College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

E.J. Liddell

Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell grabs the head of Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu in the first half of the Big Ten tournament championship game in Indianapolis in March.

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  • Last year’s record:
    • 21-10, 12-8 Big Ten (Fifth)

    How it ended: The Buckeyes weren’t the only team to fall victim to Oral Roberts’ dynamicduo of Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor, but they were the first. Bowing out in the first round in a 15-over-2 upset didn’t sit well in Columbus, Ohio

    • .

    What’s next: Ohio State will return seven of its top eight players from last year’s team as long as E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington Jr. are just testing the NBA draft waters and aren’t in them to stay. The trio of Liddell, Washington and Justice Sueing is formidable, and the Buckeyes are adding a four-star, top 35 guard to the equation in St. Vincent-St. Mary (Ohio) standout Malaki Branham

    • .

    The big questionCan the Buckeyes figure out how to defend at a higher clip? In a year where Ohio State was historically good in the KenPom.com offensive ratings by program standards, all of its success was tempered by the realization that its defensive issues figured to put a firm ceiling on how far it could go in the NCAA Tournament. Ultimately, it helped spell doom in a first-round shocker of a loss to Oral Roberts, a game in which the Buckeyes allowed two players to combined for 59 of the 75 points scored by the Golden Eagles. Ohio State had the fifth-worst adjusted defensive efficiency margin in the Big Ten according to KenPom and was dead last in steal percentage. With the vast majority of the team’s offense likely to return next year, making life more difficult on opposing offenses occupies the top spots on the offseason to-do list. The Buckeyes are off to a good start, too, adding Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler, a two-time member of the league’s all-defensive team. — Adam Jardy, Columbus Dispatch

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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