BuckeyeGrove - A football fan's guide to Ohio State hoops
{{ timeAgo('2021-01-14 11:00:00 -0600') }} basketball Edit

A football fan's guide to Ohio State hoops

Welcome to another edition of Ohio State basketball!
Welcome to another edition of Ohio State basketball! (AP)

So, you’ve spent the last four months fully invested in one of the most incredible seasons of football in Ohio State history.

I don’t blame you. It was a wild ride.

Luckily, the Buckeyes’ journey on the gridiron came to an end just as Big Ten basketball was heating up. No. 21 Ohio State sits at 10-3 (4-3 in league play) with losses to Purdue, Northwestern, and Minnesota in what is unofficially the greatest conference in America.

Nearly every game is a toss-up in this season’s edition of the Big Ten.

Chris Holtmann’s team has 12 games remaining before whatever comes next-- probably a trip to Indianapolis for either the conference tournament or the Big Dance, which is being held exclusively in the Hoosier State this year.

Here are a few things you should know about this team, its players, what comes in the future, and what’s most important.

Ohio State plays as well as its leading scorers.

Duane Washington Jr. is one of the most polarizing players in recent Ohio State memory.
Duane Washington Jr. is one of the most polarizing players in recent Ohio State memory. (AP)

Everything starts with sophomore forward E.J. Liddell.

Even with a slightly more perimeter-centric approach this season, the Buckeyes still run things through the paint. The 6-foot-7 Liddell is undersized against most Big Ten centers, but plays with nearly unmatched physicality and has great shooting touch from the mid-range.

Liddell is averaging 13.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game this season on 48.6 percent shooting from the floor, to go with a team-high 15 blocks.

Despite being forced into a much larger role on offense this season, the Illinois native has been remarkably consistent for a sophomore, reaching double-figures in eight of his 11 games played.

When he was held out for two games with mono, the Buckeyes put together their two worst offensive performances of the season, squeaking by Cleveland State and dropping their first game of the season to Purdue in an ugly affair.

Ohio State is at its best when Liddell is firing on all cylinders-- a fact Holtmann has admitted on more than one occasion.

On the other side exists the ultimate wildcard: Duane Washington Jr.

Washington is actually the Buckeyes’ leading scorer, averaging 15.7 points per game; the sophomore has scored more than 20 points on four occasions this season.

But he has also posted shooting splits such as 4-for-12, 4-for-14, and 1-for-9 from the floor.

The highs and lows of Duane Washington Jr.
Opponent PTS FG 3FG TO

Minnesota

21

7-for-12

5-for-7

3

Northwestern (round two)

23

7-for-17

3-for-11

1

UMass-Lowell

21

7-for-17

3-for-11

0

Northwestern (round one)

7

1-for-9

1-for-6

1

Purdue

13

4-for-14

2-for-9

3

UCLA

14

4-for-12

2-for-6

2

“Oh, I love him,” Holtmann said about his leading scorer. “I love coaching him, but he’s going to send me to an early death.”

It’s feast or famine with Washington, though he has certainly found a nice rhythm of late, shooting 46.3 percent over his last four games.

One thing is certain: he’ll never lose his confidence.

In each of Ohio State’s three losses this season, one of Liddell or Washington has shot below 30 percent from the floor on ten attempts or more.

This team needs at least one part of its dynamic duo to morph into a go-to option to stay competitive against the conference's best.

The point guard position is currently up in the air.

C.J. Walker was ruled out indefinitely with a hand injury on Jan. 7.
C.J. Walker was ruled out indefinitely with a hand injury on Jan. 7. (AP)

It all began in early November, when Utah State graduate transfer Abel Porter announced a non-COVID-19 related medical condition had cut his playing career short.

Ohio State was down to just one true point guard in senior starter C.J. Walker, before Bucknell transfer Jimmy Sotos received immediate eligibility from the NCAA.

Holtmann quickly found another option in the high school ranks, convincing 2021 commit Meechie Johnson to graduate early and join the program as a reclassified freshman. The Buckeyes suddenly had heaps of point guard talent.

But in January, Walker (who had struggled all season) was ruled out indefinitely with torn ligaments in his right hand.

To compound things even further, Sotos dove for a loose ball against Rutgers and suffered a shoulder injury in his first start of the season, keeping his status unknown as the team traversed into the heart of Big Ten play.

Facing very few viable options, Holtmann handed the reins of the offense to junior forward Justice Sueing, who had practiced as an emergency point guard early in the season after Porter went down.

The lead guard combination of Sueing, Washington, and Johnson was rock solid against Northwestern on Jan. 13, combining for 42 points, eight assists, and only three turnovers in their first game without both Sotos and Walker.

Still, a Big Ten schedule is not one a team wants to trek without its on-court leaders.

There remains no timetable for the return of the Buckeyes' true point guards, and until Ohio State brings one of the two back, the point-Sueing experiment goes on.

Its effectiveness remains to be seen.

The Buckeyes' schedule is daunting.

The path ahead is far from easy for Holtmann and Ohio State.
The path ahead is far from easy for Holtmann and Ohio State. (USATSI)

Speaking of that Big Ten trek, the Ohio State isn't even halfway through the journey that is Big Ten basketball.

Of its 12 remaining games, six come against teams that are currently ranked; four are against sides in the top 10 of the latest AP Poll.

When it comes to Ken Pomeroy’s comprehensive ratings, Ohio State (currently ranked No. 16 on KenPom) plays No. 3 Iowa (11-2) twice more this season, No. 4 Michigan (11-0) once, No. 8 Illinois (9-4) twice, and No. 10 Wisconsin (10-3) once.

Yikes.

Ohio State's remaining schedule
Date Opponent Record KenPom

1/16

at Illinois

9-4 (5-2 in B1G)

No. 8

1/19

vs. Purdue

8-5 (3-3 in B1G)

No. 38

1/23

at Wisconsin

10-3 (4-2 in B1G)

No. 10

1/31

vs. Michigan State

8-4 (2-4 in B1G)

No. 43

2/4

at Iowa

11-2 (5-1 in B1G)

No. 3

2/8

at Maryland

7-6 (2-5 in B1G)

No. 45

2/13

vs. Indiana

8-5 (3-3 in B1G)

No. 25

2/18

at Penn State

3-4 (0-3 in B1G)

No. 47

2/21

vs. Michigan

11-0 (6-0 in B1G)

No. 4

2/25

at Michigan State

8-4 (2-4 in B1G)

No. 43

2/28

vs. Iowa

11-2 (5-1 in B1G)

No. 3

3/6

vs. Illinois

9-4 (5-2 in B1G)

No. 8

With very few fans in the stands, road games against the Illini, Badgers, and Hawkeyes aren’t as daunting as they’d usually be, but the path ahead is a frightening one nonetheless.

Somewhere near a .500 record in the Big Ten should be enough to lock Ohio State into the tournament with the non-conference resume it owns. With a 4-3 record through Jan. 13, it controls its own destiny as far as the postseason goes.

The future is bright!

Freshman guard Meechie Johnson represents one of the biggest bright spots entering next season.
Freshman guard Meechie Johnson represents one of the biggest bright spots entering next season. (USATSI)

Technically, with the NCAA allowing an extra year of eligibility for all winter sports athletes, the Buckeyes could return every single player on the current roster.

That won’t happen.

There are two seniors who are probably playing in their final season at Ohio State: Walker and long-tenured forward Kyle Young.

Assuming both hit the road after this season, the Buckeyes’ scholarship distribution next season is still quite encouraging.

2021-22 Projected Scholarship Distribution
Pos. Freshman Sophomore Junior Senior

G

M. Branham

E. Brown

M. Johnson

J. Sotos

D. Washington

F

K. Etzler

Z. Key

E. Liddell

J. Ahrens

M. Jallow

J. Sueing

S. Towns

C

I. Diallo

Italics denotes one or more redshirt seasons

With three sophomores who are already contributing as freshmen this year, a pair of rock-solid seniors in Sueing and Washington (and two more in Justin Ahrens and Musa Jallow), and two graduates with loads of experience in Sotos and Seth Towns, the outlook is exciting for next year.

Throw in Holtmann’s best recruiting class at Ohio State, and the Buckeyes could enter the 2021-22 season as one of the favorites in the Big Ten.

But enough looking forward. There’s still a season to play.

With two go-to scorers, a bevy of experienced wings, and a terrifying schedule in front of it, Ohio State fights on.

After the chaotic football season we all just experienced, kick back and enjoy the next two months of Big Ten basketball.