I'm a 'bad news first' kinda guy, so I'll start with the negatives.
1. The Uncertainty of the Season- obviously this pandemic hangs over everything including college basketball. Having no schedules released, non conference tourneys cancelled already, etc, does not give you any warm fuzzies. Just like nearly everything in 2020, just gotta roll with the punches and hope for the best. But on to Buckeye specific stuff.
2. Seth Towns' Health- Obviously not ideal. I still have hopes he plays in games by January, shakes off the rust and is a major factor down the stretch for the Buckeyes. But the fact that is probably the most optimistic outlook for Towns is definitely a negative.
3. Musa Jallow's Health- Definitely seems further ahead than Towns, but maybe more surprising he is not 100% on Day 1. All this being said, both Towns and Jallow are participating in practice on a limited basis. You are almost always going to have some injuries. At this point last year, Jallow was completely out, Ahrens had missed pretty much all offseason and was far below 100%, Kyle Young was returning from a stress fracture, etc. Things aren't perfect for the Buckeyes health wise, but far from terrible.
4. Abel Porter being medically ruled out. Obviously feel terrible for him. Sotos (and Meechie) lessens the blow for the Bucks. But I do think Porter would have been a nice complimentary option off the bench.
5. Defensive Outlook- They lose a couple of plus defenders in Muhammad and Andre Wesson. Sueing does not have a defensive reputation and Ahrens and Washington's reps are not good. CJ and Kyle have solid reps and EJ has good potential as a solid shot blocker. But whereas I think Kaleb's loss on the offensive end may be slightly overrated, I think his loss on the defensive end is vastly underrated. He developed into a pretty darn good ball screen and decent post defender, and generally just clogged up that lane. He is a huge missing void on the defensive end, both literally and figuratively. Luckily Holtmann is a damn good defensive coach, so hopefully he can get the best out of a roster that does not look as strong on paper defensively as last year's group.
1. Offensive Outlook- I know a lot of folks would probably see this as a negative losing the centerpiece of the offense the last 2 years in Kaleb, a dynamic talent in Carton, and a good 3 pt shooter in Andre. But I see all kinds of upside with this offense. CJ Walker averaged 13.7 ppg and EJ Liddell 10.0 ppg in the last 6 games of the year. Small sample size, but 5 were against ranked teams and it was pretty consistent (EJ in double figures 3 of 6, CJ in double figures in all 6). The versatility of Sueing on the wing (more on that later), Ahrens shooting ability (more on that later), and the possible expansion of Kyle Young's game (more on that later) are all positives. And last but not least, Duane Washington is primed for a huge season on that end.
2. Potential of Kyle Young and EJ Liddell to be 3 pt threats- I know some would be skeptical of this because of 9 combined career threes from this duo. But EJ was a 72% free throw shooter and showed great midrange touch. He should be able to expand that in his 2nd season. Kyle's potential may seem like more of a stretch. But I have heard Holtmann bring up Kyle's outside shooting more than once this offseason as well as his roommate Justin Ahrens bringing it up. I know it is just talk. But Holtmann is more of a sandbagger than a hype man when he talks about his own team. Not saying either Kyle or EJ will be near Kaleb's level (40% plus), but if they can just be threats (30% ish), it opens up this offense big time.
3. Justice Sueing on the Wing- The Buckeyes have not had a player on the wing with this kind of offensive upside since KBD and Ja'Sean Tate. Not saying he is at their level at all, but he is a nice combo of both. He can get to the free throw line, score in transition, and slash to the hoop. If he can bump that career 3pt pct from the 30% to the 35% plus range, he could really be something. I think 8-10 ppg is his floor but definitely has the potential to be a 13-15 ppg type player.
4. Justin Ahrens had a healthy offseason. I really think he was a shell of himself for at least the first half of his soph year due to an offseason back injury and never seemed to regain the confidence he had the end of his Freshmen year. Yet he still shot 40% on threes and scored 9 or more in 3 Big 10 games. The kid can flat out stroke it. If he can just be serviceable on defense and regain that confidence, I think he can be a reliable option off the bench. And we'll need it with Musa and Seth banged up to start the year.
5. Jimmy Sotos and Meechie Johnson adding depth to the backcourt- Sotos is going to have to adjust to the speed and talent of the Big 10. But I think he is a nice compliment to Duane and CJ. He showed some nice passing skills (6.1 assists per game) his soph year with a talented Bucknell team. He is also a career 36% three point shooter so defenders have to respect his outside shot. Meechie is a wild card. I doubt he plays much this year with such a veteran backcourt. But with Covid and injuries, he is a great insurance policy and gets a leg up on taking the reigns at pg in 2021-22.
Congrats if you made it through this long winded post. Go Bucks!