Ohio State Buckeyes
2012-2013 Overall Rank: #4
Conference Rank: #2 Big Ten
Ohio State Team Page
Ohio State has reached at least the Sweet Sixteen during the last three seasons. Of course, last year they were in the Final Four. Coach Thad Matta once again has some big names to replace, but Ohio State has been down this road many, many times before. With just one senior on the roster, the Buckeyes are a young team. Yet, there is only one freshman on the roster as well and all of those sophomores and juniors have been through a Big Ten season before. Aaron Craft will again emerge as the leader of the Buckeyes. The 6-2 junior averaged 8.8 points, 4.6 assists and 2.5 steals during the 2011-2012 campaign. On paper, Coach Matta may need Craft to score more often, but that will not likely be the case. The scoring load will need to be picked up by others, while Craft worries about taking care of the ball and putting those new, and old, scorers in a position to be productive. And as always Craft will be among the best defenders in the nation.
2011-12 Record: 31-8, 13-5
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Thad Matta
Coach Record: 221-65 at Ohio State, 323-96 overall
Craft will not have Jared Sullinger and William Buford around to help boost his assist numbers. Sullinger’s sophomore season was another good one. He led the team with 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per contest. Sullinger’s presence in the post will be greatly missed on both ends of the floor, but Coach Matta and his Buckeyes will adjust their game to the current personnel and do a good job of it. Buford was often overlooked, but he had a great four year career, finishing up averaging 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds during his senior campaign. He was the Buckeyes best pure shooter last season. Little used J.D. Weatherspoon and Jordan Sibert have both transferred to other schools in the state of Ohio.
Amedeo Della Valle is the lone incoming freshman. He will join walk-on transfers Alex Rogers and Andrew Goldstein as the newcomers on this team. Della Valle is a solid combo guard, but the Buckeyes will not depend on his production right away. If Della Valle does crack the regular rotation, it will be off the ball for now. He is a flashy passer and a big-time outside shooter, but consistency will be key. If that comes around sooner than later, Della Valle will be a nice shooting option off of the bench. Otherwise, he will have to bide his time.
Who to Watch:
Replacing Sullinger in the post will be a team effort. And the Buckeyes have more options now than they did a year ago. If Coach Matta wants a tough group, he will call on Amir Williams and Evan Ravenel. If he wants a more athletic group, there is always LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson. Williams, at 6-11 and 250 pounds, is the biggest player on the roster. He is also an amazing rebounder and shot blocker. After seeing very limited action as a freshman, Williams is poised for a huge year. Ravenel does not have the upside that most of this roster seems to have, but he is a solid senior who has been around for a while. He is the type of player who will do the dirty work. He may start at first and will always be a major contributor at the five spot, but the starting gig could be taken over by Ross or Thompson by Big Ten play. Ross only played a few minutes all season last year after missing over a month of the 2011-2012 campaign for academic reasons. That was not quite the freshman season most expected from the 6-8 forward. It is a new year however and Ross is ready to show his stuff. While Ross does most of his scoring from beyond the arc, Thompson is a slasher. Thompson is another amazing athlete who did not play much as a freshman. He has a ton of potential as a shot blocker, scorer and rebounder. If Williams, Ross and Thompson can live up to the hype now that they will be given the opportunity, this will be a great Ohio State team. In the meantime, the forwards will be led by Deshaun Thomas. He will move to the small forward position this year after averaging 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds as a sophomore. He is one of the best all-around scorers in the Big Ten and as long as Craft and Thomas are on the floor, the Buckeyes have a great duo to work around. Trey McDonald will add post depth if Williams or Ravenel run into foul trouble.
Lenzelle Smith, Jr. may not put up big numbers, but he always seems to make big plays. His surprisingly effective outside shooting turned him into a full-time starter. But even if Smith is not scoring, he will be grabbing rebounds, making passes and playing tough defense. Shannon Scott is a jump shot away from becoming a fine backup point guard for Craft. At the least he can still spell Craft for a few minutes a game and run the show effectively. One does not have to look back very far to see the jumps Buckeye players have made between their freshman and sophomore seasons. Craft, Thomas and Smith all made the leap last year. This time around Ohio State is hoping the big group of sophomores can do the same. If a few of those sophomores can step into the starting lineup or the regular rotation as well as Craft, Thomas and Smith did in 2011-2012, this will be a Buckeyes team with legitimate national championship aspirations.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Aaron Craft, Junior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Lenzelle Smith, Junior, Guard, 6.8 points per game
Deshaun Thomas, Junior, Forward, 15.9 points per game
Sam Thompson, Sophomore, Forward, 2.1 points per game
Evan Ravenel, Senior, Forward, 3.4 points per game
Madness 2013 NBA Draft Rankings:
#34 Deshaun Thomas
#43 Aaron Craft