Ohio State's Returning Roster Long on Veterans, Versatility

Bruce Hooley

We'll never know how Year 3 of the Chris Holtmann era at Ohio State would have ended, although the prospects seemed promising given the Buckeyes' strong finish to the regular season and what some projections forecast for their NCAA Tournament fate.

What's certain is that Year 4 will present Holtmann with his deepest roster yet at OSU, despite the loss of two top recruits at the start of last season and the likely departure of leading scorer and rebounder Kaleb Wesson.

Wesson hasn't confirmed his entry into the NBA Draft yet, but Holtmann clearly expects him to turn professional based upon his recent comments.

That won't keep Ohio State from being one of the favorites in the Big Ten or a solid choice as a Top 25 team.

ESPN's projections for 2020-21 list the Buckeyes third in the conference behind Iowa (No. 7) and Michigan State (No. 9) and No. 13 in the nation.

That optimism centers on a deep roster of proven talent and experience.

OSU will be able to throw a bevy of big guards, wings and forwards at opponents.

Some of those players are among the Buckeyes' four returning starters -- 6-7 Kyle Young, 6-5 Luther Muhammad -- some are holdovers who have demonstrated resumes that provide intriguing possibilities when paired with the return of starting guards C.J. Walker and Duane Washington.

Sophomore E.J. Liddell let everyone know in the aftermath of guard D.J. Carton and forward Alonzo Gaffney's departures that he would be staying in Columbus.

That's great news given how well the 6-7 Liddell scored, rebounded and blocked shots down the stretch.

It's not hard to envision Liddell with Young and Muhammad in a 1-3-1 zone rounded out with 6-6 juniors Justice Sueing and Seth Towns.

Sueing sat out this past season after transferring in from California, where he averaged 14 points and six rebounds each of his first two seasons.

If those numbers sound familiar, it's because such production mirrors what Ohio State received from Wesson.

Sueing has excellent ballhandling skills, shot 78% from the free throw line as a sophomore and in both season he played in the Pacific 10 got to the free throw line essentially the same number of times as Wesson.

Towns, who's been out injured the past two seasons with knee cartilage issues, is less of a banger and more of a distance shooter, which will bolster an Ohio State three-point offense that led the Big Ten.

Even without Wesson, OSU will have a solid Top 7 with Walker, Washington and Muhammad in the backcourt and Young, Liddell, Sueing and Towns in the frontcourt.

That doesn't account for additional contributions that could come from:

  •  lefty sharp-shooter Justin Ahrens, who's won the Buckeyes a handful of games the past two seasons;
  • sophomore guard Musa Jallow, a rotation player as a freshman who offers Holtmann an athletic defensive stopper and occasional scorer, coming off a redshirt season because of a foot injury;
  • project big man Ibrahima Diallo, a seven-footer whose likely role would come off the bench as a defensive contributor.

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