INDIANAPOLIS – Big Ten Basketball Media days have got underway on Thursday morning at Gainbridge Fieldhouse (formerly known as Banker’s Life Fieldhouse), the site of where the Big Ten will crown its postseason champions.

Over the course of the two-day event all 14 teams will be represented by players and coaches from both their Men’s and Women’s programs. Ohio State was one of the seven schools selected to kick things off with Thursday comments.

On the men’s side, Chris Holtmann was excited to get things started as the Buckeyes have only half a dozen practices completed to this point, but expectations are high.

“We’re excited about our group,” Holtmann said. “We have very much a veteran group. I think our team will be led by guys like Kyle Young, E.J. Liddell and Justin Ahrens.” 

Every team is different and the chemistry from 2020-21 does not always carry over to the next season. With several new players in the mix, it will take time for the Buckeyes to find that chemistry with key contributors gone and three transfers now on the roster along with an influx of freshmen.

“(Chemistry) will be determined as we go through difficult things together,” Holtmann added. “I think the value of having guys that have been through the battles of the Big Ten should provide dividends, but we certainly need those guys healthy.”

Jamari Wheeler (Penn State) and Cedric Russell (Louisiana) will have to step into major backcourt roles with the departures of Duane Washington Jr., CJ Walker and Musa Jallow.

For Wheeler, he is a known commodity playing at Penn State and playing against the Buckeyes over the course of four years.

“Jamari is one of these kids that is an everyday guy,” Holtmann said. “You want him next to you any time you’re competing and doing anything. He’s really helped us. He brings a lot of juice to practice every day. He’s been really good for us

On the flipside, Russell has run into a bit of a steep learning curve after averaging 17.2 points per game last season. His time will come but it took time for Russell to finish his degree work at Louisiana and he is playing catch-up.

“Cedric, I think is finding his way,” Holtmann said. “Any time you jump up a level, it takes you time to find your way. He’s in the process of doing that.”

Brunk gives the Buckeyes much-needed size and a true senior, something that should allow players like Zed Key and EJ Liddell to focus more on the power forward role.

“Joey is a guy, as you know, who came from a really good program in Indiana and had success on their team that was going to be certainly a tournament team,” Holtmann added.

The transfer portal has been successful for Holtmann both at Butler and now at Ohio State. There have been many discussions with Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo about the portal and how it is here to stay.

“I think you’ll see less programs recruit freshmen every year,” Holtmann said of the portal. “I think you’ll see more teams that will wait until the spring.” 

The Buckeyes are going to need that experience as Holtmann and the Buckeyes have done themselves no favors in assembling a schedule for the 2021-22 season.

“We put together the most challenging non-conference schedule that I’ve ever played,” Holtmann said.

The Buckeyes will have games against Xavier, Kentucky, Duke, Seton Hall and either Florida or Cal in the non-conference. Only the Duke game will take place at Value City Arena.

Keep it locked in here at BuckeyeScoop as we will have more coverage from Big Ten Media Days.

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