The Basketball Tournament is descending upon us, but we’ll take a one-week break from that and return to TBT talk next week. Last week, we debated which non-Carmen’s Crew squad you should pay attention to during TBT this year.
Connor pointed you all towards Shell Shock, the Maryland alumni team. Justin picked the Happy Valley Hoopers, the Penn State alumni team. Unfortunately for us, we also provided an option of “You want us to care about either of these teams?” And look at that, that choice won!
13% of the people sided with Connor, 25% agreed with Justin and the remaining 62% of you degenerates picked the “You want me to care about either of these teams?” option. Lesson learned!
After 108 weeks:
(There have been four ties)
We are diverting our gaze away from the alumni teams and over to the current Ohio State men’s basketball team this week. Clearly, with a 16-19 record, there are some areas that need attention if Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes want to have a bounce-back season and reach the lofty heights that both they and the fanbase have set for them. But which of these areas is most crucial? Which area could be improved on that would help this team succeed the most?
Today’s Question: Which area of the game needs the most attention for Ohio State men’s basketball?
Connor: On-ball defense
Ohio State stunk on defense last season — stunk to high hell. But I don’t need to tell you the obvious, we all watched. We know it, the Ohio State coaching staff knows it, and every other Big Ten team knows it. Teams were able to drive to the basket against the Buckeyes far too often this past season, or in the very least blow past their defender to draw a double team, which would lead to a kick-out for an open three. It can’t happen.
Luckily, I think this team is going to get better on that end simply because of who they lost from the roster and who they picked up.
While both guys contributed meaningful minutes on the offense end, Brice Sensabaugh and Sean McNeil were the Buckeyes’ two worst defenders last season. Sensabaugh in particular was picked on as the season wore on. Teams would get the ball to whoever he was guarding, and if Ohio State tried to change the assignment, the other team would set screens and move around to make sure someone was running downhill at Sensabaugh towards the basket. And, while it was clear he was making an effort to get better, he just didn’t get a whole lot better.
McNeil was similar, although his deficiency was more a lack of foot speed to slide and stay with opponents than anything else. McNeil didn’t look clueless on defense, he just wasn’t uber-athletic and able to keep up all the time. Sensabaugh (unfortunately) had both issues.
Justice Sueing, Gene Brown, and Isaac Likekele — the latter two of which were lauded as plus defenders for most of their careers — also had some tough spots on defense last season. All three are now gone from the program.
In their place, Ohio State has added Dale Bonner — a defense-first, senior guard from Baylor whose minutes will likely be determined by the defensive impact he has in different lineups. They added Jamison Battle — a lefty wing who has scored a bunch of buckets at George Washington and Minnesota, but whose defense has neither stunk nor shined — it’s just been fine.
They also added Evan Mahaffey, a sophomore forward from Penn State who statistically was included in all of Penn State’s best defensive lineups last season, based on +/-. And finally, they brought in a freshman class that included Scotty Middleton, a lanky off-ball guard who’s as excited to get after it on defense as I am to get to the front of the line at Graeter’s.
The Buckeyes finished No. 106 in defensive efficiency last season — a horrendous mark. Teams that finish outside of the top 25 in defensive efficiency don’t make it far in the tournament every year. Teams outside of the top 50 are lucky to even win a game.
I expect some improvement from the sophomore class, but I also think the “trades” this team made on their roster will make Ohio State a much better defensive team. At any given point, the Buckeyes are likely to have at least three of Bruce Thornton, Roddy Gayle, Dale Bonner, Scotty Middleton, and Felix Okpara on the floor. Because of that, I just don’t think there are as many bad defensive lineups this team could throw on the floor — unlike last season.
When it comes to the current state of Ohio State basketball, it is pretty easy to point out what is going good and what is going bad.
Outside of last season, which was one where pretty much everything went wrong, the good is the player development, the recruiting and the consistency of being in the top half of the Big Ten. The bad is the program has not had much success in March, and haven’t truly contended for a Big Ten championship.
One issue that has not helped the Buckeyes when March rolls around is losing games they shouldn’t lose in conference play. And this is a little bit of a stale complaint because conference play is grueling and you will inevitably lose a game or two that is not going to look great on the resume.
However, a sequence that happened during the 2021-22 season is a good example of what the Buckeyes should work on moving forward.
On Feb. 24, the Buckeyes defeated Illinois at Illinois after beating Indiana in overtime the game before. This was a huge win and propelled them into a tie at the top of the Big Ten. They immediately followed that up by losing to an average Maryland team and a bad Nebraska team at home. And that dropped them out of the Big Ten conference championship race after losing two bad games.
It also hurts seeding in the tournament. Let’s say the Buckeyes win those two games. They likely are a 5 or 6 seed instead of a 7 seed, and they would avoid playing Villanova, who went to the Final Four.
Bad losses can cause a domino effect, and we have seen that over the last three or four seasons.
Which area of the game needs the most attention?
This poll is closed
On-ball defense (Connor)