Now that the deadline for players to announce for the NFL Draft has finally passed, it feels like now is a good time for our attention to turn away from the football program and towards the hardwood. When it comes to the men’s basketball team, even though the year has changed, the team still can’t find a way to win an important game in January. The latest setback came on Monday afternoon when the Buckeyes blew another second half lead to fall to Michigan in Ann Arbor.
At least things are a little more positive when it comes to Ohio State’s women’s basketball team. On Sunday the Buckeyes beat Michigan State 70-65 to extend their winning streak to three games. With the victory over the Spartans, Ohio State is now 13-3 on the season, sitting 18th in the rankings, Next up for the Buckeyes is a trip to Maryland to take on the Terrapins before returning home on Sunday afternoon for a massive showdown with Caitlin Clark and Iowa.
Since both teams are a little more than halfway through their regular season schedules, now feels like a good time to look at who has been most impressive on the court this year for the Buckeyes. Your choice could be a player from either the men’s or the women’s team. Maybe there has been a player that has shown improvement from last year or even the start of this season, or it could be a player that was expected to lead their team and they have lived up to the hype so far this year.
Today’s question: Which Ohio State basketball player has been most impressive so far this season?
We’d love to hear your choices. Either respond to us on Twitter at @Landgrant33 or leave your choice in the comments.
Brett’s answer: Felix Okpara
Even though basketball has become more of a perimeter game, there’s nothing quite like having a dominant force in the paint on defense. The Buckeyes haven’t really had a big man that opponents feared since Greg Oden. While I’m not saying Felix Okpara is the next Oden, the sophomore is making opponents think twice before taking the basketball to the rim. Okpara had two blocks in last night’s loss to the Huskers, pushing his season total to 47 swats, which ranks second in the Big Ten behind Cliff Omoruyi of Rutgers who has 59. Following the loss to Nebraska, Okpara has now blocked at least one shot in 25 consecutive games.
There’s no doubt guys like Jamison Battle, Bruce Thornton, and Roddy Gayle Jr. have all had some great moments so far this season, what makes Okpara so impressive is his potential. Already Okpara is one of the toughest defenders in college basketball, the sophomore just has to work on his offensive game and he’ll be in the conversation as one of the best big men in the country by the time he is a senior.
I just hope Okpara is still in Columbus in two years. If the Buckeyes don’t shake off their recent funk associated with a 13-game road losing streak, it’s highly unlikely that Chris Holtmann will be the head coach of Ohio State next year, and you could see Okpara either hit the transfer portal or declare for the NBA Draft. Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that since Holtmann seems like a great person, and it has been fun to watch the growth of Okpara. In a perfect world, the Buckeyes will catch fire in February and March, with Okpara’s presence in the paint being a major reason why Ohio State is able to go on a run and make it to at least the Sweet Sixteen.
Matt’s answer: Cotie McMahon
Coming off of last season’s Elite 8 run, Ohio State fans knew that players like Jacy Sheldon and Taylor Thierry would be at the center of the Buckeyes’ success in 2023-24. However, it would have been understandable if some fans had questioned whether or not last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year Cotie McMahon would suffer from the proverbial sophomore slump.
So far, she hasn’t — at least not to any substantive degree.
During her freshman campaign, the 6-foot forward averaged 15.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Through the first 18 games of the season — half of what she played in last year — McMahon is on a 13.9 point and 5.5 board clip. While her points are down slightly, she is also playing fewer minutes and taking fewer shots, thanks to a deeper and more experienced roster, but also in an effort to keep her fresh for the stretch run.
If you were one of the millions of people who tuned into Sunday’s record-breaking game against Iowa, you know that McMahon is very much capable of producing in the highest-pressure situations. Against the then-No. 2 Hawkeyes, the Buckeye went for a career-high 33 points and a near-career-high 12 boards propelling OSU to a 100-92 win in overtime.
For McMahon, the game was personal, and her efforts earned her the Naismith National Player of the Week honor. As her sophomore season progresses, there’s little doubt that head coach Kevin McGuff will be looking to rely on her more and more. And if she can stay fresh for the postseason, another deep trip in the Big Dance could be in the cards.