Top 68 Team Previews: #6 Ohio State Buckeyes
Jared Sullinger is, without a doubt, the best returning big man in college basketball. (Icon SMI)
By Keith Levinsky
Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Season: 34-3 (16-2)
Key Losses: Jon Diebler, David Lighty, Dallas Lauderdale
Head Coach: Thad Matta
Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Aaron Craft 6-2 So.
SG: William Buford 6-6 Sr.
SF: Sam Thompson 6-7 Fr.
PF: DeShaun Thomas 6-7 So.
C: Jared Sullinger 6-9 So.
Key Reserves: Jordan Sibert 6-4 So. SG, Amir Williams 6-11 Fr. C, Shannon Scott 6-1 Fr. PG, Trey McDonald 6-8 Fr. C
For many teams in the country, losing two out of their top four scorers and three of their five starters, including the best 3-point shooter in the country, might be a problem. Not for Ohio State.
The second Jared Sullinger said he would return for his sophomore year Ohio State basketball had to be considered a favorite to win the 2012 national title. It also doesn't hurt that Thad Matta recruited the sixth best freshman class in the country.
In 2010-11, Sullinger had possibly the best freshman season for an Ohio State Buckeye since Greg Oden in 2006. He was named a First Team All-American, USBWA Freshman of the Year, and the Sporting News Freshman of the Year after averaging 17.2 points per game and a ridiculous 10.2 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-9 monster led the Buckeyes in rebounding in 31 of the team's 37 games. Along with Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones, and a few others, Sullinger should be in the running for National Player of the Year.
While all the focus will be on Sullinger, don't forget that the Buckeyes still have their second best scorer, experienced guard William Buford. Buford was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection last year and recorded 14.4 point per game and 3.9 rebounds per game. Buford is a spectacular shooter from mid-range and long range and is now Ohio State's best shooter with Diebler gone.
In his freshman year, DeShaun Thomas came off the bench each game and made a solid contribution to the lineup. He tallied 7.5 points per game and grabbed 3.5 rebounds per game. Thomas will have to pick up his rebounding numbers without Lauderdale, Lighty and Diebler.
Aaron Craft was a major asset as a reserve last year as he was the Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year and a member of the Big Ten All-Freshman Squad. Even though he was a substitute, Craft played 29.6 minutes per game and led the Buckeyes in assists with 177 of them, good enough for fourth in the Big Ten. Craft should develop into one of the best point guards in college basketball this year. He is also regarded as one of the best on-ball defenders in the country.
Another player with high expectations is Shannon Scott, who will have to take over for Diebler as a perimeter shooting threat. Scott was a McDonald's All-American, the ESPNU No. 34 overall recruit, and the No. 6 point guard in the 2011 class. According to ESPN.com, he was an "excellent floor general" with great point guard instincts for Milton High School. Whether or not he can be an effective floor general in the Big Ten remains to be seen.
The rest of the ESPNU 100 recruits will provide the Buckeyes with depth. Amir Williams is the No. 43 recruit and is a long, athletic center. Sam Thompson, the No. 45 recruit, is also a wiry player who can be a productive swingman for Coach Matta.
Ohio State is missing familiar faces from 2010-11 and it will not be easy to replace three starters, especially the school's all-time leader in 3-pointers and an NBA Draft selection in Lighty. The two-headed beast of Sullinger and Buford and Craft's crafty passing, however, may be impossible to stop. For those reasons, the Buckeyes could be holding the trophy in early April.