Big Ten Basketball Preview: Ohio State
Last season Ohio State was upset by the Wichita State Shockers in the Elite Eight, this year Thad Matta’s squad is primed for another run in the NCAA tournament. With Ohio State having the number one ranked recruiting class for the 2014 season, the future looks very bright for these Buckeyes.
Ohio State will begin the year ranked No. 11 in the preseason AP Poll. That is third in the Big Ten behind No. 2 Michigan State and No. 7 Michigan. The Buckeyes will not lack experience as they put forth a veteran team. Their projected starting lineup has three juniors and two seniors.
There were only four power conference teams that allowed one player to take more than 32 percent of the shots from the field.
Ohio State was one of those teams and Deshaun Thomas was that player. He attempted 32.3 percent of Ohio States shots from the field, which resulted in him scoring 20 points a night and claiming a Big Ten scoring title.
Thomas will be the player that Ohio State misses the most in the 2013-2014 season. He was the Buckeyes leading scorer and they ran their offense through him. Matta will look to senior Aaron Craft to shoulder more of the load this season and make up for the absence of Thomas.
The Buckeyes will add talent from incoming freshman, but they are unlikely to start early in the year. Marc Loving averaged 21 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in his final year at high school. The 6’8” forward will come off the bench to start the year, but will be instrumental in replacing Thomas.
Ohio State also adds freshman Kameron Williams, another scorer to help with the sometimes-stagnant offense. On nights when Thomas struggled last season, they had trouble getting points in their half court offense. With Thomas gone, others like Williams will need to step up off the bench and provide steady offense to this Ohio State team.
The offense will run through point guard Craft, but he will most likely not be the leading shot taker. Matta will use Craft as a distributor to get the ball to teammates LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson. The offense will need to avoid stretches of the game when they are unable to get good looks and end up forcing shots. To avoid these happening they must be very unselfish with the basketball.
Just like the offense, the defense starts with Craft. The senior guard was a unanimous selection to the Big Ten all-defensive squad. He averaged 2.1 steals per game last season and has great anticipation in the passing lanes.
Junior center Amir Williams will also be a pivotal part of the Buckeye defense. He will be the last line of defense and will be called upon to cover the likes of Michigan’s Mitch McGary and Michigan State’s Adreian Payne.
The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in the NCAA. They currently have four teams ranked in the preseason top 25, the second most behind only the ACC. Ohio State finished second in the regular season behind only Indiana last year. The Big Ten will only get more difficult in the future, as it adds Maryland from the ACC next season.
Ohio State will again be an elite force in the Big Ten. They will be a very fundamentally sound team, but will be looking for that elite scorer to step up throughout the season. This could fall on the shoulders of either Ross or Thompson.
The way the division lies now the biggest divisional foes Ohio State will face will be Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes schedule favors this notion, as they will only have to face Wisconsin and Michigan once.
The Buckeyes will contend in the Big Ten and are primed to make a run in the NCAA tournament.
Mike Wargon is a junior majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.