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Wisconsin men’s basketball season preview: Ohio State

The Buckeyes are yet another team in the conference who should be competing for a Sweet 16 berth this year.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Barbara J. Perenic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Team: Ohio State Buckeyes
Location: Columbus, Ohio
Conference: Big Ten
Head coach: Chris Holtmann (four seasons, 87-44)
2020-2021 record: 21-10 overall, 12-8 B1G

Top returning players: 6-foot-7, F, E.J. Liddell (16.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg); 6-foot-6, F, Justice Sueing (10.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 apg), 6-foot-8, F, Kyle Young (8.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 43.3 3P%)

Top newcomers: 6-foot-1, G, Jamari Wheeler (6.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.5 apg) transfer from Penn State; 6-foot-2, G, Cedric Russell (17.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.2 apg) transfer from Louisiana; 6-foot-5, G, 4-star Malaki Brahnahm (Akron, Ohio), No. 37 player in the country per 247 Composite

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Minnesota vs Ohio State
The versatile Justice Sueing will be an important piece again for the Buckeyes.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

2020-2021 review: The Buckeyes had an odd season last year. They had early road losses to Northwestern and Minnesota, two decidedly bad teams, then won 10 of their next 11 (all in Big Ten play) before losing their final four regular season games. Their postseason was the definition of March Madness as they made a run all the way to the Big Ten Tournament title game, which featured two overtime games and the other two games featured a combined point differential of five points.

They ended up losing to Oral Roberts, in OT natch, in the NCAA Tournament to end their season but still ended up with 21 wins on the year. The Buckeyes offense was clicking on all cylinders last year, ranking No. 4 in KenPom’s efficiency ratings, led by Duane Washington, Jr. and E.J. Liddell.

Ohio State has won 20 or more games in every season of Chris Holtmann’s tenure and while last season didn’t end the way the Buckeyes would’ve hoped, they have a lot of momentum heading into the 2021-22 campaign.

2021-2022 preview: OSU loses Washington, Jr., CJ Walker and Musa Jallow off of last year’s squad but have reloaded with some talented transfers. PG Jamari Wheeler out of Penn State is an excellent point of attack defender and two-time member of the Big Ten All-Defense team. Meechie Johnson, Jr., who enrolled early last year, should also help at the point guard position.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Meechie Johnson Jr. joined the Ohio State team midway through last season after graduating high school early and reclassifying.
Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Cedric Russell, a former Rajun’ Cajun, can fill it up with the best of them and will help fill the void left by Washington. 6-foot-11 Joey Brunk, who transferred in from Indiana, will provide large depth for the Bucks in case Liddell gets in foul trouble.

Wings Zed Key, Seth Towns and true freshman Malaki Branham (Mr. Basketball in Ohio last year) will provide a number of talented, versatile options off the bench. OSU probably won’t win the Big Ten, but they should be in contention for a top-four spot all season long.

Games versus Wisconsin:

Game No. 1: Saturday, Dec. 11, Columbus, Ohio, Value City Arena, BTN, 11 a.m. CT

Game No. 2: Thursday, Jan. 13, Madison, Wis., Kohl Center, ESPN 2, 6 p.m. CT