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Big Ten Basketball: 5 storylines to watch as 2023-24 league play gets going

Big Ten basketball already has some early parity as the bulk of conference play approaches in January. Take a look at five early storylines to keep an eye on as things should heat up in the conference in 2024.

Purdue v Northwestern
Purdue v Northwestern / Michael Reaves/GettyImages
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Roddy Gayle Jr. and Bruce Thornton showing no signs of a sophomore slump

The Ohio State Buckeyes are off to a fast start under head coach Chris Holtmann as sophomore guards Roddy Gayle Jr. and Bruce Thornton are showing no signs of the "sophomore slump" that typically haunts second-year players. They've improved his production tremendously as the leading backcourt duo in the Big Ten. Gayle is posting 15.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game on 52.3 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent shooting from deep. Thornton is averaging 16.9 points, 4.1 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 steals per contest on 37.7 percent shooting from deep and 43.9 percent from the field.

Both stepped up in a big way in their overtime victory over the West Virginia Mountaineers to close out their non-conference schedule. Gayle filled up the stat sheet with 32 points, seven rebounds, six assists and a steal while shooting 11-of-21 from the field and 3-of-7 from deep. Thornton finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.

The duo of Gayle and Thornton have proven they can co-exist as the Buckeyes are 11-2 and 1-1 in conference play with a road loss to Penn State already on their resume. If the duo can show what they've learned through the adversity already, Ohio State could be a surprise team out of the Big Ten to win it all. They'll host Rutgers on Wednesday then visit the Hoosiers on the road this Saturday to open up their January schedule.