D.J. Carton and CJ Walker give him an intriguing duo after struggles at the position last season

5 things to know about Ohio State men’s basketball for 2019-20

Ohio State men’s basketball takes the court for the first time Wednesday night for an exhibition game against Cedarville

The Buckeyes enter the season with their highest expectations in a few years thanks to a combination of established veterans and highly regarded recruits. 

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“Mature talent wins consistently at the highest level of college basketball,” third-year coach Chris Holtmann said. “So it’s up to us to get our group as mature as quickly as possible.” 

Here are five things to know abut the Buckeyes: 

1. Ohio State is in the top 20 of both preseason polls. 

The Buckeyes, who were last ranked in the preseason in 2014-15, are 18th in the Associated Press writers poll and 16th in the USA Today coaches poll. 

They will play six teams in the preseason AP poll: No. 1 Michigan State, No. 2 Kentucky, No 7 Maryland, No. 9 North Carolina, No. 10 Villanova and No. 23 Purdue are on the docket. 

Villanova will be in Columbus on Nov 13 as part of the Gavitt Games while the Buckeyes will play at UNC as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Dec. 4. 

They play the Terrapins twice while playing the Spartans only on the road and Purdue only at home. 

Buckeyes as deep and talented as they have been in years

2. The incoming freshman class of point guard D.J. Carton, forwards E.J. Liddell and Alonzo Gaffney and center Ibrahima Diallo is considered the best in the Big Ten and a top 15 class nationally. 

Carton, Liddell and Gaffney all top 50 recruits according to 247Sports Composite rankings. 

Also becoming eligible this year is CJ Walker, a junior point guard from Indianapolis who sat out last season after transferring from Florida State, where he was a starter as a sophomore. 

Diallo might be a developmental player, but the other three freshmen all bring star potential and should at worst add major depth to the program this season. 

>>RELATED: The future is now for the Flyers and the BuckeyesHoltmann not shying away from increased expectations 

Walker and Carton figure to be a pivotal duo as the team’s primary point guards, a position that was a big issue last season for the Buckeyes. 

“Both guys bring a lot of really good things,” Holtmann said. “CJ is tough and tough-minded. I think has a really good understanding of playing to win and what that looks like.

“D.J. the ability to get in the paint and provide an opportunity to attack in transition so those are things we look forward to containing to try to explore.” 

3. They have a nice group of veterans, though, led by the Wesson brothers. 

Kaleb Wesson flirted with the NBA draft but is back for his junior season after averaging 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds last season. 

His older brother, Andre, is the team’s No. 2 returning scorer after scoring 8.6 points per game, grabbing 4.1 rebounds and handing out 62 assists. 

The development of juniors Musa Jallow and Kyle Young and sophomores Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington Jr. and Justin Ahrens will be crucial to Holtmann’s team reaching its potential and determine how many lineups he can play after being somewhat limited in the latter regard in his first two seasons. 

“I think time will tell when it comes to that,” Holtmann said. “We’ll see once we get into practice, but assuming we’re gonna be at full strength I think we’ll continue to play and look at different lineups. Lineups that have four guards, lineups that have two interior guys.” 
4. The Buckeyes open the regular season at home against Cincinnati on Nov. 6. 

The Bearcats, who just missed the top 25 in each poll, have not played on campus in Columbus since December 1921, a 33-17 UC win. 

This game will be a rematch of last year’s season-opener, a 64-56 win at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati, and the debut of John Brannen as the coach of the Bearcats.  

The last time Ohio State beat Cincinnati in Columbus was Jan. 20, 1912. 

5. Two local players are on the roster. 

Justin Ahrens and Harrison Hookfin are both in their second year with the program. 

Ahrens, a three-star guard/forward from Versailles, started 14 of the 31 games he played last season and scored 79 points. He made 19 of 49 shots from 3-point range (38.8 percent) and figures to play outside most of the time this season after helping out at power forward when injuries and transfers left the Buckeyes thin in the frontcourt a year ago. 

>>READ MORE: Versailles product open to any role for Ohio State this season 

Hookfin is a walk-on from Lebanon who joined the squad last season to provide some more size in practice. The 6-5, 220-pounder played in one game and grabbed a rebound last season. 

Ohio State guard from Versailles likes it in Columbus

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