Bates-Diop was the 48th overall pick by the Timberwolves in the 2018 NBA Draft after four seasons at Ohio State. After the draft, fellow rookies in the 2018 NBA Draft called Bates-Diop the "steal of the draft." As a rookie, Bates-Diop averaged 5.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, 0.6 assists and 0.6 steals per game. Bates-Diop appeared in 30 games, starting three while averaging 16.8 minutes per game. A huge help to Bates-Diop as a rookie was veteran Luol Deng. Bates-Diop and Deng spent a lot of time guarding each other, and the second-year forward credits Deng with helping his transition to the league go smoother.
As a senior at Ohio State, Bates-Diop averaged 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game on his way to being named the Big Ten Player of the Year. He was also named to the First-Team All-Big Ten along with a consensus second-team All-American. Bates-Diop led the Big Ten with 247 field goals made and 244 defensive rebounds.