Welcome to The Sports Bank’s fourth annual college basketball season preview series where we break 111 teams in the 111 days leading up to the opening tip-off of the 2013-2014 season. We will rank the 84 power conference teams (including the new Big East and American Athletic Conferences) and top 27 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, transfers, incoming freshmen, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
With four straight 29-plus win seasons that have all resulted in trips to the Sweet 16, Thad Matta has cemented the Ohio State Buckeyes as one of the elite programs in the country. OSU returns four starters but must replace 20 point per game scorer, DeShaun Thomas if they hope to extend that streak.
OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Last Season: T-2nd, 13-5 in Big Ten, 29-8 overall
Predicted Big Ten Finish: 2nd
Projected Depth Chart
C: Amir Williams (Jr)/Trey McDonald (Jr)
F: LaQuinton Ross (Jr)/Marc Loving (Fr)
SF: Sam Thompson (Jr)
SG: Lenzelle Smith (Sr)/Amedeo Della Valle (So)/Kameron Williams (Fr)
PG: Aaron Craft (Sr)/Shannon Scott (Jr)
Gone: F-DeShaun Thomas, C-Evan Ravenel
There isn’t one guy who can do that so Matta needs his senior backcourt of Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith to each up their play on the offensive end. Craft has been one of the best defensive point guards in the country the past three seasons but is more of a floor general offensively as opposed to someone who can naturally fill it up. Still, his leadership is essential to the Buckeyes’ success.
“We haven’t had the luxury of a lot of guys sticking around for four years at Ohio State,” Matta said when I asked him about Craft at the Big Ten Media Day. “You’ve got a guy that has won 94 games in three years. It’s an honor to coach Aaron Craft every day and you know he cares about doing things the right way. He wants nothing more than Ohio State to win and that’s what you cherish as a coach.”
As for Smith, he has shown flashes of being a capable scorer but tends to go through stretches where he disappears on the offensive end. That cannot happen this season for OSU to reach their potential. Shannon Scott will see a heavy amount of minutes off the bench once again as he is a change of pace option from Craft who relies on his speed and playmaking to create for his teammates. Scott and Craft should see a good amount of time on the floor together like they did a year ago with Craft playing off the ball. Amedeo de Villa and Kameron Williams will only see spot minutes when Matta needs to go deeper on his bench.
Ohio State also returns the crazy athletic Sam Thompson who took a step in the right direction during his sophomore campaign. He is explosive at the rim but also improved his outside shooting and should be a valuable glue guy for the Buckeyes.
In my opinion, the most important player on the roster is combo forward LaQuinton Ross who replaces Thomas in the starting line-up. The 6-8 junior was an offensive threat off the bench last season and had his best stretch of basketball during the NCAA Tournament. With an expanded role, Ross should lead the Buckeyes in scoring this season since he is a versatile offensive weapon.
“LaQuinton’s never started a game at Ohio State and a lot is being thrust on him,” Matta admitted. “I want him to just relax and play basketball, get in the flow of what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and let things develop. We’re going to need him to do some big things but it’s that consistency.”
Marc Loving is another skilled combo forward who brings an all-around talent to the floor and should see minutes playing behind both Thompson and Ross at forward.
The area that really needs to improve for Ohio State this season is the production of their big men, Amir Williams and Trey McDonald. Neither guy has developed as quickly in terms of providing a true low post scoring option with their only real contributions coming on the glass or protecting the rim.
“Having the ability to impact impact the game both offensively and defensively around the rim,” is what Matta would like to see from Williams and McDonald this season. “That’s something that we’ve talked about with those guys in really, really saying this is what I need to do every possession. That’s huge.”
Thad Matta has this Ohio State Buckeyes program near the top of the college basketball mountain in recent years. In fact, only Duke and Kansas have won more games the past four seasons than OSU. This year’s team will rely on offensive balance and their typical stout defense to contend for a Big Ten title and remain hopeful of making another deep run in March.
Player to Watch: LaQuinton Ross
When I spoke with Matta at the Big Ten Media Day, the word “consistency” came up a few times in talking about Ross. I think he’s bound for a breakout year and could be a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Here is what Matta added about Ross: “Embracing all the detail things that go along with playing basketball. Q has done a great job with that thus far. He needs to know the impact he can make offensively and defensively. Those are the things we are looking for from LaQuinton, just give me consistent play.”
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/16 at Marquette
12/4 vs. Maryland (Big Ten/ACC Challenge)
12/21 vs. Notre Dame (in Madison Square Garden)
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#11 North Carolina
#15 Notre Dame
#21 Wichita State
#23 New Mexico
#29 St. John’s
#33 Boise State
#36 St. Louis
#37 La Salle
#38 San Diego State
#40 Arizona State
#44 Iowa State
#52 Boston College
#53 Ole Miss
#56 Saint Mary’s
#60 Florida Gulf Coast
#64 Florida State
#66 N.C. State
#67 Kansas State
#70 Miami FL
#72 Texas A&M
#73 Long Beach State
#76 Indiana State
#77 Georgia Tech
#84 Washington State
#86 Oregon State
#87 Louisiana Tech
#89 Wake Forest
#90 Central Florida
#95 Seton Hall
#97 George Mason
#99 Penn State
#101 West Virginia
#102 South Florida
#103 Mississippi State
#105 South Carolina
#106 Texas Tech
#108 Virginia Tech
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu to Milwaukee. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet , AND the second most accurate 2013 NBA Mock Draft. (Yup, nearly 3peat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.Powered by Sidelines Follow paulmbanks