Could Ohio State Be Even Better Next Season?



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Ohio State was knocked out of the Sweet 16 for the second straight year, but received consolation just hours after its loss to Kentucky when Jared Sullinger announced his return to Columbus for his sophomore season.

By: Justin Mertes-Mistretta

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A projected top-five draft pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, Sullinger decided that there was still work to be done in the college game, both as an individual and a team.

“He’s coming back because his goal is to win a national championship,” Sullinger’s father, Satch Sullinger, told the New York Times.

“He has to learn the 4 position,” Satch continued. “He’ll play at a high level at Ohio State and learn from one of the best in [Ohio State head coach] Thad Matta.”

Despite the return of Sullinger, the Buckeyes will lose three starters – David Lighty, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale – from its squad, which went 34-3 in 2010-2011.

Diebler, a.k.a. “3bler,” will be sorely missed, especially from beyond the arc. During his senior season, Diebler became the Big 10’s all-time leader in made three-point field goals and tied the Big 10 record for most three-pointers made in a game when he hit 10 against Penn State.Lighty and Lauderdale

Lighty and Lauderdale seem like they have played in scarlet and grey for 20 years. They are both the type of “glue guys” that every coach in America would die to have on their team, especially Lighty. He brought leadership and toughness that are simply irreplaceable.

The lights-out shooting of Diebler and defensive toughness of Lighty may never be replaced, but next year’s squad won’t be lacking in talent by any means.

Pending an unexpected decision to enter the draft, The Buckeyes’ second leading scorer, William Buford, will return for his senior season. At times this season, Buford was unstoppable when he was hitting his mid-range jumper. If he can become a more consistent player on both ends of the floor, watch out.

Assuming he returns, Buford will be the lone senior on a roster returning six freshmen next season.

Other than Sullinger, the most important returning freshman for the Buckeyes may be point guard Aaron Craft, who is one of the best young defenders in the Big 10. The crafty freshman led the conference in steals with 1.94 per game.

Deshaun Thomas, Indiana’s former Mr. Basketball, provided the Buckeyes with an offensive spark during his freshman year. However, his full potential was never quite realized due to inconsistent effort on the defensive end.

If Thomas can play defense as well as he can score next season, it’s scary how good this kid can be. I’ve said it many times, and next season it may become common knowledge: Thomas has the potential to be Ohio State’s best offensive player.

Even if he doesn’t reach those lofty expectations, Ohio State will be sure to find enough offensive from an incoming class of four ESPN top 100 recruits, including the No. 3 ranked center, 6-foot-10 Amir Johnson.

When you consider the returning talent from last year and the highly touted incoming recruits, it almost seems unfair how good this team could be.

This is what the Buckeyes starting lineup could potentially look like next season:

PG – Aaron Craft, 2011 Big 10 Sixth Man of the Year

SG – William Buford, 14.4 ppg and .442 3p% as a junior

SF – Deshaun Thomas, 14.7 ppg when playing at least 20 min.

PF – Jared Sullinger, 2011 Big 10 Freshman of the Year

C – Amir Williams, No. 3 ranked center in class of 2011

And you have another incoming McDonald’s All-American, Shannon Scott on the bench. It’s hard to imagine what could be done to improve upon a three loss season that included an undefeated non-conference home record and only two conference losses on the road where no team ever wins – Wisconsin and Purdue.

While the Buckeyes had a great regular season, it was the post season that leaves for more to be desired heading into next season.

In the fourth round of the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Ohio State ran into a lengthy and overwhelmingly athletic Kentucky team. The wildcats gave the Buckeyes trouble in the paint, recording 11 total blocks.

With the frightening possibility of another dominant big man alongside Sullinger in Williams, there is reason to believe next year’s Ohio State team may be, dare I say, better than this year’s team.

Call me crazy all you want, but the guy who just passed up NBA lottery pick money may have something to say about it.

What is your take on the Buckeyes for next season? Let me know by commenting below.

Justin Mertes-Mistretta is a senior writer for Follow him on Twitter at MertesMist_tsb or read his blog here.

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  1. working on my early, early ’11-’12 top 25 and OSU is top four for sure… hard to imagine they’ll be better than they were this year though…

  2. Justin Mertes-Mistretta says

    It’s hard to see them finishing the regular season with only two losses, but they have a tremendous ceiling with such a young talented team. I think it will really depend on the development of Deshaun Thomas and Amir Williams. If Williams is an instant force downlow with Sullinger, they could be really scary.

  3. I looked at the next years freshmen and concluded the same thing. With a litle help for Sullinger, watch out.

  4. Dominant? Did they not lose in the Sweet 16? How is that dominant? I guess Richmond is a dominant team too because they made it just as far as Ohio State…I do not understand how Ohio State programs get labeled as dominant, yet they never win anything…without cheating (BCS Championship over Miami). That is all.

  5. Justin Mertes-Mistretta says

    They went 34-3 this season…..I would call that pretty dominant. When I say dominant, I’m looking at the course of an entire year, not just one game. If I would have said that Ohio State is dominant in the tournament alone, then I could see your point. Name a team that is dominant come March? It is all about match-ups, anyone can lose in any round in any given year.

  6. paulmbanks says

    right. people seem to only remember march. and that’s understandable, but also unfortunate. osu couldn’t get past the sweet 16 as a #2 seed and then again as the overall #1 the next year. they ran the table in the big ten tourney in both years, that’s still domination, it’s just CHOKING.

  7. paulmbanks says

    And you have another incoming McDonald’s All-American, Shannon Scott on the bench.

    I’m so glad Deibler “the sloth” is gone. HATED him. so sick of looking at Lighty and Lauderdale, with with 45 year old appearance. Seems like they had the Evan Eschmeyer- 6 years of eligibility

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