A little more than 24 hours before Ohio State begins the Big Ten tournament, Chris Holtmann says he still doesn’t know whether or not he’ll have his starting power forward available.
Kyle Young has remained sidelined with a boot on his right foot ever since suffering a sprained ankle late in the first half of the Buckeyes’ win against Maryland on Feb. 23. With a game against 10th-seeded Purdue on Thursday evening looming, Holtmann left Young’s availability open-ended on Wednesday afternoon.
“Kyle is day-to-day, and I say that with all honesty and no gamesmanship whatsoever,” Holtmann said.
Since his injury, Holtmann said, Young hasn’t done any “live action” in practice.
“He's been very limited,” Holtmann said. “I don't want to get into real specifics, but he's been very limited up until this week, really. We've tried to bring him along and monitor any swelling, soreness, those kind of things with our medical staff.”
In order for Young to play in the conference tournament, Holtmann said, the coaches want to see more from him in practice. He said they might not know whether he’ll be available until they get into “game stuff” on Thursday.
There’s also the potentially tough balancing act Holtmann has to play with the NCAA tournament beginning next week. Should he play Young, who might not be fully healthy, or be careful with him to ensure he’s available in a week?
“We're also aware that we're going to play after this tournament, however long we play in this tournament,” Holtmann said. “But if he can play, we're going to try to play him. We're not going to necessarily hold him back for the NCAA tournament, but we also are mindful that there's more to come.”
In Ohio State’s only meeting with Purdue this season, a 68-52 win at home on Feb. 15, Young scored a career-high 16 points to go along with seven rebounds.
If he doesn’t play for the seventh-seeded Buckeyes on Thursday, Holtmann would again only have eight healthy, eligible players on his roster. He’d again likely go with a three-guard starting lineup of CJ Walker, Duane Washington Jr., Luther Muhammad, Andre Wesson and Kaleb Wesson.
How OSU Hoops is Dealing With Coronavirus
With the Big Ten tournament about to begin and the NCAA tournament a week away from tipping off, concern about coronavirus threatens to impact postseason basketball (along with many, many more important aspects of the world, but we’re an Ohio State sports site, so…)
Holtmann, whose team will tip off the conference tournament on Thursday evening, said he talked with his players about COVID-19 on Tuesday.
“We refreshed with our guys the importance of just taking care of themselves, getting appropriate sleep,” Holtmann said. “We went through the whole probably what you guys did with your family, your kids, the whole washing hands. So I think we went through them and we talked to them in specific ways about things that we're going to keep in mind to try to protect them. I've encouraged them that unfortunately with fans right now you may not want to shake hands, you may not want to sign things. It might not be in your best interest to do that.”
As of now, Holtmann said, the team will not take any unnatural precautions during its trip to Indianapolis. However, he called the situation “fluid” to underscore how that could change.
“I was given updates this morning on some potential changes for us in terms of what our coaches travel schedule could be in regard to recruiting,” Holtmann said. “I don't want to get into specifics with that. I think you're given updates consistently on that. I think it's just a very fluid situation. So by the time we get to Indianapolis, we could decide to make a change.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the Big Ten announced plans to go ahead with the men’s basketball tournament, including both spectators and media.
However, around the same time Ohio governor Mike DeWine said the public can expect an order in the next 24-36 hours barring spectators from mass gatherings. Other states have taken similar measures, leading to an expectation that at least some NCAA tournament games will take place without fans in attendance.
“I don't know where this is headed,” Holtmann said. “I think we all know this is a fluid situation. So I'm not sure where it's all headed. I do think there'll continue to be some things that will really impact the NCAA tournament.”
Gaffney Remains Out
Freshman forward Alonzo Gaffney neither played nor was with the team for the final four games of the regular season.
Holtmann said Gaffney will not be available in Indianapolis as Ohio State begins the Big Ten tournament, either. He did not discuss the reason for Gaffney’s absence, which remains a bit of a mystery.
Originally, Holtmann said Gaffney was dealing with an illness. However, last week he said he wasn’t able to discuss the specifics of why he’s sitting out. He didn’t delve any deeper into the matter on Wednesday, either.
Gaffney, the No. 50 overall recruit in his class, is averaging 1.8 points and 1.4 rebounds in 6.7 minutes per game. The Cleveland native has appeared in 17 games this season.
No Update on Carton
Since leaving the basketball team on Jan. 30 to deal with what he described as “mental health issues,” DJ Carton has not had a timeline to return to the court. And as the season has dragged on, it has naturally become less likely that he returns, though.
Holtmann, while unwilling to rule him out for the remainder of the season on Wednesday, noted the postseason will end relatively soon.
“Obviously we know where the season is going in terms of what's left of the season – a matter of weeks, right?” Holtmann said. “So I'll let you draw your own conclusions. But I wouldn't want to say definitively one way or the other right now.”
Carton initially went home to Bettendorf, Iowa, before returning to Columbus to take classes in person in mid-February. The entire Ohio State student body has to take online classes now, though, due to concerns about coronavirus.
Cheers for Wesson
Kaleb Wesson earned a second-team All-Big Ten nod on Tuesday, becoming the only Buckeye to get all-conference honors.
“I want to congratulate Kaleb on being named all-conference,” Holtmann said. “A great honor for a kid that's had, I think, an outstanding year on both ends. And I think that sometimes gets lost. The other day was not collectively our best defensive output, but he's been really consistent in his effort and his impact on both ends. So I really congratulate him in a league this good to be named all-conference.”
Wesson is averaging 14 points and 9.3 rebounds in 29.5 minutes per game.