11W Basketball Mailbag: Projecting Ohio State's Starting Lineup, Final Record and Freshmen Impact

By James Grega on October 18, 2017 at 10:10 am
Baskeball Mailbag

Ohio State football is on its bye week and the Big Ten is set to descend on New York City for media day, so it's the perfect time for the first basketball mailbag of the 2017-18 season. 

There are plenty of storylines surrounding the program, and college basketball in general, as a new page turns on Ohio State hoops. Chris Holtmann is set to make his first appearance at Big Ten media day as the Buckeyes' new head coach. 

The Buckeyes also welcome a trio of freshmen, including hometown star Kaleb Wesson, who joins older brother Andre on the Ohio State roster. 

With all of that said, it's time to get to your questions with the basketball season just around the corner. 

What is your realistic guess for the Buckeyes' final win total for the 2017-2018 season and what is your reasoning behind that?IBLEEDSCARLETANDGRAY

A few months ago, I was hovering around the 15-16 range. I am setting my ceiling at 18 victories for this team for a few reasons. 

For starters, they only have one true point guard in C.J. Jackson, and that is a problem. JaQuan Lyle, who is now a member of New Mexico, was able to create his own shot in his two years as a Buckeye, which at least made him a threat to score off the dribble. Jackson is a pass-first point guard, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but will limit this team offensively. 

In addition, it's hard for me to pick a team that will rely so much on true freshmen to win a lot of games. Kaleb Wesson, Kyle Young and Musa Jallow are all talented but inexperienced, and it will take them some time to get acclimated to the college game. I'm setting my final win total for Ohio State at 18, which includes at least one victory in the Big Ten Tournament. 

Your thoughts on the conference going to a 20-game schedule beginning next season?Hovenaut

Some will like it, some won't. Personally, I like it because conference play is more competitive, but the smaller schools are the ones losing out here. 

The smaller schools depend on these out-of-conference games at the beginning of the year to make money to help fund their season. Taking away one or possibly two of those games will take a chunk of money from those programs. For Ohio State, it's a good move, but for the little guy, it's a tough one to take. 

Percentage Ohio State makes the NCAA tourney?Desymond

Before all of the reports that have come out recently concerning bribing players, I would have said less than 5 percent. Now, I will give them a 20 percent chance of making the tournament. 

Programs are losing coaches, reliability and some will surely get sanctions which could open the door for a team like Ohio State to steal a spot that could come open. For anything like that to happen, though, sanctions will need to be handed down before the tournament, and the Buckeyes have to finish with at least 18-19 wins to get consideration. It's not out of the realm of possibility, but right now, I can't in my right mind put them in the Big Dance. 

Is Kyle Young ready by the season opener? - Zdog4307

For those who need a refresher, Young has missed most of fall practice after undergoing a tonsillectomy. Young could be ready for the season opener, Holtmann said earlier this month, but would likely miss the exhibition game against Wooster on Nov. 5.

If I had to say right now, I think Young misses the exhibition game and probably the season opener, but I think he gets back into action before Ohio State travels to Portland, Ore. for the PK80 Invitational. The Massillon, Ohio native is going to play big minutes for the Buckeyes this season, and he will need some time to get back into the swing of things before taking the court in a game situation. 

With only three scholarship guards on the roster, do you think we will see Andrew Dakich or Joey Lane getting important minutes during Big Ten games? - OSU069

After watching practice a few weeks ago, I get the impression that Dakich is going to get a chance early in the season to prove he is worthy of meaningful minutes, and I think that chance will come at the point guard position. 

However, as we get into conference play, I think you will see a shorter rotation and perhaps Kam Williams gets some playing time at the point guard. I think there will be times where both Dakich and Lane will be called upon for a few minutes here and there, but I think Jallow will eat up those minutes once he gets comfortable. 

Which incoming freshman is going to have the biggest impact year 1? - SilvioDante

The easy answer is Kaleb Wesson, so that is who I am going with. If you would have asked me three months ago, I probably would have said Kyle Young, but after watching Wesson work out and seeing the body transformation he has undergone, I think he is ready to play big minutes for this squad. 

His older brother Andre said at Ohio State's on-campus media day that Kaleb has lost around 60 pounds since they last played together at Westerville South High School in 2015-16, but I think it could even be more. Kaleb looks very slimmed down and conditioned, and I think he is going to impress some people this season. 

Who will be the starting five? How do you see minutes being divided amongst positions? - Osudray

As is stands right now, I will say Micah Potter, Jae'Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, Kam Williams and C.J. Jackson will round out the starting five for Ohio State when the season starts. 

I think there is also a chance at some point this season, Jallow cracks the starting lineup and Williams comes off the bench in an energy/sixth man type of role, also helping play the point at times. If that were to happen, I still think he would get more minutes than the true freshman. 

Ohio State is really deep in the post, with Young and Kaleb Wesson coming in off the bench, as well as Andre Wesson to spell KBD once he gets back into playing shape after missing most of summer workouts. The depth in the post and on the wing for the Buckeyes is their strength, but the rotation at guard is dicey right now. 

How well should we expect Kaleb Wesson to play? - Ohio Guy In Jersey

I touched on this earlier, so I will be brief. This kid is going to surprise people. He is slimmed down, moves well and has a solid perimeter game that will draw opposing bigs out of the paint. There will surely be some growing pains, as there is with any freshman, but I expect him to be a big part of the 2017-18 Buckeyes. 

Do you think we are done with the 2018 class?  Any idea on where we stand with anyone in the 2019 class? - Buckeyeboy31

I wouldn't be surprised if Ohio State is done in 2018, but there is a chance the Buckeyes might land another guard. They are still chasing Elijah Weaver, and Will Richardson is a name that has been trending up recently for OSU. Richardson visited Columbus on Oct. 6 when the Ohio State football team took on Maryland. Eric Ayala also visited that day, but chose the Terps over the Buckeyes and Syracuse just eight days later. 

As for the 2019 class, Ohio State is recruiting Alonzo Gaffney out of Garfield Heights, Ohio very hard. Holtmann visited Gaffney's school around a month ago and I expect the Buckeyes to make a run at him, but the leaders for his services remain Michigan State and North Carolina, in my opinion. 

With the significant changes in the team since last year, will the VCA be a better home venue than last year in terms of fan support and attendance? - 1MechEng

Let's not beat around the bush, Value City Arena at the Schottenstein Center is not exactly the best college basketball venue in the country, let alone the state of Ohio. 

I think there will be fan interest early. There is plenty of intrigue surrounding the program right now, and I think that will draw fans out for the bigger games moreso than a season ago. That said, there isn't much more you can do in that arena to improve the environment short of tearing it down and moving back into St. John Arena. The Schott is an impressive arena, but it is made for an NBA team, not a college team. The atmosphere is that of a late-season 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers game almost all the time. 

Holtmann's arrival and influence will help some, but it is up to the fans to show up, something they haven't done since Aaron Craft left the program. 

What are going to be the biggest/most noticeable changes in philosophies between Matta and Holtmann? - Toad1204

This is in no way a shot at Thad Matta, who did great things at Ohio State, but Holtmann's team is going to play harder. They just are. He isn't going to tolerate anything less. 

The primary concern of the last few Matta years was that his teams looked disinterested. I don't think you will see that with Holtmann. The Buckeyes might not win a ton of games this season, but I think you will see a team rejuvenated and playing until the final whistle. Also, I expect improved foul shooting. It can't get much worse. 

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