Ohio State Basketball: Keita Bates-Diop makes the Buckeyes dangerous

EAST LANSING MI - MARCH 5: Keita Bates-Diop
EAST LANSING MI - MARCH 5: Keita Bates-Diop /

In the fourth year of an injury-plagued college hoops career, Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop is proving his five-star value.

This time last season, Thad Matta headed an aimless Ohio State basketball team lacking a clear leader. Now, Chris Holtmann has turned the Buckeyes into a capable 9-3 team with promise as they are about to head into full-time conference play. In no small part, Holtmann can thank his team’s star.

College sports often turn into a battle of the stars, something Ohio State has lacked the last two seasons. Now, Keita Bates-Diop gives the Buckeyes a go-to scoring option who can actually hit big buckets.

When the forward was recruited out of Normal, Illinois as a five-star prospect, the Buckeyes probably expected an instant impact. While injuries derailed early portions of Bates-Diop’s basketball career, it seems he’s rounding into a dangerous force for Chris Holtmann’s club.

Bates-Diop leads the team in scoring, averaging 18.3 points per game, which ranks 3rd in the Big 10. However, the scoring total isn’t the greatest indicator of the forward’s success.

Improvement in all aspects of Keita Bates-Diop’s game makes the forward the impact player the Buckeyes need

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Weighing greater in value is the effectiveness of Bates-Diop’s shooting. In his first three seasons as a Buckeye, Bates-Diop shot 46.4-percent from the floor and a meager 34.5-percent from three-point range. This season, Bates-Diop is converting 51.9-percent from the floor and a noticeably better 42.1-percent from three.

While Bates-Diop’s sharp-shooting is influencing games in big ways, his holistic performance is really what has the junior sailing this team straight. Despite a narrow, 6-foot-7, 190 LBS frame the forward is dominating the glass.

Through 12 games, Bates-Diop ranks 2nd in the Big 10 in rebounds per game, averaging 9.3 boards per contest.

Examining the Buckeyes’ best wins thus far, over Michigan and Wisconsin, Bates-Diop’s improved skill set was the difference. In Ohio State’s 83-58 win at Wisconsin, Bates-Diop hit 7 of his 9 shots, scoring 17 points and grabbing 11 boards in just 29 minutes. Against the Wolverines, the junior dropped 18 points and grabbed 9 boards in a 71-62 victory.

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As the Buckeyes season sails on, they need to lean on Bates-Diop in big moments; this guy has the ability to score and grab boards like few others in college basketball. Simply put, with the ball in his hands, Bates-Diop makes the Buckeyes dangerous.