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You’re Nuts: What would you grade the Ohio State men’s basketball centers this season?

Felix Okpara was unexpectedly thrust into a major role at the end of the season, and the second half of Zed Key’s season was lost to injury.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament Quarterfinals - Michigan State vs Ohio State Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the 94th edition of “You’re Nuts” — college hoops edition! This week, we’re wrapping up our three-part series where we grade out each position group.

Last week, we looked at Ohio State’s frontcourt, but specifically the forwards. This week we’re focusing solely on the Buckeyes centers — Felix Okpara and Zed Key. How do you think they fared in their vastly different roles this year?

Last week, Connor graded gave the frontcourt a C, which was the most popular choice with 45% of the popular vote. Justin graded the unit B, which only 15% of the people agreed with. The final 40% went with the “D or F” option. Ohio State fans have always been an optimistic bunch.

With Connor being last week’s big winner, here are the standings through 94 weeks:

After 94 weeks:

Justin- 41
Connor- 38
Other- 11

(There have been four ties)

This week, we’re looking at Ohio State’s centers — Key and Okpara. We are not including Owen Spencer, who did see extended minutes against Purdue but was essentially just used to throw five fouls at Zach Edey that day.

Today’s Question: What would you grade the Ohio State men’s basketball centers this season?

Connor: B

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Indiana Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The plan this past season was for Key to play major minutes for Ohio State at center, where he would continue to improve on his sophomore season when he scored 7.8 PPG and averaged 5.6 rebounds per game. Okpara was to be his backup, playing 10-ish minutes per game behind Key.

That plan played out for the first two months of the season, and then Key severely injured his shoulder against Purdue in early January. Key tried to play through it for the next five or so weeks, but he was clearly compromised. Not only did his field goal percentage drop drastically, his rebounding totals did as well. He was wearing a very restrictive shoulder brace that “made it hard for him to breathe at times” according to Chris Holtmann, and it clearly hindered his play.

By mid-February Key had shut it down, and Okpara was asked to play 25+ minutes per game about a year earlier than was expected. Offensively Okpara had his ups and downs, but regardless of the offense, he impacted every single shot around the basket on the defensive end. It’s fair to wonder if Holtmann should have swapped Okpara in for Key in early January rather than mid-February, as the freshman looked fresher, springier, and more explosive down the stretch than the injured version of Key did for the five weeks he was playing injured.

Key ended the season averaging 10.8 PPG and 7.5 rebounds per game, both up from his sophomore season. His shooting percentage of 55% was a career-low, however, and it took a steep drop in January when he was injured. Key had the potential to have a very strong junior season, but the second half was derailed by injury. If I had to grade him individually I’d give him a C.

Okpara didn’t put up huge counting numbers, but I thought his contributions far exceeded what anybody expected of his as a freshman. Over the final nine games of the season Okpara averaged 5.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, and and two blocks per game. He impacted every single shot that was taken around the basket — even if he wasn’t blocking a shot, shooters had to change the arc of their shot to avoid getting it blocked by the lanky freshman.

Okpara showed down the stretch run of this past season that he’s ready to be an impact player in the Big Ten starting this fall. The timeline was sped up out of necessity, but it might’ve been the best possible thing for him. I’d grade him an A because he impressed me beyond what I expected out of him as a freshman.

And if you average an A and a C together, you get B. So, there you go.

Justin: C

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This is honestly a tough one for me because I have been riding for Key and Okpara all season, but I am giving them a lower grade than I want to. I want to give a B, but I am giving them a C. However, I am giving them an A on the vibes check scale. But on the court this season? C.

I think Key and Okpara will be one of the best frontcourts and one-two punches at center in the Big Ten next season, but I have to grade them on this season, and to me it was the tale of two halves for these two guys.

Zed Key started off the season well, averaging over 13 points and right around eight rebounds with six double-doubles through the first 10 games. However, he was a little bit inconsistent at times. Then against Purdue, he got hurt and was never quite the same for the rest of the season. He tried to play through his injury, but ultimately had to be shut down for the remainder of the season, leaving the team struggling at depth at the five position.

Obviously, Key getting injured is not his fault and it derailed what was a promising start to his season, but they struggled with him on the floor when he was working through his injury because he could not be as physical as he normally is with his shoulder being hurt.

For Felix Okpara, he finished the season incredibly strong and showed that he can be a legitimate two-way threat down low as a finisher in the paint and an elite rim protector and shot blocker down low. However, he struggled a bit early on, which is completely understandable for a freshman, but we are grading these guys on this season.

Key was good early on and Okpara was good late, but they weren’t ever really a force together and that is what I am excited to see next season.


What would you grade Ohio State’s centers this season?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 20%
    B (Connor)
    (10 votes)
  • 52%
    C (Justin)
    (26 votes)
  • 28%
    D or F
    (14 votes)
50 votes total Vote Now