Buckeye Basketball: The 2023 Saga


80% of Ohio State fans have been in hibernation since the football team’s loss to the Georgia Bulldogs in the Chick Fil A Peach Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal. The majority of Buckeye fans are passionate for the gridiron team that plays in the fall, as there is as much if not more historical success within the Ohio State football program as any school in the country. 


That would leave the other 20% of OSU fans, the percentage I fall in to, who support the men’s basketball program with the same intensity, even though expectations for the team are not quite the same as our beloved football team.


Unfortunately, Head Coach Chris Holtmann didn’t necessarily help that dilemma in Columbus this season. After appearing in back to back NCAA Tournaments, the Buckeyes were amongst the worst in the Big Ten. A standard that even Buckeye basketball should never stoop to.


First things first: The Buckeyes started hot. Ohio State earned themselves a strong 10-3 record through December, with all the momentum heading into the new year and the upcoming conference schedule.


Then within a blink of an eye. It went south, badly.


Early season struggles for Ohio State came off costly injuries combined with a mismanagement of players. Zed Key, the junior center from Long Island, NY, was the centerpiece of what the Buckeyes did on both ends of the court the previous two seasons. Key was injured in a matchup with the Purdue Boilermakers, appearing to have dislocated his shoulder which never healed the remainder of the 2022-2023 campaign.


Key missed a couple games during the early stretch, but fought like crazy to reinsert his name into the lineup. Holtmann made the wrong decision to give Zed the green light to return to play too early, which was as painful for Buckeye fans to watch as it was for Key to compete. Zed was playing hurt, respectfully, but his inabilities limited the team’s potential, which 100% falls on the shoulders of Chris Holtmann.


That loss to Purdue sent the Buckeyes spiraling, beginning what would become a 15 game losing streak for the Buckeyes. Fifteen games in a row. I was sick then, and am getting queasy just reminiscing about it now. 


Believe it or not, it wasn’t exactly the final scores of these games that had the 20% unhappy: It was the effort that was displayed. Ohio State gave up, simple as that. A lack of team motivation was screaming from within, from on court performance to the post game interviews. This team was as deflated as could be, and it certainly felt like we’d never win another game again (Yes, that feels hyperbolic, but yes, I mean every word.)


Toward the end of the 15 game skid, reports broke that Zed Key would be shut down for the remainder of the season, leaving a massive opportunity for the young Felix Okpara, the freshman big man from Nigeria.


With the inclusion of Okpara into the starting lineup in the beginning of March, Holtmann officially was rolling with one of the youngest casts in America. The Buckeyes were starting four freshmen at the end of the regular season, including Roddy Gayle Jr., Bruce Thornton, and projected 2023 NBA first round pick Brice Sensabaugh. The Buckeyes freshman class was the highest ranked in the Big Ten coming into 2022, they should have been getting this sort of game experience throughout the entire season.


Out of 14 teams in the Big Ten Conference, the Buckeyes entered the conference tournament ranked as the #13 seed. With the lowest seeds playing each other first, the Buckeyes were going to have to win five games in five straight days to win the title, the longest route of any of the teams.


Teams with higher seeds were rewarded with first round byes, and if you were ranked in the top 4, you received a double bye straight to the quarterfinals.


As you can probably assume, there was just no way the Buckeyes were going to be capable of beating these teams with all that was stacked against them. The road was just too long, and too hard, and it probably would have been best for them to not even show up.




It was the most electrifying yet confusing three day stretch for Ohio State basketball fans in arguably their existence. The youngsters leading the way started putting it all together as March basketball came around, which was so marvelous. Ohio State won three games in three consecutive days of the Big Ten Tournament, the farthest any #13 seed has ever gone in conference history. The Bucks topped opponents Wisconsin, Iowa, and Michigan State to play #1 seeded Purdue in the semifinals.


While Purdue won the game, I couldn’t have been prouder of the effort displayed by this team. Everyone counted them out, and they didn’t care. They just went out there and gave it their all for four straight days, which is more than I could have asked for this season.


The 2023 recruiting class is another strong one for Ohio State, who will look to bring talent and experience together for a rebound season next winter.