In case you lost sight of it with the run to a so far-undefeated season for the Ohio State football team, the Buckeye hoops squad is tipping things off tonight against Robert Morris.
If you’ve followed what’s been going on in Columbus with the Ohio State basketball program, you know that this team will look entirely different than the one that walked off the court last spring. OSU lost two of its best players to the NBA draft when Malaki Branham and E.J. Liddell made the early jump, there were some defections and additions via the transfer portal, and of course, the arrival of a really good recruiting class.
With so much jersey sizing and moving-in of furniture on the OSU campus, it’s no surprise that the national media doesn’t think too highly of this year’s Buckeye team. OSU is unranked in both major preseason polls, so things will have to come together quickly and Ohio State surprise folks, beginning tonight.
With so many things to watch this winter, we thought we’d pull out five things that are some of the most compelling and interesting storylines to watch when the Buckeyes run out of the locker room in the Schott for the first time Monday night.
Who will Ohio State rely on for scoring?
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Justice Sueing (14) loses control of the ball in the paint while being defended by Akron Zips forward Ali Ali (24) during the second half of the NCAA men’s basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021. The Buckeyes won 67-66.
Akron Zips At Ohio State Buckeyes Men S Basketball
Why it Matters
This team had problems at times scoring last season, even as Malaki Branham started to become an option to go along with E.J. Liddell. Those two are gone and the rest of the team still has to figure things out. There are options with Zek Key down low, Justice Sueing on the wing, and a ton of new faces, but how will it all play out?
Where does this team go when it needs a bucket? What we see tonight may not necessarily provide that answer, but it’ll give us some clues as things develop. A combination of two to three players have to step up and provide options from multiple spots on the floor or this is going to be a long season with a lot of defense and frustration.
Which freshmen become a part of the core rotation?
Nov 1, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State University forward Brice Sensabaugh (10) contests the ball with Chaminade University forward Kobe Young (24) during the second half of the division I basketball game at Value City Arena on Tuesday night. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Scheller-The Columbus Dispatch
Why it Matters
With all the new faces, head coach Chris Holtmann has already stated that he’s going to have to rely on his top four freshmen this year. Those four would be guards Roddy Gayle Jr and Bruce Thorton, forward Brice Sensabaugh, and the 6-foot, 11-inch Felix Okpara.
And while we’re sure that’s true just from a numbers perspective, we usually see the rotation tighten up once the bigger games start showing up on the schedule, and most especially when Big Ten play begins.
The Big Ten is a bruising one and if your body isn’t ready for the grind, production and effectiveness can drop off a cliff. It’ll be interesting to see who Holtmann taps on the shoulder from the freshmen group as this team finds its identity.
Can Justice Sueing stay healthy and be what the team needs on both ends of the court?
Mar 11, 2021; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Brandon Johnson (23) fouls Ohio State Buckeyes forward Justice Sueing (14) in the second half at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Why it Matters
Ohio State really missed the physicality and lane presence of Justice Sueing last season. He was never healthy and it was really a year of purgatory for him. But now, all indications are that he’s back and ready to go, and boy could this team use him.
Sueing is a big body that might be the most athletic player on the team. He can play as a forward or even slide over to the guard spot and has the ability to get into the lane and rebound from either position. He could be the team’s top-scoring option this season if he can stay on the court and look to be a little more assertive than what he’s been asked to do in the past.
He probably has to be a lot for this squad if it plans on being in the upper division of the Big Ten and getting to the NCAA tournament again.
Can the Buckeyes survive the early season schedule?
Apr 4, 2022; New Orleans, LA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Hubert Davis looks on during the first half of the game against the Kansas Jayhawks during the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament Final Four championship game at Caesars Superdome. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Why it Matters
It’s not exactly the best year to have the nonconference schedule Ohio State has. But, I guess it’s trial by fire, right? The Buckeyes have challenge after challenge before we even talk about getting into the Big Ten. There’s the trip to Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge at the end of this month, a game against preseason No. 1 North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic, and the fun, yet taxing trip to the islands to play in the Maui Invitational.
That’s daunting, to say the least, and Ohio State would be wise to keep the expectations somewhat low as all of that plays out early on with a team trying to fit a lot of pieces together to make a puzzle it doesn’t know the outcome of yet.
We should all probably remember that too because it’s about building for the future and there’s no doubt this team will at least be battle-tested at the end of it all.
What kind of step forward will Zed Key make?
Ohio State Buckeyes forward Zed Key (23) dribbles around Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Eric Curry (1) during the second half of the NCAA men’s basketball game at Value City Arena in Columbus on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022. Ohio State won 70-45. Credit: USA TODAY Sports
Why it Matters
I think it’s fair to say that big man Zed Key was an underrated prospect coming out of the state of New York in the 2020 class. He came right into D1 basketball and helped Ohio State immediately with his big body, energy, and work ethic.
And while he’s shown flashes of scoring in and around the paint, the offense rarely ran through him as option No. 1 when a big basket was needed. That’s not to say that it will during this season either, but you can bet there will be more asked of him when it comes to scoring the basketball.
He has great footwork and body control, and can really get after it on both ends, but this team really needs his presence to be a veteran, calming, and productive one as he enters his junior year in Columbus.
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