Ohio State Men’s Basketball Rebounded From NCAA Tournament, Where Do Buckeyes Go From Here?

Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann talks to the team during a timeout during the Ohio State-Nebraska game March 1. Ohio State lost 78-70. Credit: Mackenzie Shanklin | photo editor

There was a swirling buzz about Ohio State men’s basketball entering the NCAA Tournament.

With a 54-41 win over No. 10 seed Loyola Chicago on Friday thanks to a dominating defensive performance, the Buckeyes have answered the big question: Will they make it out of the Round of 16? Ohio State held the Ramblers to 26.7% from the field, 28.6% from deep and 30% from the free throw line – the first time in NCAA Tournament history that a team shot 30% or less in all three areas.

The No. 7-seeded Ohio State momentum hit a brick wall against No. 2-seeded Villanova on Sunday, who edged the Buckeyes en route to a 71-61 win.

The Wildcats have a Sweet Sixteen date against No. 11 Michigan on Friday, while the Buckeyes watch from the couch.

Head coach Chris Holtmann’s fifth offseason is one of the toughest he’ll face, having to replace two assistant coaches, potentially junior forward EJ Liddell and freshman guard Malaki Branham, and making calls for his shot to rest.

Replace Ryan Pedon and Tony Skinn

Assistant coaches Ryan Pedon and Tony Skinn received a head coaching job at Illinois State on March 4 and an assistant coaching job at Maryland on Thursdayrespectively.

Pedon was instrumental in developing the Buckeyes offense, which produced adjusted offensive efficiency in the top-25, according to KenPom, in four of his five seasons on the staff. In the two seasons before Pedon’s arrival — 2015-16 and 2016-17 — Ohio State’s adjusted offensive efficiency ranked 138th and 60th, respectively.

Skinn has geared his services towards developing graduate guard Jamari Wheeler and Branham – a 1-2 duo that has established itself as one of the Big Ten’s best complementary backcourts between Branham’s offense and Wheeler’s defensive ability. .

Jake Diebler is the only remaining assistant coach from last season, assuming the role of interim head coach when Holtmann and Pedon were out with COVID-19 against Northwestern on Jan. 9.

Holtmann and his staff will need to find assistants with an offensive mind to grow the remaining inexperienced roster of freshman Meechie Johnson Jr. and sophomore Eugene Brown III guards and freshman Kalen Etzler and sophomore Zed Key forwards.

Quick upgrade to next year’s recruiting class

The Buckeyes are losing a lot this year.

Justin Ahrens and Harrison Hookfin are seniors, Judge Sueing is a redshirt senior, and Wheeler, Kyle Young, Jimmy Sotos, Cedric Russell, Seth Towns and Joey Brunk are graduates.

Add Liddell and Branham – who are both first-round picks, according to CBS Sports – to the mix and 11 of the 15 players on the 2021-22 roster could potentially move on to next season.

Ohio State is ranked fifth in the high school recruiting class of 2022, according to 247Sports — the highest ranked class nationally since 2015.

Four of the Buckeyes’ five incoming rookies are four-stars, headlined by point guard Bruce Thornton of Alpharetta, Georgia, which received a composite score of 0.9839 from 247Sports. For reference, Liddell was a .9828 out of Belleville West High School in Illinois.

Sporting director Gene Smith praised Holtmann’s ability to teach players on Feb. 16, and that will have to show with the next recruiting class, which will have to eat a lot of minutes.

The transfer portal is more important than ever

Ohio State will need to add a few established transfers to gain veteran leadership to pass the baton to the inexperienced roster after next year.

Buckeyes reportedly reached out to transfer guards Camren Wynter and Jaelin Llewellyn of Drexel and Princeton, respectively.

All three finished last season averaging more than 14 points per game, led by Wynter’s 1,657 career points, which are sixth in Drexel program history.

In football, the Portal is called “a wild, wild West”, so Holtmann will have to be Billy the Kid to aggressively recruit transfers to fill the void that could see four of the five starters against Villanova leave.

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