Predicting the starting lineup for the new-look Ohio State Buckeyes is virtually a crapshoot. After sustaining the loss of freshman sensation D'Angelo Russell to the NBA, and welcoming a highly-heralded class of recruits, head coach Thad Matta is left trying to alter and tweak all roster rotations possible in order to continue the success from last season's NCAA tournament team.
The starting lineup could go a number of ways. The folks at Land-Grant Holy Land have instilled their input, but the lineup hinges on the decisions for two players. Freshman guard JaQuan Lyle is listed at shooting guard, per LGHL, but is listed as a point guard by ESPN. At 6'5", 215 pounds, Lyle would possess tremendous size for the position, but could very well be best suited as an off-guard due to his scoring abilities.
Sophomore forward Jae'Sean Tate is a bit of a hybrid forward, as he is listed in some circles as a wing and others as a power forward - LGHL projects him to be the starting power forward. Both Lyle and Tate are interchangeable when it comes to positions due to their versatility, but if Lyle is officially pegged as the starting shooting guard, fellow freshman A.J. Harris could be labeled as the starting point guard in 2015.
At 5'9, 157 pounds, Harris possesses elite quickness and the ability to change directions effortlessly. Harris does a great job at orchestrating an offense and getting other players in proper positions to execute plays. Harris has a knack for lulling defenders asleep with hesitation dribbles and pulling up from three point range. With the ball in hands for the majority of games, Harris has developed into a very capable shooting off the dribble. In a matchup against Tyler Ulis at the Flyin' to the Hoop event in 2014, Harris demonstrated his ability drain shots off the dribble and attack the rim. With an undersized frame, the four-star recruit has become dangerous in the paint, as he can get his shot off against taller defenders.
Harris is also a very pesky on ball defender. He possesses the determination to stay in front of his man and disrupt the opposing team's game plan. Despite his size, Harris finds himself with many steal opportunities, as he is quick to disrupt passing lanes. Whether he's in the open court or in a half court setting, Harris' ball-handling skills are at the top of the charts. Having a low center of gravity and keeping his head up to find room for himself or others makes him an effective offensive player.
Areas for Improvement
At no fault of his own, Harris is quite undersized. It could be a tough transition in year one, especially on defense as he'll face bigger and stronger point guards in the Big Ten. Harris could struggle specifically in getting through screens, as his stature isn't ideal for fighting through the physicality of the conference. If Harris is going to lead the Buckeyes in 2015, it could come as a concern having an unproven point guard leading a plethora of freshmen at the division one level. Harris is a very good leader, but surrounding a young point guard with other young players could make for a rocky season.
Harris is a dynamic player, and one that could make an immediate impact due to his playmaking ability, quickness and shooting stroke. Harris could have a Tyler Ulis like season - if Lyle is the point guard, Harris will be a tremendous backup. If called upon to start, Harris is a heady floor general that will not be the reason for blame when losses occur.
If Harris was over six feet tall, he'd certainly be in the discussion as one of the top point guards in 2015 class and would have an extensive list of high major programs after him. The Big Ten Network projected the Buckeyes to finish sixth in their way-to-early conference rankings. Harris will play a major role in deciding if that projection is justified or outlandish. Whether it's in a starting role or as a reserve, look for Harris to contribute immediately.