Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Rank: #3
Conference Rank: #1 Big Ten
Ohio State Team Page
2010-11: 34-3, 16-2
2010-11 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Thad Matta (190-57 at Ohio State, 292-88 overall)
Coach Thad Matta has some great players to replace, but he has built a solid program at Ohio State and this group is talented enough to win the Big Ten and earn another high seed in the NCAA Tournament. The return of Jared Sullinger, who many pegged as the possible top pick in the 2011 NBA Draft had he opted to go pro, makes this a tough team to stop. Sullinger, a 6-9, 280 pound sophomore, averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds during his first year in Columbus and is only getting better. With him leading the way, OSU should again dominate the paint on a nightly basis.
However, the dangerous outside shooting of Jon Diebler and David Lighty made it tough for the opposition to simply try and stop Sullinger. Diebler shot over 50 percent from long range during his senior season and connected on 3.1 three-pointers per contest. That was the end of a superb shooting career for Diebler and the Buckeyes will not be able to replace him easily. Lighty will be missed too. He was one of the most versatile players in the nation who could do everything. Lighty was a good scoring wing who could shoot and finish above the rim. He could pass, rebound and, most of all, defend. Dallas Lauderdale was the often forgotten fifth starter last season. The 6-8 forward was not a big scorer, but he could do the dirty work under the basket and free up space for Sullinger.
This group of newcomers has the talent to fill in the gaps on this team. Evan Ravenel, a transfer from Boston College, can play the role Lauderdale did last season. He may not score a ton, but he is a tough and experienced player who can do the dirty work in the paint. Amir Williams should find his way into the regular rotation as a freshman. The 6-11 freshman is a good athlete who can block shots and hit the glass. If Williams can score, he could see quite a few minutes. Trey McDonald and Sam Thompson will add more depth in the frontcourt if Coach Matta needs it. Thompson is the more dynamic athlete who can jump out of the gym and see some minutes at the small forward position. The backcourt may need some production from Shannon Scott off of the bench. Ohio State has had success with multiple ball handlers on the floor before and Scott can provide that dynamic. At the least, he will be a solid backup running the show.
Who to Watch:
William Buford and Aaron Craft form a superb backcourt duo. This group will take a hit without Diebler and Lighty, but Buford is a big time shooter and scorer and Craft is ready to start after earning starter minutes as a freshman. Buford averaged 14.4 points per contest last season and shot over 44 percent from long range. He will be asked to do even more this season and he has the talent to do so. Craft is a pesky defender and a superb passer. He too is a quality shooter and that makes him very difficult to defend with the ball in his hands. Craft may be asked to do a little more scoring this year, but he may not need to if somebody else besides Sullinger and Buford can turn into a consistent scoring option. Jordan Sibert did not play too much during his freshman campaign and shot surprisingly poorly when he was on the floor, but he is a good player and OSU will need him to be more consistent due to a lack of other options off of the bench in the backcourt.
Deshaun Thomas is one of the returning candidates to emerge as the third scoring option. Considering he averaged 7.5 points per game in just 14.0 minutes, Thomas has already proven to be a scorer. Thomas, a 6-7 sophomore, was regarded as the top small forward recruit in the nation heading into last season. He was overshadowed by a very, very talented Ohio State team last season and will now have the opportunity to live up to his hype. He may not be able to replace Lighty in every aspect, but Thomas is a great athlete who can score in bunches. With a little more consistency on his outside shot, Thomas should easily be a double figure scorer and a rebounding threat from the wing. If Thomas can do all of that, the Buckeyes will have more firepower than any other team in the conference and a strong squad on the glass and the defensive end of the floor. It may take a little time for it to all come together, but Coach Matta always has his team playing their best basketball in February and March.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Aaron Craft, Sophomore, Guard, 6.9 points per game
William Buford, Senior, Guard, 14.4 points per game
Deshaun Thomas, Sophomore, Forward, 7.5 points per game
Evan Ravenel, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Jared Sullinger, Sophomore, Forward, 17.2 points per game
Madness 2012 NBA Draft Rankings:
#1 Jared Sullinger
#67 Deshaun Thomas
#77 William Buford
Madness 2011 Men's Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#37 Shannon Scott
#46 Amir Williams
#49 Sam Thompson
#50 LaQuinton Ross
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