With the departures of point guard DJ Carton and forward Alonzo Gaffney from the Ohio State basketball team, next year’s squad is going to look much different than expected about three months ago. The addition of Seth Towns, however, will take some sting from the departures. It also begs some questions when it comes to OSU’s lineup next season.
There is no doubt that Towns is a very skilled basketball player. He was choosing between Duke and Ohio State as his next destination, after all.
The Harvard graduate gives the Buckeyes a 6-foot-7 forward who can rebound (5.0/gm in 2017-2018) and shoot (.441 from 3FG in 2017-2018). Towns is a versatile player who can play all over the front court for the Buckeyes, and with the possible lack of size on the team next season, he’ll have to.
If Kaleb Wesson leaves for pro ball as expected, there won’t be much in the way of height in the post next season. Yes, the 6-foot-10 Ibrahima Diallo will be there, but how many minutes will the Buckeyes be able to count on him for?
More likely, it will be Kyle Young at center, but he will need to be helped out. EJ Liddell will likely have to supplement some of those minutes for Young while also posting most of his minutes at power forward.
Liddell is only 6-foot-6, but he weighs over 230 pounds, has a long reach, and gets up quickly and repeatedly. He’s not the tallest guy, but he has the athleticism to help out. He blocked five shots against Nebraska this past season in just 20 minutes of play.
Could Towns also get a few minutes at center while moving around the front court? Possibly. There is also incoming freshman Zed Key, who is a physical post player, but also in the 6-foot-7 range. How many minutes he gives will be entirely up to his capabilities as a rookie.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann likes positionless basketball — which is one reason why the Buckeyes’ starting center shot the second-most threes on the entire team last year. But positionless basketball doesn’t necessarily exist on defense, meaning the opponent’s center is just as likely to be a 6-foot-10 monster in the paint and somebody is going to have to defend him.
Yes, that monster is also going to have to defend Young and Liddell, but both of those guys are much more comfortable in the paint, so it’s not like they are much of a mismatch.
That being said, Liddell is going to be very good as a sophomore and is a fearless attacker of the basket. If he is asked to spend a few minutes at center next season, he should be relatively fine.
The bigger question is how will the minutes be split up between Towns, Liddell, and Cal transfer Justice Sueing?
Sueing sat out this past season after transferring. The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 14.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore. He will likely replace Andre Wesson at the three.
So say there is 80 minutes total available at the three and four, and another 10 at the five, that would be 90 minutes to split between Towns, Liddell, and Sueing. Most of Sueing’s minutes would come at the three, while most of Towns’ and Liddell’s minutes would come at the four and five, though maybe Towns gives them some minutes at the three as well.
One of those three, however, will likely have to come off the bench.
Considering only Andre Wesson played 30 minutes per game for the Buckeyes this past season, there may be some meat left on the bone for a three-guard lineup. Although if the Buckeyes don’t add a graduate transfer point guard, they may not actually have enough guards to play three at a time very often.
It will be interesting to see where Musa Jallow’s game is after a year off. Is he more of a scoring guard now, or still just a guy who will mainly defend, rebound, and catch and shoot (and maybe make)? In that same boat is incoming freshman shooting guard Eugene Brown. At 6-foot-6, is Brown actually a two, or more of a forward like Jallow?
If Holtmann isn’t able to add a point guard, there will be around 80 minutes to split between CJ Walker, Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington, and Justin Ahrens.
Washington would have to be the backup point guard, but is also the best scoring option in the backcourt.
The good news for the Buckeyes is that he won’t have as much pressure on him to create offense of his own because Towns, Sueing, and Liddell are all talented scorers — and two of them should be on the court at almost all times.
Having so many scoring options in the frontcourt should allow for more open looks in the backcourt, which is where Washington is especially effective.
The 2020-2021 Ohio State basketball team likely won’t have your typical lineup, but it will still be very interesting to watch, and should still be a very promising season.
The next question to ask is how good could they be if Kaleb Wesson decided to return.