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2022 Big Ten Basketball Retrospectives: Ohio State

At least the doctors got paid

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round Pittsburgh- Loyola (Il) at Ohio State
It’s Not You It’s Me
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Result:

20-12 Overall

12-8 in conference (tied for fourth)

7 seed in the Tourney

Bounced in the Round of 32 against Villanova after winning the opening game against Sister Jean. We will always have Sister Jean on a poster.

What Went Right: E.J. Liddell and eventually Malaki Branham became two of the top players in the conference. Liddell ended up part of a historically great Big Ten First Team. Branham was less expected, but as a true freshman finished on the Third Team and won B1G Freshman of the Year. Jamari Wheeler and Kyle Young provided consistent play as seniors. The team squeaked to twenty wins for the fifth year in the row.

What Went Wrong: Pain. Like, actual pain. OSU missed two key guys for the season, had several others miss at least a few games, and got hit by a COVID pause. They could never escape it - even in their last game against Villanova, Kyle Young suffered a concussion while the team was mounting a comeback. But hey, if you can’t win playing the bottom of the roster, why even play?

Player By Player (ranked by how important they were coming into the season)

  1. E.J. Liddell: Liddell came back on a promise that he wouldn’t be the center, and Holtmann remained true to his word. Liddell responded with a great season, good for First Team All B1G and Third Team nationally. He led the team in points, rebounds, and steals. Next year: Playing for whatever NBA team drafts him, maybe to play small ball center.
  2. Justice Sueing: Sueing was going to make the leap and be a fringe NBA prospect and an inside/outside wing that paired great with Liddell. Instead, he played sparingly the first two games and then was shut down for the season, apparently due to a recurring groin injury. Next year: He is coming back to give it another go. His injury situation remains unclear.
  3. Kyle Young: A luxury COVID year gave Young a shot to play a fully healthy season. He came off the bench and played more limited minutes, but had issues staying healthy, especially at the end of the season. When he played, he was very solid in every phase, and even hit some threes. Next season: Out of eligibility, he’s gone.
  4. Malaki Branham: Holtmann’s top recruit in his time at OSU, Branham was going to get immediate minutes with Duane Washington unexpectedly jumping to the NBA. He made the most of it - after being almost nonexistent the first ten games, he dropped 35 on Nebraska and became a dependable scorer the rest of the season, and finished as the B1G Freshman of the Year. Next season: Probably in the NBA. He is in The Process, and has preserved his ability to come back, so one can dream.
  5. Jamari Wheeler: Holtmann’s never ending search for a point guard landed on Penn State transfer Wheeler. He was a dog on defense, and the plan was him to menace opposing ballhandlers, something OSU sucked at last year. He improved them in that area, though never quite showed the ballhawking that he had at Penn State. He did score more, though, and was quite good from three, shooting 39%. Next year: Gone.
  6. Zed Key: Finger Guns was moving to full time center. The results were mixed - he was still a bit undersized and couldn’t punish defenses on the perimeter like Liddell. However, he was a strong rebounder and at times was quite good in the post. Next year: Coming back and should be a leader on the team. He needs to improve his passing, Holtmann has mentioned Purdue’s Trevion Williams as what Key should aspire to be.
  7. Seth Towns: Towns was a year removed from knee injuries, and the thought was he could be a real contributor with his nifty offensive skillset. Unfortunately, he had back surgery and missed the season. Welp. Next season: Unclear. He still has eligibility, though he started playing basketball in 2016.
  8. Justin Ahrens: The premiere Just A Shooter was going to come off the bench and Shoot. Sueing and Towns being done put him in the starting role, and while he had some good games, he seemed to hit a funk and eventually saw his minutes dwindle. He played 17 total minutes in the tourney and scored no points. Next year: He has entered the transfer portal, so he is probably done as a Buckeye.
  9. Meechie Johnson: Meechie really was in his true freshman season, as he entered last year as a reclassified 17 year old. The hope was he could provide scoring punch at either guard position. At times he did, but too often he was out of control and not particularly effective. He broke his face midseason and missed several games. He was even less effective when he returned. Next season: He returns and again will play both guard spots is entering the transfer portal.
  10. Eugene Brown: I was hoping Brown would be a menace defensively this season. He wasn’t quite that, though by the end of the season, he was starting and was good enough defensively to justify it. His offensive game was still DOA. Next season: He’s back and should be in the rotation. If his offense makes a jump, he could be a real player.
  11. Cedric Russell: A late transfer addition when Duane Washington declared, Russell had the reputation as instant offense. He lived up to that, providing key scoring off the bench in several games, most notably in the big win against Duke. However, he was a liability defensively, so never got consistent minutes. Next season: Gone.
  12. Jimmy Sotos: A TikTok star and emergency point guard got some minutes here and there, but with Wheeler staying healthy, he never really cracked the rotation. Next season: Gone. But still on TikTok.
  13. Joey Brunk: Another late transfer from Indiana, Brunk was brought in to be the only guy who was over 6’8’’ on the team. He excelled at being taller than 6’8’’. Next season: Gone, apparently to law school. Don’t do it, Joey.

2022 Depth Chart

The Buckeyes are bringing in six freshmen and already signed Wright State transfer Tanner Holden. That’s seven new guys, and only four guys that look likely to remain. Here’s your sneak peak preview for next season. New guys italicized.

PG: Meechie Johnson, Bruce Thornton

SG: Tanner Holden, Roddy Gayle, Bowen Hardman

SF: Justice Sueing, Eugene Brown

PF: Seth Towns, Kalen Etzler, Brice Sensabaugh

C: Zed Key, Felix Okpara