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2012-13 Preview: #1 Ohio State (#4/#4)

Ohio State is our pick to win the Big Ten in 2012-13. We tried to find reasons to doubt their defense, but kept coming back to the conclusion that it’ll be one of the best in the nation.

Thad Matta’s offense has the potential to be very good. Losing an All-American like Jared Sullinger would be a significant loss for any team and although he had somewhat of a down year, William Buford’s graduation also stings. However, we see plenty of scoring options that should develop as the year progresses.

According to ValueAddBasketball.com, Deshaun Thomas added more value to the Buckeye offense than Sullinger did last season and the 6’7” Thomas is back for his junior year. Granted, he may face even more defensive attention this season, but he’s a potent threat.

Even if Ohio State’s offense is down slightly from a year ago, we believe they have a strong enough defense to win the conference.

Glass Half Full

Top 1-2 Combo

Juniors Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft provide Ohio State with one of the nation’s best returning pairs of players. While Thomas excels on offense, Craft is one of the better defenders in America.

At 6’7”, Deshaun Thomas is a versatile scoring machine. As a sophomore, he averaged 15.9 points and 5.4 rebounds in 31.4 minutes per game. He’s a very high-volume shooter (approximately 27%), but maintains an impressive efficiency and high field goal percentage.

Thomas made approximately 60% of his 2-point field goals and converted 50 3-pointers on his way to a 34.5% performance from behind the arc, which does leave some room for improvement. He doesn’t get to the line a lot, but when you shoot and grab offensive rebounds as well as he does it’s forgiven.

If Thomas can draw more contact by taking ball inside and improves his long distance shooting, he might be an even greater offensive contributor than Cody Zeller at Indiana.

Aaron Craft is the reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year and easily the top thief in the conference. Even when not securing a steal, the point guard is frustrating the opposition’s offense like very few defenders can.

At the same time, Craft’s offense (8.8 ppg, 4.6 apg) is often overlooked. He’s been very efficient and shot well (55.0% eFG), although his tendency has been to defer. We believe he’s more than capable of scoring the ball efficiently at a higher usage and as a junior still has room to reduce his turnover percentage.

With regard to team offense in the Big Ten last year, the two areas of lag for the Buckeyes were shooting – specifically 3-point attempts and percentage – and turnovers. Aaron Craft can help with improvement in both of those areas.

Age; talented sophomores

Ohio State had just one senior a year ago and their only junior averaged 10.2 minutes per game. This year, their leaders are experienced juniors and there are a number of sophomores that could make big jumps in their level of contribution to the team.

In addition to Thomas and Craft, junior Lenzelle Smith (25.4 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 37.8% 3FG) returns after starting all 39 games in 2011-12.

Talented sophomores include a number of top-50 RSCI ranked kids from the 2011 class. Big Amir Williams (#50) appeared sparingly in 29 games as a freshman, but he’s a 6’11”, 250 pound center who is an elite shot blocker and will prove himself as a top rebounding talent.

Shannon Scott (#32), a 6’1” combo guard, averaged 10.6 mpg (1.2 ppg). He struggled offensively in his first year, but this former McDonald’s All American is a great defender and should look far more comfortable in 2012-13.

Chicago switchable Sam Thompson (#46) is a long 6’7” high flyer capable of defending multiple positions. Although he averaged just 2.1 points in 10.6 mpg, he showed fans he’s capable of highlight reel plays and has a bright future. The Buckeyes would love for Thompson to show significant progression on offense this year.

LaQuinton Ross (#44) became eligible in December and appeared in only nine games (3.9 mpg, 2.0 ppg).  At 6’8”, 200 pounds he’s a strong, versatile forward that can score from anywhere on the court. Ross has tremendous potential.

Glass Half Empty

Loss of Sullinger and Buford

Combined, Sullinger and Buford averaged 32 points per game or 43% of Ohio State’s total points.

Sullinger was a special college basketball player and can’t be replaced. As great of an offensive player he was, the sophomore was also a force on defense and the glass. Ohio State’s offense attack will look more perimeter-oriented without Sully inside and the Buckeyes need guys to step forward offensively this season. While he’ll also be missed on the other side of the ball, the team’s defense should not be down much if at all in 2012-13.

We believe in the value of senior leadership, but also recognize Buford’s last season as a Buckeye was not his best. His offensive efficiency and usage declined from the previous two seasons and his effective field goal percentage of 48.3% was down significantly from 53.2% as a junior.

While Buford alone accounted for almost 30% of his team’s 3-point attempts last year, his accuracy fell to a career-low 35.8%. That’s not a bad percentage, but others can step up in his absence.

Other Comments 

  • 2013 Recruiting: Forward Marc Loving (#56 RSCI) and guard Kameron Williams (#73) have committed to Ohio State and the program is pursuing several other impressive seniors. Both Loving (10.9 ppg in EYBL) and Williams (22.2 ppg in EYBL) are scorers, although Loving should be able to improve other areas of his game more so than Williams. Kameron is an unbelievably good scorer who converted 47.9% of his 3-point attempts in EYBL play this year. There are valid concerns about his size (6’3”, but a thin frame) and defensive capabilities, but he is special when it comes to shooting the ball. 

A Look Back at 2011-12 Preseason Preview Quote(s)
“Ohio State may lose a few more games than last year, but they are the clear favorite to win the conference again this season. While Thad Matta’s team loses a few very important pieces from last year’s impressive squad, several highly talented players are ready to run through the doors that the departures have opened.”

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