Last season we saw Ohio State win a Big Ten regular season championship, as well as the conference tournament. They also received the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. But the Buckeyes run to the Final Four was halted in the Sweet Sixteen by Kentucky on a night in which William Buford went 2-for-16.
The Big Ten and the nation were introduced to star freshman Jared Sullinger. Sullinger completely showed why he was considered by most as the best big man in the freshman class. He began putting up double-double type numbers from day one, going for 19 and 14 against North Carolina A&T. Sullinger put off his NBA future to stay at Ohio State, but will he take another step forward in his development this season and lead a young team to another conference championship and title run?
While the Buckeyes do return their star, Sullinger, there are several players that they will certainly miss. Gone from last season are two guards that the Buckeyes have relied upon for the past several seasons, David Lighty and Jon Diebler. Lighty was a do-it-all type of guy for Ohio State; he was their best perimeter defender and was also relied upon to make plays on offense. Diebler was mainly a three-point shooter, but he was undoubtedly one of the best in the country at his craft. Also gone is F/C Dallas Lauderdale, mainly a defensive presence but a quality role player.
Notable returners will be Buford, PG Aaron Craft and F DeShaun Thomas.
Buford, a senior, will be heavily counted on for perimeter offense. He has a nice three-point and mid-range jumper as well as slashing ability. Buford should be one of the better SGs in the country this coming season.
Craft played heavy minutes in his first year on campus and played legitimately well. Craft takes care of the ball, plays excellent defense and makes smart plays. Despite being named Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year and onto the All-Big Ten Defensive Team, Craft is one of the most underrated players from last year’s class.
Another returning player that will play a big role is DeShaun Thomas. Thomas can score from anywhere on the court with good athleticism and size that creates matchup problems for slower, bigger, defenders.
Some players that didn’t receive much playing time last year but will have a bigger role this year are Jordan Sibert, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., Evan Ravenel (Boston College transfer), and J.D. Weatherspoon. Sibert has good skills and will likely be Craft’s backup at point guard and should also see some time at shooting guard. Smith, Ravenel, and Weatherspoon will all have a chance to compete for minutes.
Newcomers this season will be headlined by Shannon Scott, a guard out of Milton, GA. Scott was the Georgia Mr. Basketball and will compete for minutes immediately. Joining Scott are centers Amir Williams (Detroit, MI) and Trey McDonald (Battle Creek, MI); and small forwards Sam Thompson (Chicago, IL) and LaQuinton Ross (St. Louis, MO).
Ohio State used four guards and one post player most of the time last season. Look for a more traditional set this season with Williams and Thomas joining Sullinger in the post. Also, expect more screen and rolls from Sullinger and Craft, with Buford spotting up on the perimeter.
The Buckeyes are absolutely in good hands with the core of Sullinger, Buford and Craft. They are a threesome few teams can match. I still think there are some questions for the Buckeyes such as depth and size. I do not consider Ohio State to be in the same category as North Carolina and Kentucky due to the lack of depth, but they are certainly the favorites of the Big Ten.