What Ohio State Must Accomplish in Year Two of the Holtmann Era to Set Up For a Title Run in 2019-20

By James Grega on July 16, 2018 at 10:10 am
Chris Holtmann

Ohio State landed its most high-profile recruit since D'Angelo Russell on Saturday when 2019 five-star point guard DJ Carton committed to the Buckeyes, picking Chris Holtmann's squad over the likes of Michigan and Indiana. 

The commitment sent shockwaves through the Big Ten, as it suddenly gave the Buckeyes the best class in the Big Ten, and the fourth-best recruiting class in the nation, according to 247Sports. 

With a handful of recruits still being targeted by Holtmann's staff, Ohio State's 2019-20 team is shaping up to not just be one of the best in the conference, but perhaps one of the best in the country. 

However, before the like of Carton and Alonzo Gaffney arrive on campus a year from now, Ohio State has to take care of business in 2018-19, and the success or lack of it could determine how the following season shakes out.

I decided to list a few things I think Ohio State has to accomplish this season (and offseason) in order to set up for a title run in year three of the Holtmann era.

Make The NCAA Tournament

Easier said than done, especially with a roster that has lost four veteran leaders in the locker room. 

Ohio State has talent this season, and is perhaps more athletic than a season ago. However, the schedule – especially in the non-conference – is much more daunting with road trips to Cincinnati and Creighton on the docket, along with a neutral site game against UCLA in Chicago. None of these games are particularly easy and with a young roster, could provide the Buckeyes with a humbling start to the season. 

Winning games against the Bearcats, Bluejays and Bruins could catapult Ohio State into the tournament before starting conference play (assuming there isn't a complete collapse), but losing those games could add enormous pressure in the later months of the season, which could wear on a young team. 

So how does this all apply to the following season? Experience. A team that has added six new pieces this season needs as much practice and game time together as possible. A tournament run not only adds to the program's rise back to prominence, but also gives a young roster time to jell. That extra practice time would do wonders for this team and program and could set the Buckeyes up for a Final Four run the following year. 

Keep Luther Muhammad Around

Muhammad is likely Ohio State's only one-and-done candidate on the current roster. In order to make a run at a title of any sort in 2019-20, he will need to stay in Columbus for a sophomore season. 

Now, Ohio State could certainly advance to a Final Four or win a conference crown without him, but having a player who can score off the bounce and defend multiple positions would certainly help their chances at shocking the college basketball world. 

Put Muhammad in the backcourt with Carton and a veteran CJ Walker, and Ohio State could perhaps have one of the best groups of guards in the country. 

Add EJ Liddell to 2019 Class

A top-50 player in the country, Liddell is the reigning Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois and with Carton and Gaffney locked up, is now one of Ohio State's top remaining targets in the 2019 class. 

With Gaffney expected to play more on the perimeter at Ohio State, much like Keita Bates-Diop, Liddell could step in as a post presence for the Buckeyes in 2019-20. At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, he already has a college-ready body and is actively being recruited by not only the Buckeye coaching staff, but apparently by Carton as well. 

The Buckeyes had an in-home visit with Liddell on April 8, just a few short weeks after their season ended in Boise, Idaho. Should Ohio State bring him in, it would make the Buckeyes legitimately three-deep at every position and solidify a roster that could contend for not only a Big Ten title, but perhaps even a national title. 

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