No one could have predicted the rise of the Ohio State men’s basketball team that occured last year in Chris Holtmann’s first year as head coach.
A year after the Buckeyes went 17-15, Holtmann took over and coached a team to a 25-9 overall finish, earning a five-seed in the NCAA Tournament while enjoying the rise of forward Keita Bates-Diop.
Bates-Diop took home Big Ten Player of the Year, but left Ohio State a season early to enter the NBA Draft. Guards Andrew Dakich and Kam Williams and forward Jae’Sean Tate also departed, leaving Holtmann with four holes to fill moving into next year.
Who will fill those spots? These are our predictions.
Leading Scorer: Keita Bates-Diop | Replacement: Kaleb Wesson
There will most likely be no real replacement for the output that Bates-Diop had last season, but if someone is going to have the offense focused around them next season, it will be Wesson.
The 6-foot-9 sophomore forward had a solid freshman season, ending the year with 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game on 56 percent shooting. Wesson likes to play with his back to the basket, and could be Ohio State’s main scoring threat next year.
Floor General: Jae’Sean Tate | Replacement: C.J. Jackson
Tate and Jackson ended the year with very similar stats at the end of the past season. Though Jackson is a guard, he will look to imitate much of what Tate did off the court next season. Jackson is one of two returning seniors, along with guard Joey Lane, and he comes into next season looking to be the leader that Tate was a year ago.
Already attending a leadership camp during the summer, Jackson has the opportunity to be someone the offense runs through, while making an equal contribution on the stat sheet.
Threat from Deep: Kam Williams | Replacement: Luther Muhammad
Williams found himself with a solid role on the Buckeyes, starting in 50 of the 62 games he played in during his final two seasons. In his senior year, Williams averaged 9 points per game while shooting 45 percent from behind the arc. Muhammad comes in as a true freshman, but, as a four-star prospect out of high school, should make an immediate impact for the Buckeyes coming off the bench before eventually challenging for starting minutes.
Muhammad was a major scorer in high school for Hudson Catholic, shooting 51 percent and 37 percent from 3 in his four years there. Both a strong defender and impressive scorer around the hoop, Muhammad should be an improvement at the guard position, and gives the roster loads of potential moving forward.
Sixth Man: Andrew Dakich | Replacement: Keyshawn Woods
Replacing one graduate transfer with another, Ohio State will turn to Woods to bring energy and a solid presence off the bench for the Buckeyes the same way Dakich did in 2017-18. The 6-foot-3 guard has experience at point guard while at Wake Forest and has demonstrated a strong shooting ability, even after a down year in his final year as a Demon Deacon.
Woods might eventually find time in the starting lineup, but look for him to bring a spark off the bench with his experience.