Despite an incredible amount of success for Thad Matta in Columbus over the last decade, nobody is quite sure where expectations for the Ohio State Buckeyes should be set for the upcoming season.
The Buckeyes may not have been an outstanding team last year, but it was certainly a good one. Overall, Ohio State had a 24-11 record and made it all the way to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament before being eliminated by Arizona.
Ohio State was never really in the Big Ten title race last year – and the last two years for that matter – but it was more about the team never having that extra gear than anything else. After all, the Buckeyes really only suffered one upset during all of last year and it was on the road against arch-rival Michigan. Ohio State simply won the games it should win and lost most of the games it should lose.
It was the definition of a good, but not great year.
Now, the Buckeyes head into next season with even more uncertainty. Many are still hopeful, but Ohio State is losing a massive amount of contributions from last year’s unit. In fact, the numbers are pretty baffling, especially considering that last year’s Ohio State was just good and not great.
(Stats via Sports Reference.)
In just about every significant statistical measure, Ohio State is losing at least 60 percent of its contributions from last season. That isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but given the fact that the Buckeyes are losing an All-American in D’Angelo Russell and three other senior starters, it’s concerning to say the least.
So, where does that leave Ohio State heading into next year?
There’s little doubt that the massive offseason attrition leaves more than a few question marks about next year’s Buckeyes. After all, finding four starters and frontcourt depth options is not an easy task and that’s what Matta will have to try to do this season.
Read about Ohio State’s frontcourt options for next season.
Ohio State does have some helpful factors of course. Jae’Sean Tate returns upfront after making the All-Big Ten Freshmen team last year and backups Keita-Bates-Diop, Marc Loving, and Kam Williams all return on the wing. None of those options outside of Tate are proven, but at least Ohio State has a group of four young players with talent and some experience.
The Buckeyes are also adding arguably the Big Ten’s best incoming recruiting class in 2015. The recruiting class features five commitments and is rated as the top incoming recruiting class in the Big Ten by 247Sports. Perhaps the most notable additions are guard JaQuan Lyle and big man Daniel Giddens, who should compete for starting roles next year.
Along with this, last year’s transfer addition Trevor Thompson will also be eligible this season. He sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules. Thompson’s 7-foot size should be very useful upfront this season for Ohio State, who loses its two key players at center in Trey McDonald and Amir Williams.
With so many players leaving and so many talented additions entering the roster, there’s been a lot of mixed feelings in Columbus. On paper, this team might be more talented than last year’s team, but that isn’t giving a ton of confidence to fans. After all, that talent still has to overcome the massive decrease in experience. Plus, talent on paper doesn’t always translate to the college level, as Buckeye fans remember well with Amir Williams.
So, where should expectations be set for this Ohio State team?
It’s hard to be too confident in how Ohio State will perform given the massive transition, but there are logical reasons on both sides. The offseason departures certainly shouldn’t be undervalued and Russell will be nearly impossible to replace, but there is a lot of incoming talent. In today’s college basketball, young players are expected to contribute and Ohio State is loaded with young talent this year.
Overall, given Ohio State’s high bar of success combined with its excellent incoming recruiting class, it’s hard to see how expectations shouldn’t at least be around the NCAA Tournament bubble this year. Maybe that slightly underrates the offseason losses and overvalues the recruiting additions, but Matta has shown that he can can get the job done time and time again.
Ohio State will be incredibly difficult to project this year with so many new faces on the roster, but with Thad Matta at the helm and so much talent on the roster, there’s no reason to fret in Columbus just yet.