With all of the talk of the Urban Era, Buckeye basketball has taken a back seat this year. I think it’s time we give a little love to our Buckeye basketball brethren.
This season is sure to be an interesting one for the Buckeye ballers. Coming in, it’s entirely unexpected which way the Buckeyes will go. They lost two legendary Buckeyes in Jared Sullinger and William Buford. They return maybe the most beloved Buckeye ever in Aaron Craft and an intriguing, trigger-heavy, potential All-American in Deshaun Thomas. However, it’s the other Buckeyes that are going to decide where this season goes.
Rounding out the starting five for the Buckeyes are Amir Williams, Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Sam Thompson. While it remains to be seen what Williams and Thompson can do for the Buckeyes, Lenzelle Smith Jr. has shown us that he can definitely play at this level. He shot 47.3% from the field last season including 37.8% from behind the three-point line. He, along with Craft and Thomas, have big game experience and will surely be a factor for Ohio State this season.
As for Williams and Thompson, the jury is still very much out on these guys. We saw just a bit of Williams last season and in the small sample size, he impressed. It was actually in the tournament when we saw the most of Williams, and even under the lights of March Madness, Williams was a huge factor in the FInal Four run. He is a big body, much bigger than Sullinger’s, who could be an impressive shot-blocker and rebounder for this Buckeye squad.
Thompson’s starting spot has actually been in jeopardy recently as sophomore LaQuinton Ross has played very well thus far. However, there is no doubt he is an athletic machine. Last season, we saw Thompson throw a massive hammer down on some opponents. His size and athleticism make him a very dangerous threat defensively and near the rim. It’s his shooting and other offensive tendencies that could land him a permanent spot in the starting lineup.
Ohio State should be a good defensive team, but their offensive prowess remains to be seen. That is a heavy concern with this team. While Thomas will take the heavy workload on offense, we will have to see who is going to be second in command. It might take a while, and that is what worries me initially.
What gives me even greater concern when it comes to the Buckeyes is their bench. This is a very, inexperienced group of Buckeyes and a group lacking in big time recruits. In fact, the only freshman on the roster is Amadeo Della Valle out of Italy. Evan Ravenel has shown he could be a very good sixth man and should be a force off of the bench. Outside of Ravenel, however, the Buckeyes don’t have all that many options. Trey McDonald will be a good backup for Amir Williams at the center position, but again, I don’t see him contributing offensively. Shannon Scott has yet to play major minutes either.
It’s just very tough to determine what is going to happen to these Buckeyes. If they rely too heavily on DeShaun Thomas, I doubt they will have the Top 5 season that the AP has projected them to. Defensively, this may be one of the most talented teams in the country. It’s only the offense that has questions. But for the first time in a while for the Buckeyes, the offensive is a major, major question.
A very tough Big Ten schedule doesn’t help out either. 3 of the top 5 teams in the country come out of the Big Ten including No. 1 Indiana.
The Buckeyes do have one thing that many teams in the country don’t have: Thad Matta. Thad Matta is a great coach and if there is anyone who can find an offensive leader for this ball club it’s thad Matta. Matta has the basketball mind to lead this team right back to the Final Four, regardless of how their season starts. With Craft and Thomas leaving after this season, this could be the final year of National Championship contention for the Buckeyes until Coach Matta hits the recruiting trail hard again.
That all being said, it’s basketball time in Columbus again! Regardless of how this team looks, or the mysteries that flank the offensive side of the ball, this season will be a very exciting one for the Ohio State Buckeyes!
Follow Hayden on Twitter @H_Grove