The Ohio State Buckeyes are in a state of flux right now and with their departing recruiting class saga officially over, the team has more pressing concerns.
Ahead of the 2016-17 season, the Buckeyes are obviously a top-half Big Ten team, but the necessary components to compete against higher rated teams may be lacking.
There are various questions this team has surrounding them, but here are the three in particular that should be on everyone’s mind.
Do the Buckeyes have enough depth to compete in the Big Ten?
Depth has been a major asset for the Buckeyes with their past teams, but last year was not the case especially from a team without a go-to-guy. They must figure a way to overcome the lack of star power they usually have on the roster and find ways to win, but for this to happen depth will be the key.
The good news for Ohio State is they’re returning the top six scorers from last season, but the highest point-per-game average of those six was 14 by Marc Loving. The next four scorers after the six are not on the team anymore so contributions must come elsewhere.
Some of this newfound responsibility will fall on freshman Derek Funderburk, who was the lone ESPN 100 recruit head coach Thad Matta signed, but it will also take the returning players propelling their last season totals as well.
The Buckeyes on paper have the depth it needs to compete in the Big Ten, but it must translate to on court success on a more consistent basis.
Will JaQuan Lyle become the Buckeye’s star?
Remember earlier I mentioned the Buckeyes not having a go-to-guy...well look no further than sophomore JaQuan Lyle to potentially fill that role. I already discussed his case here, but if you missed it here’s a brief wrap up in one sentence: The Buckeyes go as far as Lyle’s growth from year one.
Of this roster Lyle is the guy poised for a breakout year after averaging 11.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and one steal-per-game in 2015-16. His high turnover rate (three-per-game) was an issue costing offensive opportunities. Also improving on his poor shooting percentages (.397 from the field and .252 from three-point) coupled with cutting down those turnovers will undoubtedly have Lyle’s point and assist average rise from last season.
He’s already shown flashes he’s capable of doing it and it’s time for him to put it together because they go as far as he improves.
Should Thad Matta be on the hot seat?
Sure, this might be a stretch and the question should be, how is a coach who has nine NCAA Tournament appearances and one NCAA Championship appearance potentially on the hot seat, but that was too long so we’ll just go with the former.
Thad Matta has made Ohio State a perennial NCAA tournament contender since he became head coach in 2005. Last season was only the third time under his watch they have not made the NCAA Tournament and had over 12 losses. A staggering feat yes, but in the past couple of seasons they’ve not been the destination they once were and some must wonder if Matta is a reason.
From all the reports from players of the 2015 recruiting class, they did not leave because of Matta so he’s absolved but in the past seven seasons D’Angelo Russell has been the only top 30 ESPN 100 recruit Matta signed since Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas in 2010. Now that’s a noticeable problem because if recruiting classes are usually supposed to help shape a program’s present and future then the Buckeyes are at a standstill.
Matta has proven to be a constant winner, but adapting to revolving rosters and having deep postseason success (championships) tends to go along with that notion in college basketball— Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, North Carolina and some others.
The Buckeyes will be looking to add to Matta’s NCAA Tournament berths total this season, but these three questions will follow them throughout the year, especially if it mirrors last season.