Is there a more underrated basketball coach in the country than Thad Matta? All he does is bring in talented players, put them in the best position to win and boy do they win. However, some are questioning what life without Jared Sullinger will be like.
However, it's not as if the roster is in shambles or anything like that. Instead this team will become more about DeShaun Thomas and Aaron Craft this season. That's a heck of a foundation to start from for any team and for a coach that's lost just 65 games in 8 seasons as the Buckeyes head coach doubting that his team will compete for a championship is an unwise thing to do.
This team does need to find a consistent outside threat though because they don't have a player on the roster that strikes fear into opponents enough for them to not pack it in against Thomas right now.
2012-13 could see this team compete on the same level as last year, but toping a Final Four run is asking a lot of any team. So, how do we see this year shaking out for the Buckeyes?
2011-12 Record: 31-8 (13-5)
Postseason: NCAA Final Four
Head Coach: Thad Matta, 9th season (221-65, 13th year overall, 323-96)
Returning Starters (games started): 3
G Aaron Craft (39), G Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (39), F DeShaun Thomas (39)
- Amedeo Della Valle: 6-5, 190lbs., Guard (Freshman, Alba, Italy/Findlay (NV) Prep)
Team Stats (conf. ranks): 74.6ppg (2nd), +14.9 scoring margin (1st), +7.3 rebounding margin (2nd)
Check here for the full roster.
Projected Starting Lineup:
G - Aaron Craft (Jr.)
G - Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (Jr.)
F - LaQuinton Ross (So.)
F - DeShaun Thomas (Jr.)
C - Amir Williams (So.)
Obviously there is transition in the frontcourt with the loss of a player like Jared Sullinger, but this is Ohio State under Thad Matta and that means "next man up" for this team. The man most likely to take over down low is sophomore center Amir Williams who has mad a huge jump in play and in body size since he arrived on campus last year.
Williams saw action in 29 games behind Sullinger last year, but it was very limited play (6.6 minutes a game) and he only averaged 1.7 points a game. However, he needs to be more of a defensive presence and a body down low because the rest of the frontcourt should be able to handle the bulk of the scoring.
That's because DeShaun Thomas is still around. The junior small forward is one of the best players in the conference and the country and could be in for a huge year as the focal point of the offense this season. Thomas averaged 15.9 points per game last year and is the only returning double digit scorer on the roster. He is also the leading returning rebounder, averaging 5.4 boards a game last year as well.
Starting alongside Thomas and Williams is sophomore LaQuinton Ross who only saw action in 9 games last season, but again it was limited amounts of action. He's expected to take a big jump up in the absence of Sullinger as well and help Williams down low in the rough and tumble Big Ten.
If Ross or Williams struggle look for the lone senior on the roster, Evan Ravenel to pick up the slack. Ravenel started 3 games last season and is a great option off the bench, more so than as a full-time starter for the Buckeyes.
As much as some may see this team as DeShaun Thomas' it's really all about Aaron Craft in 2012-13. The junior guard is going to be the backbone of this team and while he only averaged 8.8 points a game last year you can bet that average is going up this year.
Craft is the heart and sole of this team because of his ability to defend and spread the ball around. He's easily the best defender in the conference and he averaged 4.4 assists per game last year. Those things shouldn't change at all even if he's going to have to be a bit more of a scoring guard for this team.
Joining Craft in the backcourt is fellow junior Lenzelle Smith, Jr. who is this team's best deep threat, shooting 37.8% from behind the arc last season. However that may end this season with the only incoming freshman on the roster, Amedeo Della Valle, being an absolute sharpshooter. The Italian could force his way into the equation if this team needs some production from the perimeter.
Backing up Craft will be Shannon Scott, but for me he needs to really up his shooting(both deep and in general) to be an effective backup. I mean he shot just 28% from the floor last year and a whole 5.6% from 3 land. Those numbers should increase, but he'll have to earn his minutes by showing it in practice during the season.
No matter what this team will be all about Aaron Craft and DeShaun Thomas to say the least.
Strength of Schedule: 7
This team plays some decent foes out of conference, but the teams they have in between the likes of the Kansas' and Marquette's of the world aren't exactly the cream of the mid-major crop so for that they slip down a notch or two.
Swing Games (non-conf.): vs. Marquette, @ Duke, vs. Kansas
- The No. 4 team in the country stars things off with a huge test against Marquette on an air craft carrier in Charleston and they must find a way to win all three of these games if they are going to convince some of their critics that they are still for real.
Swing Games (conf.): @ Michigan State, vs. Indiana, @ Wisconsin
- Fans of the Big Ten know exactly how difficult it is to play in the Breslin Center and at the Kohl Center so finding a way to win one or both of these games would be a huge boost to their title hopes. Even bigger is winning the home game of the series with Indiana. There's no way they win a conference title without at least winning one of the away games and the home one to the Hoosiers. Lose two of these games and their in deep trouble.
Record: 25-6 (13-5)
Big Ten Finish: 1st (tie)
Postseason: NCAA tournament
Beer Pairing: Sam Adams Boston Lager
This team isn't the most flashy out there but sleeping on this team and this brew are dangerous ideas as both will sneak up on you and before you know it you'll find yourself enjoying what your watching and what your drinking. If you are going to be watching good fundamentals with some run and gun you should also be drinking a beer with the fundamentals but also an original taste and for American Lager beers there is simply nothing better than Sam Adams.