At Land-Grant Holy Land, May means that the theme weeks are here! And for this iteration of You’re Nuts, we are sticking to the theme for this week, which is Biggest Concerns for next season. These are normally all about football, but we are doing what we do best. Talking hoops.
Last week, Connor and Justin debated who should start at the center position. Connor said sophomore Felix Okpara and Justin argued it should be senior Zed Key. Even though Key was honorable mention all-conference, the audience sided with Connor on this, agreeing that Okpara should start.
With the Connor win, he moves to just two wins behind Justin with week 100 upcoming.
After 99 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
As mentioned above, here is the question for this week.
Today’s Question: What is your biggest concern with Ohio State men’s basketball this season?
Connor: There will be too much pressure on Jamison Battle
Buckeye Nation, help us officially welcome Jamison Battle (@battletime510) to the family!— Ohio State Hoops (@OhioStateHoops) April 27, 2023
The 6'7" forward last played for Minnesota where he averaged 15.1 PPG over his two seasons for the Gophers. A Robbinsdale, MN native, Jamison joins Ohio State with one year of eligibility. pic.twitter.com/w8dqI9Tmx5
With both of Ohio State’s top two scorers from last season now gone, someone — or someone(s) — will have to step up and assume the role of go-to scorer this season. Last year it was Brice Sensabaugh, who led the team in scoring at 16.3 points per game. The NBA-bound freshman is almost certainly gone to the draft, where he’ll be a first-round pick this summer.
Justice Sueing was second in scoring at 12.3 points per game, but went through a prolonged stretch of poor play in January and into February. He final season was not his best season, but he still contributed over a dozen points per game.
With those two gone, who’s got next? Bruce Thornton averaged just under 11 points per game as a freshman, and I think he’ll take a step forward this year. Zed Key was shooting north of 60% before getting hurt in early January, and finished the year at 10.8 points per game. However, he won’t even be able to practice until August at the earliest, meaning he’s essentially losing his entire off-season.
Both of those guys could ascend to another level this season, but I believe the biggest weight will fall on the shoulders of Minnesota transfer Jamison Battle. Battle arrived in Columbus this spring after averaging 13.5 PPG in two seasons at George Washington and 15.1 PPG in two seasons at Minnesota.
While not exactly an efficient scorer (he’s a career 42% shooter, but shot it at 37.1% last season), Battle will be the most experienced player on the floor for the Buckeyes, aside from Baylor transfer Dale Bonner. The difference between Battle and Bonner, however, is that Battle will be a starter and could wind up playing double the minutes of Bonner. He also is much more of a pure scorer than Bonner — the two of them will play very different roles.
As the elder statesman of the expected starters, I don’t see a path for Ohio State to have a bounce back season if Battle doesn’t lead the Buckeyes in scoring. On a team that’s loaded with young players chock full of potential, Battle is one of the only sure things.
He scored in double-digits in 16 of 27 games last season, and that’s despite playing on a horrendous Minnesota team that averaged just 62.9 points per game. He’ll have plenty of space to work, and plenty of opportunities to get up shots this season in an offense that Chris Holtmann has gradually tried to speed up every year. Part of Battle’s recruitment was probably the assurance that he’d be one of — if not the — focal points of the offense.
Sometimes there are exceptions, but successful teams have a go-to scorer. A number one. An offensive priority. I think Battle needs to be that number one this season, but it’s a little concerning based off his 2022-2023 stats.
The Buckeyes will need him to be more efficient shooting the ball, as they can’t have their go-to guy hitting less than 40% of his shots. He hovered around 35%-36% from three-point range his first three seasons in college, but that number fell to 31.1% this past season. Those numbers probably need to come back up, because if they don’t, things could get really sticky for Ohio State once again in 2023-2024.
Justin: The overall youth is too much to overcome
There are three things that I believe to be true this next college basketball season. Jordan Spieth will own the grand slam (see everyone at the PGA in two weeks), Ohio State basketball will be talented and have more potential than any other Buckeye team in recent memory, and the thirdly this Buckeye team will still be really young.
Assuming the starters are who we think they are, the starting lineup will be Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle, Evan Mahaffey/Scotty Middleton/Jamison Battle, and Zed Key/Felix Okpara. So, looking at that, there is a chance Ohio State starts four sophomores or three sophomores and a freshman.
While this team’s potential is genuinely through the roof, they are also very young still and will likely be prone to young team mistakes. Bruce Thornton started in most games last season, but Gayle and Okpara came off the bench on most occasions.
This will be their first-time being day one and heavily used starters and could make for a transition period, at least early on in the season. Middleton, Royal, Chatman and possibly Parks will all play significant roles on next season’s team and are all freshmen that are talented but will likely need to go through a learning phase, similar to all the freshmen last season.
There could still be some growing pains on this team and that is okay.
Which of these things are a bigger concern heading into this season?
This poll is closed
Too much pressure on Jamison Battle to be "the guy" (Connor)
The freshman hit a freshman wall (Justin)