What's Next For Chris Holtmann And Ohio State Basketball?

What's Next For Chris Holtmann And Ohio State Basketball?

BuckeyeWire

What's Next For Chris Holtmann And Ohio State Basketball?


Ohio State is out of the NCAA tournament after one of the most unexpected seasons in its history. Now that the run is over, what can we look towards as Holtmann steers this ship into the future?


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What’s Next For Chris Holtmann And Ohio State Basketball?

Ohio State is out of the NCAA tournament after a gut-wrenching up and down game against a quality Gonzaga squad. That means the season is done and it’s time to focus on where the program goes from here.

By all weights and measures, the 2017-2018 season was a resounding success, and one that was surprising and unexpected in so many ways. It no doubt set the table for what Chris Holtmann wants to accomplish in Columbus.

But there’s work to do, and in some ways, we’ll have to see if this is a harboring of better things to come, or if this season was a product of some experience that finally played to its potential.

Either way you look at it, the page must turn, and there are some key, key pieces moving on that will need to be replaced.

The Sum Of The Parts

So let’s start there first. Gone are seniors Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams and Andrew Dakich. That’s a certainty.

They all bring something unique and positive to the table.

Tate is the captain and heart and soul of the team. This year became what it was largely because he was able to get everyone to follow where he was going. There will be a leadership void that will be deeper than the pockets in Jim Harbaugh’s khakis. Who steps up there?

Williams is the sharp shooter that can equalize an opponent’s defense. When he’s bombing away with the consistency that he can, it opens things up for everyone one else, and forces teams to get change defensive philosophies — sometimes on the fly.

And what about Andrew Dakich? Yeah, he was just a one-hit wonder in Columbus, but he filled a big need when he began to show everyone he could not only be an extra ball handler, but play solid defense and make the hustle plays that get everyone fired up. He proved he was more than just a spot duty bench player.

All three played extremely key roles on this team, and I don’t know that anyone saw the trio coming together like they did. But it’s a credit to their character and the efforts of Holtmann and his coaching staff in making all these puzzle pieces fit the picture of what we saw this year.

The Pending Departure

But we’re missing one guy here right? There’s one piece that was the corner of the main border at the top of this puzzle that’s probably off the shelf as well. He’s not a senior, but you and I both know — despite reports that he’s still pondering another year in college — that Keita Bates-Diop is off to the NBA.

As sure as I sit here in my Ohio State pajamas getting ready to hit the pillow for tonight, there’s no way Bates-Diop is going to pass up the opportunity to be a first round draft pick.

His stock is likely as high as it’s going to be, and those around him that will council him know that, and also know that coming back for another year opens up injury and the potential of being on a different team where things don’t go as well as they did this year. In other words … He Gawn.

So that means there are four monumental figures to the foundation laid this year that are going to doing other things besides bouncing a basketball in the Schottenstein Center next year.

So yeah, while this was supposed to be a throw-away year according to many, it wasn’t. And now this team is losing the nucleus of everything that set this wild and unexpected ride in motion.

Turning The Page With New Leaders

But that’s what happens in college athletics. Year over year, the roster changes, and sometimes there are wholesale changes like what the Buckeyes are looking at going into this off-season.

There were question marks this year, and there will also be some next year. It’s up to Holtmann and his staff to mine for the answers. So who’s back, and who’s coming in with the next recruiting class that can carry the torch that was lit this year?

We can only start to answer that question with one guy. Kaleb Wesson. He was Mr. Ohio coming out of Westerville in 2017, and despite a rather unassuming start to the season, he continued to get better and eventually landed on the All Big-Ten Freshman team.

He’s got a presence in the blocks with a big body, great footwork and a developing ability to pass out of double teams. He looks to be what the offense will evolve around next year, given that he continues his development into an All Big-Ten type performer.

But he can’t do it all. Someone else must help or defenses will simply collapse and make him give the ball up.

That help will likely come from senior-to-be C.J. Jackson. As much as the four we already mentioned made a big difference this year, so too did Jackson. He’s not a natural point guard, but he was asked to bring the ball up multiple times this year because he was one of the few that could.

We also saw the outside shooting accuracy Thad Matta kept swearing would start to show come to fruition this year. Jackson obviously gained some confidence this year and began to be an offensive threat. He was a bit inconsistent, but without the 6-1, 175 lb. junior, Ohio State is not a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Ohio State has two guys then that should be able to be leaned upon next year that had big roles this year. Unfortunately though, you need five guys to fill out a starting basketball team, and fan favorite Joey Lane will tell you that the bench is nice this time of year too, so we’ll need some talent to pluck from the seats to make it all work.

New Roles And New Blood

That means guys like Musa Jallow, Kyle Young, and Micha Potter will get more significant time, and will need to gain the confidence of the coaches. But that’s just not a lot of proven numbers to count on next year.

That means Ohio State might need to get something out of the recruiting class coming in. It’s a fairly good top 25 class, but not the type of class loaded with four and five-star recruits that can step right in and make everyone forget about the Thad Five class from 2006.

But if we’re looking for talent, the guy most likely to provide some immediate returns is shooting guard Luther Muhammad. He’s 6-4, 185 lbs. and can shoot from the outside as well as use his athleticism to get to the rim. You never know with these things, but he he’s got a chance to crack the starting lineup right away, and if not, will probably at least be looked upon for significant minutes off the bench.

There’s also four-star, 6-7 forward Jaedon LeDee out of Texas that could make a difference before he gets his sea legs. There’s combo-guard Duane Washington and forward Justin Ahrens that will come on-board as thee star recruits as well, but it might be a too much to ask for them to get meaningful minutes right away unless they make a rather seamless jump to the college level.

Leveling Expectations

And that’s it. Next year doesn’t look like a very deep team, and you wonder just how quickly everything can come together, and how effective they’ll all be.

To put it bluntly, I think Holtmann will eventually get things going the way he wants in Columbus, but this year might have been a little bit of fool’s gold that accelerated the reality of where this program is.

Next year could be a tough one, and one that is nowhere near what we saw in 2017-2018. It’ll be tough with what’s in the cupboard and with the reinforcements coming in, to expect another splash in the Big Ten and return to the NCAA tournament.

But hey, we’ve all been proven wrong before haven’t we? …

 

Contact/Follow @BuckeyeWire for continuing coverage of Ohio State news, notes, and opinion.

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