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Ohio State Opens Men's Basketball Season, With Big Expectations For Once

Ohio State's Kaleb Wesson makes a 3-point basket  in the NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla.
Jeff Roberson
Associated Press
Ohio State's Kaleb Wesson makes a 3-point basket in the NCAA Tournament Sunday, March 24, 2019, in Tulsa, Okla.

The Ohio State men’s basketball team starts a new season Wednesday when they tip off against the University of Cincinnati, and for the first time in five years, the Buckeyes enter the season ranked in the top 25.

The 18th-ranked team enters the season with a rare blend of accomplished veterans and top-rated recruits. They’re led by junior Westerville native Kaleb Wesson, an all-conference forward who was the Buckeyes’ top scorer last season.

Reporters who cover the team say Wesson looks to make a big leap this year after losing about 30 pounds to transform his body during the offseason.

“I think what we’re going to see this year is just a more explosive, complete all-around game from a player who was their leading scorer and rebounder last year,” says Columbus Dispatch beat writer Adam Jardy.

Wesson’s older brother Andre remains on the team and is the club’s only scholarship senior.

As far as young talent, Jardy says fans should be excited about D.J. Carton, a freshman point guard from Bettendorf, Iowa. He was named the state’s Mr. Basketball as a senior in high school and is Ohio State’s highest-rated recruit since current NBA All-Star D’Angelo Russell.

 “I think fans are really going to enjoy him. He’s very explosive, a very exciting player,” Jardy says.

The 2019 recruiting class includes other highly-touted freshmen, including power forward E.J. Liddell and shooting forward Alonzo Gaffney.

The high expectations also come because of the head coach. Chris Holtmann enters his third season after taking each of his first two teams to the NCAA tournament.

The Buckeyes’ opponent in the Wednesday season opener also raises some eyebrows. Ohio State hosts the University of Cincinnati Bearcats, a relatively-close school that’s had decades of success but played Ohio State in the regular season just once since 1921.

Administrators haven't said why there was such a drought before last year’s matchup, and the two schools are not scheduled to play each other again beyond Wednesday. But Dispatch reporter Adam Jardy thinks it could represents a thawing in relations between Ohio State and in-state schools.

“We could even see an Ohio State, Cincinnati, Zavier and Dayton yearly tournament. That’s something that’s been discussed, as well,” Jardy says.

As far as where they’ll finish this season, Jardy says it’s realistic to expect Ohio State to finish among the top three teams in the Big Ten, with a chance to upset preseason favorite Michigan State.