Mens Basketball Ohio State starts season as underdog against Cincinnati

Ohio State guard Keyshawn Woods (32) takes on members of UNC Pembroke’s defense during the second half of the game on Nov. 1. Ohio State won 81-63. Credit: Amal Saeed | Assistant Photo EditorThere are plenty of questions left to be answered about the Ohio State men’s basketball team.Many of them could be answered from the Buckeyes’ season opener, facing a Cincinnati team that finished last year 31-5, earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament and finishing No. 2 in the country with 57.5 points allowed.“They are tough and tough minded and physical and aggressive,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann said. “Got a lot of respect for him and their program and their players and the way those guys compete. So, we got our hands full, and, I guess you could say it was by design to start with a game like this to kind of tip off the season, but looking forward to it, and need to be ready.”Projected StartersCincinnatiC — Nysier Brooks — Sophomore, 2.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 0.2 apgG — Cane Broome — Senior, 7.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 2.8 apgG — Jarron Cumberland — Junior, 11.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 2.9 apgF — Tre Scott — Redshirt junior, 3.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 0.9 apgG — Keith Williams —Sophomore, 3.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 0.4 apgOhio StateG — C.J. Jackson — Senior, 12.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.9 apgG — Luther Muhammad — Freshman, 0.0 ppg, 0.0 rpg, 0.0 apgF — Kyle Young — Sophomore, 1.8 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.2 apgF — Andre Wesson — Junior, 2.9 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1.1 apgF — Kaleb Wesson — Sophomore, 10.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.1 apgStats are from the 2017-18 seasonThe Buckeyes come into the new season searching for a new area of production after losing Big Ten Player of the Year, Keita Bates-Diop, to the NBA Draft.Ohio State prepared for the loss of Bates-Diop, as well as Jae’Sean Tate, throughout the offseason. But now, after the transfer of junior forward Micah Potter on Monday, the team loses another key piece of depth heading into its matchup with the Bearcats.Redshirt senior guard Keyshawn Woods said the team just has to move forward.“Everybody found out yesterday before practice, so we didn’t know anything. Coach told us before practice, we were all pretty shocked,” Woods said. “We still got a job to do. We still pretty much focused on Cincinnati at the end of the day.”Cincinnati also lost major scorers from its top-ranked team a season ago. After the departure of Jacob Evans, Gary Clark and Kyle Washington, three of the team’s top four scorers, Holtmann said he still expects to see the same team that dominated defensively last year because of Bearcats’ head coach, Mick Cronin.“I think they’re the same,” Holtmann said. “I think Mick is probably a little bit like I am, you know, curious about some of his new guys that have increased roles, and kind of wondering how they’re gonna step in the new roles. But the way they play, their mindset, their approach, it’s the same.”Cumberland is the top scorer and top rebounder remaining from the Bearcats. The junior guard shot 40.9 percent from the field and averaged more than a steal per game last season.Three true freshman join a team that was upset by Nevada in the second round of the tournament last season: guard Logan Johnson, and forwards Prince Gilliam Toyambi and Laquill Hardnett.Johnson was the only one of the three to earn points in the team’s final exhibition against McGill, tallying six points and four assists in 17 minutes.Sophomore forward Kyle Young said he expects a difficult matchup to start the season, something made even harder with the in-state rivalry involved.“Very tough team, I think it’s gonna be a grind, all 40 minutes,” Young said. “With it being two in-state schools, like it’s gonna be, it’s gonna be a good rival game for sure, so we’re just looking forward to it, season opener, and we’ll go from there.”It’ll be seen just what this Ohio State team is going to look like with the departure of its top-tier talent, and added question marks to the big men that the Buckeyes still have.Holtmann said he is excited to see what his team brings come game time.“Really anxious, and I think they’re anxious too,” Holtmann said. “I look at this as, this is a difficult opener, we also have a difficult stretch here of games, so I think for us we’re just focused on let’s find a way to take what we learned from tomorrow and get better, and hopefully that helps us as we move forward.”Ohio State travels to play Cincinnati to open its regular season. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m on Wednesday.Edited at 5:18 p.m. to change to the correct tip-off time