Welcome to another edition of “You’re Nuts!” Also, welcome to the NCAA Tournament!
But for Ohio State fans, it’s welcome to the offseason. Last week, we took a look the NCAA Tournament bubble and picked a few teams we thought could make a run in the dance. This week, we’re reflecting a bit on Ohio State’s season that just wrapped up.
As stated, last week’s discussion focused on the NCAA “bubble” teams — teams that we figured would make the tournament, but barely. Justin went with the Penn State Nittany Lions, which is a 10-seed in the Midwest region of the bracket. Connor went with the North Carolina State Wolfpack, which is an 11-seed in the south region.
Penn State earned 74% of the vote and North Carolina State got 26%, which means Justin was out big winner last week. Here are the updated standings after 92 weeks:
After 92 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
This week, we’re talking about Ohio State’s guards. Namely Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle, Isaac Likekele, and Sean McNeil. How would you grade their performance as a unit? Here are our thoughts:
Today’s Question: What would you grade the Ohio State men’s basketball backcourt this season?
The Ohio State backcourt was a mixed bag this past season. Bruce Thornton was clearly a bright spot, but we got mixed results from the transfer guards, Sean McNeil and Isaac Likekele. We’re only doing one grade overall for the sake of keeping it simple, but if I had to assign grades individually I’d probably go with this:
Bruce Thornton: A
Sean McNeil: B-
Roddy Gayle: C
Isaac Likekele: D
Thornton and McNeil get above-average grades in my book. Ohio State’s freshman point guard averaged over 10 points per game his first season and played over 30 minutes per game. His availability and consistency was one of the few things Ohio State was able to rely on this past season (Brice Sensabaugh scoring 15 points every night the only other given). He had an assist to turnover ratio of 2:1 his freshman year and refused to settle for difficult shots, taking nearly double as many two-point attempts as three-pointers.
The future, it's so bright.— Ohio State on BTN (@OhioStateOnBTN) March 12, 2023
Watch Bruce Thornton's #B1GMBBT highlight reel ⤵️.@Bruce2T_ x @OhioStateHoops pic.twitter.com/bQW7g6aCan
McNeil didn’t bust the doors down, but he was steady and consistent as a starter for the Buckeyes during his lone season in Columbus. He averaged 9.6 points per game on 43% shooting and 36.9% from three-point land. He wasn’t much of a ballhandler so his assists and turnovers aren’t too, relevant — he was brought to Columbus to score. He did that, scoring in double digits in 17 of the Buckeyes’ 35 games.
Gayle certainly finished the season with a flourish, but he had a very uneven freshman year. He averaged 4.6 points per game, and his minutes swung up and down during the first half of the season (before the ship completely sank in late January and the freshmen began to play more). I didn’t expect Gayle to arrive on campus and be a double-digit scorer right away, but I did expect a bit more production from the high four-star recruit. What we saw at the end of the season could be a sneak peak at what is to come for the talented guard.
It’s hard to look through any kind of lense and not see Likekele’s lone season at Ohio State as under-achieving. “Ice” essentially averaged nine points, four assists, and 5.5 rebounds per game through four seasons at Oklahoma State. In his lone season for the Buckeyes, Likekele averaged 3.8 points, 2.8 assists, and four rebounds per game over 21.8 minutes per contest. He shot 38.8% from the floor and 47.2% from the free throw line (although he did hit some big ones in the Big Ten Tournament).
Likekele did deal with some tragic circumstances in his personal life mid-season which could have impacted his energy and play, but you still can’t look at his season and say he came anywhere close to what the Ohio State staff probably expected for him when they recruited him to the school.
I didn’t think Ohio State’s backcourt was horrid this season, but there were inconsistencies from pretty much everyone but Thornton. It’ll need to be better next season if they want to compete at the top of the Big Ten.
When it comes to the Buckeye backcourt this season, I don’t think anyone truly knew what we were getting. When you are relying on two freshmen and two transfers, it is hard to judge exactly how everything will mesh.
Obviously the Ohio State season did not go as planned and was one of the more disappointing seasons of the last couple of decades. However, I don’t think the main issue was the guards, and they set us up to be excited about the future.
Isaac Likekele and Sean McNeil were both Big 12 transfers that the Buckeyes brought in to be impactful but in different ways. McNeil is a sharpshooting guard that can be physical on defense coming from Bob Huggins and West Virginia. Likekele is a Swiss army knife that can guard multiple positions and the other team’s best player.
They were both up and down all season, and showed signs of what they were brought into Columbus to be. But ultimately, neither seemed to get adjusted to the Big Ten and maximize their potential on the Buckeyes.
However, both played well at times and also struggled with things outside of basketball. Ice took a leave of absence from the team in December and McNeil’s father dealt with health issues throughout the season. These guys are world class athletes, but they are also humans and deal with human problems that likely affected them on the court in some ways. As it would to anyone.
As for the freshmen, it was up and down as well for them, but it ended about as well as it could gave. Bruce Thornton ran the point position all season and did a great job overall. He hit a slight freshman slump and wall in the middle of Big Ten conference play, but he started off the season great and finished the season great and there is a lot of excitement around him coming back to Columbus after a full offseason.
Roddy Gayle was not as impactful to start the season, but he was a good defender that provided some much needed energy off the bench at times. However, at the end of the season and in the conference tournament, Gayle became basically the Buckeyes go-to scorer and a guy that made nine three-pointers in a row throughout three games.
Thornton and Gayle are going to be a fantastic duo over the next couple of years and showed signs of greatness throughout the season. Ice and McNeil played well at times but were inconsistent for parts of the season. Ultimately, I give the backcourt a B because I do not think they were the main issue with the team.
How would you grade Ohio State’s backcourt this past season?
D or F