OHIO STATE BASKETBALL PREVIEW
November 4, 2013INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
by DEREK BLANK (RADIOTROY.COM)
2012-13 Record: 29-8, 13-5
Projected Starting Five:
The Ohio State Buckeyes finished their 2012-2013 basketball season with an impressive run, finally losing to Wichita State, the surprise team in the tournament, in the Elite Eight. The Buckeyes have been impressive over the last few years, surpassing 28 wins in each of the last four seasons, finishing no lower than No. 7 in the final Associated Press (AP) poll over that same span.
Now the Buckeyes come into the 2013-2014 with high expectations again, getting top ten looks in the preseason. Coach Thad Matta is one of those coaches whose put in the category of “best coach in the nation without a national title.” There is no doubt that Matta hasn’t been impressive in his tenure at Ohio State, but will this be the year he finally gets taken off that list? It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he did just that this season.
The question isn’t whether or not Ohio State is good, but rather how well will they last in this year’s tough Big Ten Conference? Much like last year, the Big Ten will be brutal, and is hard to pick a preseason winner. Ohio State has the pieces to be that team however.
The key return for the Buckeyes is Aaron Craft, the “pesky” PG that harasses offensive players with his in-your-face defensive play. Craft is one of the few players in college basketball that is a for sure lock down defender. Known for his defensive game, Craft
also has great numbers on the offensive side, averaging 10 points a game and 4.6 assists per game, and taking smart shots and shot at a high percentage last season.
Other key returns include Sam Thompson and Lenzelle Smith Jr. Although the players didn’t really shine early in the regular season, but really started to show their true potential late in the regular season and in their tournament run. Thompson had a season high in points and rebounds, recording 20 points and 10 rebounds against Iona in the tournament. Smith was a crucial weapon from beyond the arc, shooting 38% from downtown and also showed his ability to play as a reliable defender.
Ohio State’s biggest newcomer is Marc Loving, the 6 foot 7 inch forward that has been blessed with a whopping 85 inch wingspan. The No. 66 rated recruit in the 2013 class was a two-time winner of the Division I Player of the Year award in the state of Ohio. In a crowded frontcourt that includes Smith, Thompson, and center Amir Williams, Loving’s impact may not come from the starting lineup, but will be expected to have a big role off the bench.
The Buckeyes may have some good key returners, returning six of the players from last season’s eight-man rotation, but also lost arguably their best player. Deshaun Thomas, the Buckeye’s leading scorer with just under 20 points a game last season, was lost to the 2013 NBA draft. Also lost from last year was the big and physical center Evan Ravenel, not really shining with an impressive stat line, but doing the things that don’t show up on the stat sheet, such as clogging up the middle on defense.
The thing the Buckeyes had going for them was their ability to protect the ball, while also forcing their opponent to turn it over to them. The Buckeyes finished at the top of the Big Ten with a 2.9 turnover differential in their favor. That number could expect to go even higher with the departure of turnover prone Ravenel and Thomas.
The Buckeyes have the talent to make yet another impressive run in the tournament this year. Expectations are high for the Buckeyes, but that hasn’t seemed to stop them in the previous years. Matta looks to finally get that national championship that every coach craves. Will this finally be the year he does so?