2015-2016 ITH Season Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

  • 09/23/2015 12:37 pm in

With the start of college basketball season on the horizon, we’ll be taking a long look at the conference at large as well as Indiana’s roster over the next month. Today, we continue our look at the Big Ten with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Things will be different this year in Columbus.

All-American point guard D’Angelo Russell, the No. 2 pick in the NBA draft, is gone. Five others, Amir Williams, Anthony Lee, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and Trey McDonald, all who played a significant amount, graduated.

Russell (19.3 ppg) and Thompson (10.2 ppg) were the leading scorers last season for Thad Matta, who guided the Buckeyes to the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.

An inconsistent team last year, the Buckeyes finished the season 24-11 overall and 11-7 in the Big Ten, the most losses for an Ohio State team since the 2008-2009 campaign.

Now Matta will be tasked with coaching the youngest team in the Big Ten. There are no seniors, and just one junior, forward Marc Loving, on the roster. The rest of the roster is made up of six freshman and four sophomores, with Jae’Sean Tate being the lone returning starter. Tate, a 6-foot-4 forward, averaged 8.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and made the the Big Ten’s all-freshman team.

The Buckeyes will be leaning on their highly touted recruiting class to return to the NCAA Tournament for an eighth straight season. The class is headlined by JaQuan Lyle, a combo guard that will have a chance to start at either guard position. The rest of the class is made up of A.J. Harris (247Composite top 100), Austin Grandstaff (247Composite top 100), Daniel Giddens (247Composite top 100), Mickey Mitchell and Trevor Thompson (transfer from Virginia Tech).

Redshirt sophomore Kam Williams will have the opportunity to take a step forward and challenge for a starting role. Matta has compared Lyle’s ability to play both guard positions to the way Russell handled the task last year, which is high praise.

Both Loving and Tate will likely be counted on for scoring. Loving shot 46.1 percent on 3s as a sophomore. Tate posted a very good freshman campaign from an efficiency perspective with an effective field goal percentage of 59.6. Sophomore Keita Bates-Diop will also see an increased role in his second season after hitting 46.2 percent of his 3s last season.

Inside, it will likely be a rotation between Trevor Thompson, who put on 35 pounds this offseason, redshirt freshman David Bell, who gained 40 pounds in the offseason, and Giddens, an athletic post player who was an IU recruiting target at one point.

Matta will get a chance to see what his young team is made of plenty of times before the start of Big Ten play as the Buckeyes will play Memphis, Virginia, UConn and Kentucky in the non-conference schedule.

Bottom Line: Ohio State has been one of the most consistent teams in the country when it comes to making the NCAA Tournament. There are plenty of question marks this year, so the task of keeping the streak alive will be a bit taller. If Lyle is as good as advertised, and several of the other freshmen can also live up to their high expectations, a tournament berth is certainly not out of the question. Thad Matta always has his teams prepared, and it will be interesting to see how he handles such a young team, with only four scholarship players returning.

Quotable: “It’s bad to be young, but it’s good to be young. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re going to be able to play a couple different ways. These guys understand that they’ve got to be ready.” – Matta to the Lindy’s College Basketball Preview

Previously: Rutgers, Penn State, Northwestern, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois

(Photo credit: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images North America)

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  • And One

    We get ’em early in the season, which is good. Expect their freshmen to be playing like sophomores by the time the B1G tournament rolls around. I’m going to the game, and live amongst a lot of buckeye fans, who are merely obnoxious year-round, but insufferable when they beat my team. (Which they won’t, of course.)

  • OhioHoosier

    I know the feeling.

  • sarge

    Another squad with Indiana talent on the roster. I get sad when I think about these things.

  • TomJameson

    I hear you, but get used to it sarge, the way recruiting has expanded nation-wide, for the schools AND the recruits, it will never be like the good-old-days. 🙁

  • TomJameson

    We get them early, and at home, and that’s the only time we play them. I think you’re right in that they COULD be dangerous late in the season. Of course, they could be falling apart by then also.

  • Ole Man

    Lyle may come back and bite us in the backside!

  • Bill Graham

    These guys are going to be scary in 2 years.

  • TomJameson

    Lyle may not be there. I have a feeling that IF he has a great year, he’ll try to go to the NBA. I seem to remember hearing that he feels he is a one-and-done. Probably wouldn’t do that if he was at IU, but being the top dog at Ohio State might make a difference.

  • Robert Golden

    Going to get Shannon Scott over Cbus boy is Trey Burke is still an all time head scratcher.

  • SCHoosier

    Young or not….plenty of talent here. It will be interesting to see what contribution Lyle can make.

  • SilentBob

    I see Bates-Diop having a breakout year this year. Other than that, the only reason I think these guys get back to the tourney is out of sheer respect to Thad Matta. Lyle isn’t Russel. He isn’t even close. Tate might be the most overrated player in the big ten, and his contributions will suffer not having two elite passers in Scott and Russel around anymore. Their only real strength is the defensive and rebounding contributions their beefy frontcourt could make. They will have a hard time getting the ball in the bucket which may cause Matta to play Grandstaff more than he’d like. Loving needs to have a big time breakout year for them to compete with the top half of the big ten and I just don’t see that happening.

  • SilentBob

    Maybe, but if he does that will say more about how little our defense has improved than anything having to do with Lyle.

  • Ole Man

    Have to disagree, Bob. I think Lyle will turn out to be a heck of a player. If he’s getting his head on straight, I don’t doubt his talent.

  • SilentBob

    He is a unique talent I will say that much. Could be a match up problem if Ohio States other players figure it out offensively. Just too many question marks for me to bet on him as a freshmen. I’d say it’s about 50/50 he makes people remember he was a 5 star at one point.

    Came to campus looking like Jamarcus Russell (weighed 241 lbs I believe). Although their strength and conditioning coach has done phenomenal job with him helping him lose 23 lbs. I think he could be a difficult one to get his head on straight. Even if he does, we have great offensive guards already. And we’re in the running to get many more. If I was Crean I wouldn’t think he was worth the risk with how important this year potentially is for his job security