Seven tables are spread around the court in the practice gym at Value City Arena. Once the official team photo was taken, each member of the 2022-23 Ohio State men’s basketball roster headed to their designated seat for the unofficial start to the season.
They were all there, from sixth-year forward Justice Sue to freshman Colby Bauman. Between them, five freshmen, three transfers and another walk-on, they finished 20-12 and lost in their second NCAA Tournament appearance, along with a handful of returnees. For about 45 minutes, everyone was ready for questions on everything from preseason predictions to third-year center ZK’s best story about wearing a T-shirt labeled “Most Interesting Man in College Basketball.”
Once it was over, coach Chris Holtzmann took the stage to offer his thoughts on the preseason and what he introduced as “Team 124.”
Ohio State basketball player: Find out with articles from beat reporter Adam Jardy
He advised against reading too much into the season’s predictions.
“Pre-competition is a time of discussion, but here it’s about his work, his silence and his solitude,” he said. “We’re excited to get started here.”
It was a lot to process. Here are five early talking points from media day, two days before the first practice of the season.
Can bookies play fast?
Tempo hasn’t met much in Holtzman’s first five seasons at Ohio State. Buckeyes have never finished higher than No. 238 nationally in pass rush, according to KenPom.com. Now, he relies heavily on four freshmen, including one at point guard, and looks to have a lot in common.
Not so fast, apparently. Many players said that this team has the ability to play at a faster pace than we’ve seen in years, and that it has to do with a roster that should have more versatility, as well as more rebounders and rebounders. the ball into the square. Tanner Holden, Isaac Likele, Gene Brown III and Sueing are considered players who can help fuel the fast break opportunities, and most of the offense will start with point guard Bruce Thornton, who Holtman described as “the guy” despite his lack of experience at this level.
Also of note: This will be associate head coach Jake Diebler’s first year leading the offense. That role is now filled by Ryan Pedon, head coach at Illinois State.
Versatility helps Ohio State’s defense
It’s no secret that Ohio State’s struggles to stop teams from scoring have hindered its chances of putting together deep postseason runs in each of the past two seasons. After finishing in the top-25 in adjusted defensive efficiency in Holtzman’s first three seasons, the Buckeyes entered the 2020-21 season at No. 82 and No. 111 last year.
Clearly, if the Buckeyes want to be more successful, they need to improve on that end of the court. To that end, many Buckeyes believe they have enough versatility this season to allow them to be more dangerous on defense. Likekele said he has been impressed with new assistant coach Jack Owens’ approach to coaching that side of the court and hopes Ohio State has more tools to make it a better defensive team.
“We weren’t good defensively and we weren’t good enough on the glass last year,” Holtzman said. “You put those two things together and there’s bound to be a ceiling. A little more athleticism, a little more versatility, a little more length on the edge, I think those are all things we need to talk about.
It could also allow Ohio State to play some unusual lineups, with Likekele at the center of it all.
“Isaac has the ability to play the 3 and we’re going to have a small ball lineup this year that we have teams that are 6-5 and over the position, I think Isaac is definitely going to be a part of that,” Holtzman said.
Justice Case has high hopes.
Completely healthy and ready to go, snacks are considered a key ingredient on this Ohio State team. An athletic wing with high rebounding ability and a knack for getting to the free throw line, the sixth-year player will have a lot to offer in his final college basketball season.
“He’s worried about going out there, he’s worried about being healthy and he wants to be healthy,” Holtzman said. “For a kid like him, you really want him to take the whole season (except for two games).”
Oh, and he gets to be team captain. The players voted for them on Sunday, and Holtzman unwittingly let it slip that he would be one of the picks.
“I haven’t told the players yet,” he said. “Can we just put him in this room? Justice will be united.
This will be Sueing’s second season as team captain. Everyone opens the season with a clean bill of health.
Four Ohio State freshmen will play a lot
In order for Ohio State to find success this season, it will need a quartet of highly contributing first-year players.
“I think we have four freshmen that will definitely play a role on this team,” Holtzman said. “Bruce, Roddy (Gyle), Brice (Sensabaugh) and Felix (Ochter) can all help and play for this team. They go through some ups and downs and they go through some challenges but all four play. You’re definitely going to see them a part of every game. I am very pleased with the potential of the team.
As Holtman said, for many freshmen, the more they ask, the more growing pains they have. Return to practice this offseason, Holtzman said, and chances are you’ll find a freshman sitting on the arm bench after a rough session. The key phrase of the moment: normalizing struggle.
Isaac Likekele, Bruce Thornton will share the court
Thornton is seen as Ohio State’s premier point guard now and into the future. To help him out, the Buckeyes brought in Likekele, a four-year contributor at Oklahoma State who can play multiple positions.
But to be clear: this will not be a like-for-like replacement design.
“They’re definitely going to be on the floor together,” Holtzman said. “They have to play together for us to be the best.”
While in the Bahamas, the Buckeyes played against Egypt and the Puerto Rico national team, where the two shared crucial minutes and helped seal both victories. That could happen when the season starts.