Ohio State 2014-15 Record: 24-11, 11-7 in the Big Ten
Key Players Lost: D’Angelo Russell, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, Amir Williams, Anthony Lee and Trey McDonald
Key Players Coming Back: Jae’Sean Tate, Marc Loving, Kam Williams, Keita Bates-Diop, David Bell and Trevor Thompson.
New Recruits: JaQuan Lyle, A.J. Harris, Austin Grandstaff, Mickey Mitchell and Daniel Giddens.
All season long, the Buckeyes’ season was defined by the exploits of stud freshman guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell made Buckeyes’ game must-watch TV.
After coming to college amid much hype, Russell delivered on said hype and was an absolute joy to watch. A electrifying presence with the ball in his hands, Russell was sensational in both distributing the ball and scoring in high volumes as well.
Russell is coming off a season in which he averaged a team-high 19.3 points per game to go with a solid 5.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. With numbers like that, Russell was a threat to go for a triple-double every night and he accomplished that feat at Rutgers on February 8. As you would expect or already know, Russell was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Not only that, but Russell was named first team All-America by the Associated Press. By accomplishing that much in his freshman campaign, it was only fitting to see Russell declare early for the NBA Draft. He is expected to be one of the top-3-5 picks in June’s draft.
It was not just a one man-show in Columbus by any accounts, as the Buckeyes also got great veteran leadership from the likes of Shannon Scott (8.5 points and 5.9 assists per game), Sam Thompson (10.2 points per game) and Amir Williams (6.4 points per game on .661 shooting from the field). Between the flash of Russell and the stewardship of the seniors, the Buckeyes proved to be a tough out all season.
Thad Matta’s squad had one of the toughest schedules in the country and did well enough to earn a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament. They beat 7-seed VCU in the round of 64 in one heck of a game, where the Buckeyes won 75-72 in overtime. Two days later, Ohio State gave 2-seed Arizona all they could handle until faltering late and losing to the Wildcats, 73-58, in the Round of 32. In that loss, Russell struggled mightily scoring just nine points on 3-19 shooting.
2015-16 Look Ahead:
While the cupboard is not bare, Matta is still losing a lot of firepower with starters Russell, Scott, Thompson and Williams all departing the program. However, don’t shed a tear for Matta and the Buckeyes, as they do have some premier talent on next year’s roster.
Perhaps lost in the shuffle of the heroics of Russell were the solid seasons Jae’Sean Tate and Marc Loving gave Ohio State.
Tate, who also had a fine freshman campaign, in particular was overshadowed by fellow frosh Russell. He averaged 8.8 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, which helped him land on the Big Ten all-freshman team, too.
Loving, a 6’7” versatile junior forward, also showed he could hit some big shots and will be a key cog in Matta’s rotation next year. He is coming off a season in which he averaged 9.4 points per game while shooting a blistering .461 percent from three-point range. No doubt, Loving can fill it up and expect that scoring prowess to be on full display with Russell gone.
Also, look for forward Keita Bates-Diop to flourish with more playing time. Bates-Diop is dripping with big-time athleticism and is waiting to show the world what he has.
And if you are going to lose a lot of firepower, you’d be well served if you reload and that is exactly what Matta did with his 2015 recruiting class.
Matta is bringing in a five-man recruiting class where each player is at least a four-star prospect according to VerbalCommits.com. Ohio State’s class is ranked as the 11th best by 247sports.com, 8th by ESPN and 7th by Scout.com.
The well-balanced class includes 6’4” point guard JaQuan Lyle, 6’7” small forward Mickey Mitchell, 6’10” center Daniel Giddens, 6’5 shooting guard Austin Grandstaff and 5’9” point guard A.J. Harris. All should get immediate playing time given the departures the program has endured.
While there are no players of Russell’s ilk (which, would be nearly impossible to duplicate), this is a freshmen class that will need time to develop, but the upside is clearly there. Expect some bumps along the way, but by March the Buckeyes should be in contention for yet another NCAA Tournament bid.