t something I expected to happen. Will he keep up this pace for the next 30 games? Perhaps not, But I think it’s clear that when Thornton isn’t dominating the game, Gayle is the next man up.
Seniors Zed Key and Jamison Battle each are averaging double-digits as well, but Key has always been more of a complimentary piece and is trying to bounce back from off-season shoulder surgery. Battle has been a big-time scorer before, when he was at Minnesota. But his production primarily comes from three-pointers, which isn’t as sustainable if you’re hoping he could be “the guy.”
For those reasons, it’s looking a lot like the Buckeyes will go as far their two sophomore guards are able to take them. The Buckeyes only had one reliable scorer last season — Brice Sensabaugh. Two years ago, it had the 1-2 punch of E.J. Liddell and Malaki Branham. Having two reliable go-to guys should make it a lot easier for Chris Holtmann’s team on nights when the offense goes a bit stale.
For the first time since... I don’t even know when...... the Buckeyes have two dynamic, young guards. If they continue to progress, this could be a very special year for Ohio State. If they struggle or hit a wall during Big Ten play......big changes could be coming to the program next year.
Justin: Jamison Battle has to be the top offensive option
After watching this team play for three games and 120 minutes total now, one thing is very clear. Jamison Battle is going to be the key to unlocking the best version of this team this season, which is a top-20 team in the country, in my opinion (I said the BEST version).
This is not surprising to me. I have said all offseason that Battle has the potential to be a 15–20-point scorer for the Buckeyes, filling a role that they desperately need. After losing Brice Sensabaugh to the NBA draft and Justice Sueing to graduation, the Buckeyes went out and got a solid shooting wing to help replace the offensive production they lost at that position.
So far this season, Battle is averaging 10.7 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game. He is shooting 39 percent from the field, 38 percent from the three-point line, and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
Battled struggled with foul trouble against Texas A&M and only played 23 minutes. They missed his floor spacing and his shooting, and when they needed someone to get a bucket, he wasn’t there to get one.
In 2021-22 with Minnesota, Battle shot the three-ball at 38 percent on 7.1 attempts per game. That is an elite shooting season, and he averaged 17 points per game. Last year, he struggled with injuries and was the go-to guy on a bad offensive team, but with drive-first guards like Bruce Thornton and Roddy Gayle Jr., Battle will be able to get open looks from deep, as long as he is on the floor.
Something the Buckeyes have struggled with in recent years is outside shooting, and Battle was brought in to just that. I don't think it is crazy to say that Battle can average 17-20 points per game. The Buckeyes might need him to do just that to be the best version of their team this season.
Biggest takeaway from Ohio State’s first three games?
This poll is closed
The team will go as Gayle and Thornton go (Connor)
Jamison Battle has to be the top offensive option (Justin)