Ohio State has an impressive basketball history, regardless of its status as the second most popular sport on campus.
The Buckeyes have reached 11 Final Fours, good enough for sixth all-time, and have quickly established themselves as one of the most dominant programs in today’s game.
One way to sustain the level of success that Ohio State has become accustomed to is by receiving impressive contributions from the star players that make up each respective team. While some decades have been more successful than others for the scarlet and gray, there have been a handful of great performers in each era.
With that in mind, here are the greatest seasons per decade from individual Ohio State players, starting with the 1950s.
The intricate statistics that are kept in today’s basketball world were nowhere to be found during the 1950s.
Yes, points and rebounds were tallied, but things such as blocks were not an official statistic, let alone effective field-goal percentage or plus-minus numbers.
That doesn’t mean that Robin Freeman wasn’t a statistical machine for the Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team during the 1950s. Freeman averaged 32.9 points per contest in 1955-56, which still stands as the all-time school record.
In fact, Freeman is Ohio State’s career scoring average leader, holding a 28 points per contest mark for his entire collegiate career.
His impressive 1955-56 campaign earned him the distinction of becoming the first repeat Buckeye All-American.
Freeman was an integral part of the 1950s Ohio State era that set the stage for the program’s dominance in the early 1960s.
I know that the 1959-60 season started before the 1960s actually got under way, but I am going to count this anyway.
Ohio State enjoyed its best years in program history during the 60s, including the school’s only national championship (1959-60). A primary reason the Buckeyes experienced the success they did was the performance of Jerry Lucas, the program’s best all-time player.
In 1959-60, Lucas averaged 26.3 points and an astounding 16.4 rebounds per contest, while shooting an incredibly efficient 64 percent from the field. It is arguably the greatest statistical season in Buckeye history, but a formidable case can be made for Lucas’ other years as well.
On top of his other accolades, Lucas is Ohio State’s all-time leading rebounder, and he went on to have a very productive NBA career.
While Lucas was a stat-sheet stuffer during his entire collegiate career, the nod goes to his 1959-60 season because of the national championship he helped bring home to Columbus.
Many of the most talented basketball players to come through Columbus are household names, at least among Ohio State fans.
However, Kelvin Ransey may not be as familiar of a name to card-carrying members of Buckeye Nation as the Jerry Lucases and Evan Turners of the world.
Well, he should be, since no Ohio State player put up a better individual season than Ransey did in the 1978-79 campaign during the 1970s.
He led the team in points per game (21.4), field goal percentage (55 percent), assists per game (nearly five) and steals per game (nearly two). What’s more, Ransey used this season to help propel himself to second on the all-time Buckeye career assists list behind only Jamar Butler.
Ransey may not be the most memorable Buckeye player of all-time, but he was certainly one of the best.
Dennis Hopson had one primary job during his career at Ohio State: Score the basketball.
His 2096 career points are the most that any Buckeye has ever scored, and a large portion of them came from his 1986-87 season.
During that year, Hopson averaged 29 points per game, good enough for third all-time in Buckeye history, and he also scored the most points in a single season by any Ohio State player with 958.
Furthermore, Hopson’s 52 percent shooting percentage, 81 percent free-throw percentage and 8.2 blocks per game were all team highs during that year. In fact, Hopson even led the Buckeyes in blocks that season.
While Hopson never replicated his tremendous collegiate success in the NBA, he is one of the best Ohio State players of all-time and the school’s most prolific scorer.
The 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons were especially important ones in Ohio State basketball history. The program had gone through some lean years recently (by its standards) and was in need of a boost.
Jim Jackson provided just that.
He led the Buckeyes to a combined 53-10 record during those two seasons and helped Ohio State win at least a share of the Big Ten championship both years.
From an individual standpoint, the 1991-92 season was just a bit better. Jackson guided the Bucks to an Elite Eight appearance, led the team with 22.4 points and nearly seven rebounds per game and shot an impressive 81 percent from the line.
Jackson’s efforts earned him National Player of the Year honors and a spot on the All-American team. His number is now retired and hangs among the rafters in Columbus.
If Jerry Lucas’ season counted for the 1960s, then Evan Turner’s 2009-10 season counts for the 2000s.
Thad Matta has coached a number of collegiate superstars, but it would not be difficult to make the case that Evan Turner was the best he ever taught.
In Turner’s magical 2009-10 campaign, he stuffed the stat sheet with an astounding 20.4 points, six assists, 9.2 rebounds, two steals and one block per contest. He was the ultimate everything guy for the Bucks, and he even brought the ball up the floor from his small forward position.
Turner swept the National Player of the Year Award honors that season and made his mark on the Big Ten leader board as well. He led the conference in field-goal percentage, points per game and total points, while finishing second in total assists and third in total rebounds.
There have been great scorers, great passers, great rebounders and great defenders in Ohio State history, but there really hasn’t been someone who could do everything at once as effectively as Turner did.
Despite all the impressive accolades Turner accumulated during the 2009-10 season, Buckeye fans probably remember his dramatic quarter-court buzzer beater to beat Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament the most.
He may have only been a freshman, but the 2010-11 version of Jared Sullinger put up the best season in a very small sample size for Ohio State in the 2010s.
The big man averaged a double-double at 17.2 and 10.2 rebounds per contest, while even throwing a steal per game in there. He put up his numbers effectively as well, shooting at 54 percent from the field.
Sullinger’s season earned him National Freshman of the Year honors and a spot as a consensus All-American. He was the key piece on a loaded Ohio State team that finished 34-3 and No. 1 in the final regular season AP Poll.
Unfortunately for Sullinger and the rest of the 2010-11 Buckeyes, Ohio State fans remember this season most for its disappointing end in the Sweet 16, thanks to a buzzer-beating shot by Kentucky.
The scarlet and gray were heavy favorites to reach the Final Four, and the fans couldn’t help but be disappointed by the result.