E.J. Liddell, Buckeyes picked third in Big Ten in Lindy's preseason magazine

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State's E.J. Liddell features on a regional cover of Lindy's annual college basketball preseason magazine.

The Ohio State men’s basketball team enters the 2021-22 season as a top-20 team according to Lindy’s annual preseason magazine, but the Buckeyes are not projected to go far in the NCAA Tournament.

Although the Buckeyes are picked third in the Big Ten, Lindy’s stops short of projecting a Sweet Sixteen birth in coach Chris Holtmann’s fifth season with the program. Athlon Sports, in its preseason magazine, does predict a Sweet Sixteen run for the Buckeyes.

“Chris Holtmann’s teams always outstrip expectations, so expect OSU to be in the Big Ten title chase,” Lindy's reads. “The Buckeyes go nine-deep this year before you count on anything from local hero Seth Towns … Eugene Brown III or Jimmy Sotos.”

Leading those hopes is third-year player E.J. Liddell, the third-leading returning scorer in the league and a preseason first-team all-Big Ten pick who turned down a shot at the NBA for one more year of college. Liddell features on the regional cover alongside Cincinnati’s Jeremiah Davenport, Xavier’s Zach Freemantle and Dayton’s Mustapha Amzil. He’s ranked as the No. 11 player nationally, the Ohio State player in the Lindy’s top 150, and the subject of a slight feature titled “Little Big Man a Headache at Any Size” that looks at his move to power forward from center.

Buckeyes basketball:Ohio State's E.J. Liddell inspires those back home in southern Illinois while winning with the Buckeyes

The article quotes an anonymous Big Ten coach as saying that Liddell is “a guy who causes the most trouble for everybody when he plays the five, to be frank with you. He’s going to be more valuable as a five on the perimeter than if he’s playing the four on the perimeter.”

Penn State graduate transfer Jamari Wheeler is picked as the Big Ten’s top defender, the only superlative for an Ohio State player.

“Point center E.J. Liddell shoots to become the first Buckeye since Jared Sullinger (2011-12) to win first-team All-Big Ten honors in consecutive years,” the magazine reads. “Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler deserves to be no worse than co-favorite to win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.”

Freshman guard Malaki Branham is ranked as the No. 61 national recruit in the final 2021 rankings.

Mr. Basketball ready for college:Malaki Branham working to make big Ohio State impact after Kingdom Summer League debut

Although the magazine does not publish a full projected NCAA Tournament bracket, it lists Ohio State among seven Big Ten teams to make it but not among the two to advance to the second weekend. From a group of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue, the Boilermakers are projected to make the Elite Eight and the Wolverines to reach the Final Four. The Big Ten is ranked as the No. 2 conference in the sport behind the SEC.

“Two strong (Final Four) candidates in Michigan and Purdue, but slippage elsewhere since last season,” the magazine reads.

The Ohio State women’s basketball team enters the season ranked No. 17 nationally and fifth in the Big Ten.

“Enough talent remains for them to be competitive in the Big Ten and among the top 25 teams in the country,” the magazine reads.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy