Thursday, October 28, 2010

No. 9 Ohio State

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Last Season: 29-8, 14-4 (t-1st Big Ten), lost to Tennessee in the Sweet 16 on the NCAA Tournament

Head Coach: Thad Matta

Key Losses: Evan Turner, PJ Hill, Kyle Madsen

Newcomers: Jared Sullinger, DeShaun Thomas, Aaron Craft, Lenzille Smith, JD Weatherspoon, Jordan Sibert

Projected Lineup:

  • G: Aaron Craft, Fr.
  • G: Jon Diebler, Sr.
  • G: William Buford, Jr.
  • F: David Lighty, Sr.
  • C: Jared Sullinger, Fr.
  • Bench: Dallas Lauderdale, Sr.; DeShaun Thomas, Fr.; Lenzelle Smith, Fr.; Jordan Sibert, Fr.; Nikola Kecman, Jr.

Outlook: Last season, the Buckeyes were one of the best teams in the country. But an unbelievably large part of that was because they had player of the year Evan Turner on their roster. Turner suffered a fracture in his back midway through the season and missed six games, and in those six games the Buckeyes were nothing more than a thoroughly mediocre basketball team. Now that Turner is in the NBA, the question for Thad Matta is answer is how he will get his offense to move. Who is going to create shots?

The early answer seems like it is going to be Jared Sullinger, a 6'8" freshman that is widely considered to be the best incoming frontcourt player, and possibly the best big man overall, this season. He's got the size and the strength to play immediately in the Big Ten. He's not just big, either. He's skilled. He can score on the low-block, he can get to the rim facing up, and he has range out to 18 feet. He is also a very cerebral player. Sullinger understands angles -- sealing his man when the ball gets reversed, holding position defensively and offensively, boxing out -- which lets him get a lot of easy baskets and a ton of rebounds. Simply put, he's a producer on the block.

Sullinger should be a terrific complement for a guy like Dallas Lauderdale. Lauderdale isn't much more than a dunker on the offensive end, and his rebounding numbers were fairly low (although a lot of that is a result of Turner swooping in for 9.2 rpg), but what he does do well is defend the rim. DeShaun Thomas may end up being an even better complement to Sullinger. The 6'6" freshman is a burly, left-handed combo-forward that was one of the most prolific high school scorers in Indiana history. He's got range on his jumper and can score inside and out. Don't be surprised is Nikola Kecman sees some minutes up front as well.

The perimeter is absolutely loaded for the Buckeyes. You should already know about the three starters -- David Lighty, William Buford, and Jon Diebler. Lighty is a tough, athletic two-guard that does a little bit of everything for this team. He's the ultimate glue guy. Jon Diebler is a big time shooter, a guy that can reel off four or five threes in a row when he gets it going. William Buford is the best of the bunch. He's been mostly a catch-and-shoot, mid-range pull-up player the last two seasons. But with Turner went a lot of point and shot production, and I think Buford is the guy that steps up his game this season. If things go right, I think he could end up being a potential all-american candidate.

The question for this team is going to be who plays the point. I've seen it thrown out there that Lighty, or even Buford, will slide over and play the same role that Turner played last seaseon. Personally, I don't love that option; neither is near the playmaker that Turner was. Freshmen Lenzelle Smith and Jordan Sibert are off-guards. The pressure, it seems, is going to fall square on the shoulders of Aaron Craft. Craft, who is better known as the kid who was in the picture that got Bruce Pearl in trouble, isn't a bad point guard by any means. He's tough defensively, he's very good with the ball, and he is a smart passer that makes good decisions.

But he is not a creator, which is what OSU is looking for. If the Buckeyes are going to have success this season, they are going to need Sullinger to develop into someone that is a reliable scorer on the block that is willing to kick the ball out to open shooters. Sullinger may not be a point guard like Turner, but he's going to need to be able to be the guy that the Buckeyes can run their offense through.

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