For the first time as head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Thad Matta missed the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years. He also failed to reach 20 wins for the first time in 13 years. The Buckeyes are only five years removed from a Final Four appearance and four years from an Elite Eight appearance. Since then, the Buckeyes have been trending downwards. Last year, they luckily beat Akron in overtime and proceeded to lose to Florida in the second round of the NIT. This year, they were the first team left out of the NIT. There have been pleas among the Buckeye fan base for Matta to be fired with the basketball team arguably regressing in the past several years. Matta is still under contract for a few more years but should Ohio State begin looking for his replacement? There is no denying what he has done for the team: nine NCAA tournament appearances (five Sweet Sixteen appearances), NIT Champions, and sending eight first-rounders to the NBA (including Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Evan Turner, Jared Sullinger, and D’Angelo Russell). Sadly, his time may be coming to an end.
With the top six key contributors returning from the NIT team, expectations were relatively high. However, the Buckeyes finished below expectations with a 17-15 record including a loss to Rutgers in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. Five of their wins all season were against tournament teams (Providence, Michigan State, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin). Yet, there was an inexcusable 79-77 loss to Florida Atlantic early in the season at home. The team appeared to be lackadaisical and disinterested through the entirety of the year.
MVP of the Team: Jae’Sean Tate
Jae’Sean Tate was the undisputed best player on the team. He was the leading scorer with 14.3 points/game, second-leading rebounder on the team with 6.4 rebounds/game, and averaged two assists/game and 1.1 steals/game. He had double-digit scoring in every game but three. In a win over Penn State, Tate was responsible for this game-winning shot:
The other starters:
The only senior on the team, Marc Loving finished his last season with 12.3 points/game, 4.7 rebounds/game, and 1.9 assists/game. Loving was not outstanding by any means and finishes his career averaging only ten points per game, 3.8 rebounds per game, and 1.1 assists per game. He is not expected to be drafted in the upcoming NBA draft.
7-foot-0 big man Trevor Thompson, who elected to forego his senior year to enter the NBA draft recently, finished with 10.6 points/game, 9.2 rebounds/game, and 1.5 blocks/game. He entered the draft last year but withdrew his name. The transfer from Virginia Tech was expected to be an important acquisition but was underwhelming. He finished his junior year with 11 double-doubles with his best performance being a 17-point, 17-rebound outing versus Connecticut. Thompson is also not expected to be drafted in the NBA draft.
Guard Kam Williams averaged only 9.4 points/game, 2.1 rebounds/game, and an assist/game. Despite averaging nearly 31 minutes a game, Williams was not the greatest of shooters averaging 39.1% from the field. In the last seven games of the year, he did not reach double-digit figures for scoring.
Combo guard C.J. Jackson averaged 5.6 points/game, 2.5 rebounds/game, and 2.9 assists/game. The transfer from Eastern Florida State took over the starting spot of JaQuan Lyle midway through the season but only shot 39.5% from the field.
JaQuan Lyle started the year as the starting point guard but ended it coming off the bench as a sixth man. He was the third-leading scorer with 11.4 points/game and led the team with 4.6 assists/game. Lyle regressed from his freshman year to his sophomore year and the four-star recruit will need to demonstrate improvement for his junior year.
In addition, backup center Micah Potter only averaged 4.1 points per game and 3.1 assists per game. Lastly, Andre Wesson averaged just over two points per game and a rebound per game.
Keita Bates-Diop was the starting forward for the Buckeyes but played only nine games due to a stress fracture in his leg. In the first game of the year, he had 14 points and 14 rebounds against Navy.
The team must improve all-around, especially in free-throw percentage. The Buckeyes were tied for 250th in the nation shooting a paltry 68.2% from the line. Play must become more consistent because the team has shown that they can beat tournament-quality teams but also lose random games to inferior talent. The addition of four-star center and Ohio Mr. Basketball Kaleb Wesson, brother of Andre Wesson, will hope to provide the Buckeyes with another talented big man. Three-star point guard Braxton Beverly is also currently committed for 2017. Along with returning Jae’Sean Tate, JaQuan Lyle, Keita Bates-Diop, Kam Williams, C.J. Jackson, Micah Potter, Andre Wesson, and even David Bell, there should, hopefully, be no way but up for the Buckeyes in the 2017-2018 season.