How Ohio State’s attrition stacks up in the Big Ten

Adam Jardy
Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann shown here coaching against Cincinnati. [Adam Cairns]

Sunday’s loss of Luther Muhammad to the NCAA transfer portal was the most recent blow to Ohio State’s depth. The highest-rated member of coach Chris Holtmann’s first recruiting class, which was hastily assembled out of necessity, Muhammad became the fourth Buckeye from the 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes to leave the program without being considered a sure-fire NBA draft pick.

The wording is intentional there because freshman Alonzo Gaffney, who left the Buckeyes after the 2019-20 season, is considering turning professional but has not appeared in any NBA mock drafts. Because of the possibility of a transfer, Gaffney is classified in the same group as classmate D.J. Carton, 2019 transfer Jaedon LeDee and now Muhammad.

In 2018, the summer in which Holtmann was hired in June to replace Thad Matta, the Buckeyes signed a four-man recruiting class five months later that consisted of Muhammad, LeDee, Duane Washington Jr. and Justin Ahrens. Those four were rated Nos. 79, 103, 167 and 249, respectively, in the composite rankings.

Then, with a full year to work with, Holtmann and his staff brought in another four-man class. Headlined by Carton, it also included E.J. Liddell, Gaffney and late addition Ibrahima Diallo. That quartet checked in at Nos. 34, 44, 50 and 369 nationally according to 247Sports and arrived after LeDee left after one season.

The size of the first class was driven in part by the absence of the five-man 2015 recruiting class, which should have been seniors when Muhammad’s class arrived as freshmen. Then, the ensuing four-man class helped replace, in part, a quartet of former Buckeyes in Matta-era holdovers Micah Potter (left just before the start of the 2018-19 season), Braxton Beverly (left when Holtmann was hired), Derek Funderburk (academically ineligible upon Holtmann’s arrival) and LeDee.

That roughly leads us to now. The Buckeyes have a two-man freshman class set to arrive for the 2020-21 season and will have two new transfer players in Seth Towns and Jimmy Sotos on the roster, although Sotos will sit out the season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. Four total members of the roster will have arrived via transfer, with CJ Walker and Justice Sueing joining Sotos and Towns, equaling the freshmen and sophomores on the roster.

Losing players to transfer is hardly a unique problem to Ohio State. A comprehensive transfer list compiled by shows the total number of college basketball players transferring is approaching 2,000 from the last two seasons alone.

Given the trio of recent losses for the Buckeyes, though, how do they compare to their Big Ten brethren?

Here’s how many freshmen each Big Ten school has brought in during the 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes:

Maryland – 12

Illinois – 9

Nebraska – 9

Michigan State – 8

Ohio State – 8

Indiana – 7

Michigan – 7

Minnesota – 7

Northwestern – 7

Penn State – 7

Purdue – 6

Rutgers – 5

Iowa – 4

Wisconsin – 4

Now, here’s how many of those players have transferred away from their schools:

Nebraska – 5

Illinois – 4

Maryland – 4

Ohio State – 4

Michigan -- 2

Wisconsin – 2

Indiana – 1

Iowa – 1

Penn State – 1

Michigan State – 0

Minnesota – 0

Northwestern – 0

Purdue – 0

Rutgers – 0

So then, here are the schools who have the lowest transfer percentages among members of their 2018 and 2019 recruiting classes:

Michigan State – 100% (8 for 8)

Minnesota – 100% (7 for 7)

Northwestern – 100% (7 for 7)

Purdue – 100% (6 for 6)

Rutgers – 100% (5 for 5)

Indiana – 85.7% (6 for 7)

Penn State – 85.7% (6 for 7)

Iowa – 75% (3 for 4)

Michigan – 71.4% (5 for 7)

Maryland – 66.7% (8 for 12)

Illinois – 55.6% (5 for 9)

Ohio State – 50.0% (4 for 8)

Wisconsin – 50.0% (2 for 4)

Nebraska – 44.4% (4 for 9)

These percentages don’t include players who have turned professional. Last year, Michigan lost freshman Ignas Brazdeikis and Indiana lost freshman Romeo Langford. This year, we won’t know who is officially staying in the draft and who isn’t for several weeks.

So among those two recruiting classes, the Buckeyes are tied for the second-most players signed. They are in a three-way tie for the second-most members of those two classes lost to transfer, and they are tied for the second-lowest retention rate among the classes when excluding players leaving early for the NBA.

Also during the same timespan, Ohio State has reached the NCAA Tournament in Holtmann’s first two seasons and would have safely been in had it taken place this year. Sources within the program have told The Dispatch that they feel as settled and confident about the roster as they have at any point since Holtmann’s arrival.

As it stands right now, all 10 players from the 2020-21 team who will still have eligibility remaining should reasonably be expected to return for 2021-22. That team is projected to have six seniors: Towns (sixth year), Musa Jallow, Sueing and Sotos (fifth years) and Ahrens and Washington (fourth years).

That means smaller recruiting classes in the coming years, which means less chance for turnover of young players. The key will be keeping them.


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