COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 2: Musa Jallow #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes finishes off a fast break with a dunk in the first half the Minnesota Golden Gophers on December 2, 2018 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Minnesota 79-59. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
Photo: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Ohio State basketball: Setting the scene for the last month of the season

With Ryan Day’s Ohio State football coaching staff complete, the conclusion of the 2019 recruiting cycle and Justin Fields’ being declared eligible, Ohio State fans who follow football first (i.e. the majority) should finally feel safe focusing on basketball for a while. 

If you fall into that group (There’s no shame in it!), let us help you get caught up on where the the Buckeyes basketball squads of Chris Holtmann and Kevin McGuff stand with a month or so to go until March Madness sets in. 

1. The Ohio State men’s basketball team is 16-7 overall and seventh in the Big Ten. 

The Buckeyes won 55-52 at rival Indiana on Sunday to run their winning streak to three games and get back to .500 in league play (6-6) with exactly one month left in the regular season. 

(Holtmann improved to 3-0 against former Dayton coach Archie Miller’s Hoosiers.) 

They have four home games left (Illinois, Northwestern, Iowa and Wisconsin) and four road games left (Michigan State, Maryland, Purdue and Northwestern again). 

 

2. Water may be finding level. 

With Keita Bates-Diop entering the 2018 NBA Draft and Jae’Sean Tate running out of eligibility, this was not expected to be a banner year for the Buckeyes. 

At least one preseason prognosticator had them finishing 11th, but most had them in the middle of the pack. 

Of course, that was also true last season when they ultimately finished second in the conference and made the NCAA tournament, so there was a belief Holtmann might be working another miracle when these Buckeyes started 12-1 this season. 

A 1-6 January brought OSU crashing back to Earth. 

3. What are they good-and-or bad at? 

The Buckeyes are still a strong defensive team according to KenPom.com, where they rank 25th in the nation. On offense, they are 51st. 

During conference play, Ohio State is middle of the road in scoring (eighth in the Big Ten), points allowed (sixth), field goal percentage (sixth), field goal percentage defense (eighth) and 3-point percentage (fifth). 

They are closer to the bottom in 3-point percentage defense (ninth), rebounding margin (ninth), blocks (14th), turnover margin (10th) and assist/turnover ratio (tied for last). 

Ball-handling (lack of a true point guard) has been the biggest factor in their downturn since the first of the year. 

4. They could still make the NCAA tournament, but it won’t be easy. 

Ohio State is No. 32 overall at KenPom.com and 38th in the new NET rankings from the NCAA, a tool that will be used by the selection committee when it determines the field of 68. 

As of this writing, they are projected to be a No. 7 seed by NBCSports and CBSSports with USA Today giving them an eight seed and ESPN placing them on the No. 9 line. 

>>READ MORE: 10 Buckeyes invited to NFL Scouting Combine

At this point, Ohio State appears to have a reasonable chance to finish with 20 wins and a .500 Big Ten record.

That would probably equal a second-consecutive invitation to the Big Dance, but to hit that mark they will have to win at least one game against a team ranked ahead of them in KenPom along with sweeping No. 61 Northwestern and taking care of business against No. 71 Illinois. 

(No. 25 Iowa is the best bet for an upset as the Hawkeyes visit Columbus on Feb. 26. Michigan State is No. 4, Purdue No. 9 and Maryland No. 19.) 

5. Justin Ahrens is the only local scholarship player on the men’s roster. 

The freshman from Versailles has played 98 minutes in 15 games, averaging 1.2 points and .07 rebounds per outing. The 6-foot-5 guard is 9 for 26 from the field, including 6 for 22 from 3-point range. 

Harrison Hookfin, a freshman from Lebanon, was added to the roster in January as a walk-on but not immediately eligible to play in games. 

Ohio State signee Justin Ahrens is having another great season for Versailles. With his brother AJ, he hopes to lead the Tigers to a MAC title and state tournament berth.

6. Help is on the way. 

Holtmann has signed three national top 50 recruits for next season, good for the No. 10 recruiting class in the country and No. 1 in the Big Ten according to 247Sports Composite rankings. 

DJ Carton, a four-star point guard from Bettendorf, Iowa, headlines the group. He is joined by Alonzo Gaffney, a four-star forward from Akron playing at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire this season, and EJ Liddell, a four-star forward from Belleville, Ill. 

The future is also bright for the women’s basketball Buckeyes as McGuff signed the nation’s No. 3 recruiting class despite a pair of national top 10 in-state prospects signing elsewhere. 

Five-star guard Kierstan Bell, the No. 6 recruit in the country per ESPN Hoopgurlz, headlines the incoming group. 

7. This is a down year for the Buckeye women’s basketball team. 

A third-straight Big Ten title is not coming for McGuff’s Ohio State women’s basketball team. 

After losing nearly everyone from last season — including point guard Kelsey Mitchell, who finished her career No. 2 in NCAA history in scoring — the rebuilding Buckeyes are 10-12 overall and 6-7 in the Big Ten. 

>>RELATED: Badin grad McGuff reflects on first 5 seasons at Ohio State

Makayla Waterman, a fifth-year senior from Fairmont, is third on the team in scoring at 8.3 points per game and second in rebounding (5.5). 

Dorka Juhasz, a 6-4 freshman from Hungary, is the team’s leading scorer (11.8 ppg.) and rebounder (8.3 rbg.), while classmates Janai Crooms and Aaliyah Patty have also shown flashes of why they were top 100 recruits. 

X