Originally written on College Chalktalk  |  Last updated 10/23/13

Send to KindleCredit: Ohio State Athletics This is it. We made it. Aaron Craft is finally a senior. America (or maybe just Big Ten Country), we’ve been waiting for this! Or have we? What’s so bad about Aaron Craft? Why waste precious energy on hating this Ohio State guard? Those rosy-cheeks, the behind the back passes, the no-nonsense leadership: he’s the poster boy for aggressive, risk-taking play all while being a student of the game. Unselfish, always in the right spot, a nose for the ball….all terms to describe Craft’s play over the previous three seasons in Columbus. When he can drain threes, dreams have died at Craft’s feet (most recently those of former Big Ten star and Iowa State transfer Korie Lucious). That being said, what do Craft and Company need to do to lead Ohio State back to the Final Four? And will the haters have a reason to keep hating this season? The Buckeyes point guard has been a dagger in the heart for several fan bases in March, but he’s also the source of some of the most inspired defensive play in the Big Ten in the last 15 years. Picked to the Pre-Season All Big Ten and All-American Teams (Second Team All-American), Craft enters the 2013-2014 season with an even bigger target on his back. He’s one of only two seniors on the Buckeyes’ squad that lacks a dominant presence in the paint. Adjusting to life without DeShaun Thomas and Evan Ravenal, Craft is the team’s leading returning scorer who averaged just 10 ppg a year ago. Craft will miss Thomas, saying “As a team, we’ve done a great job this summer and understand we just need to shoot the ball better. You can’t just replace him with one guy. If we elevate our shooting percentage it will open up countless opportunities offensively.” It will be up to Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. to generate those offensive opportunities for the ever-enigmatic LaQuinton Ross, Amir Williams and Sam Thompson. Ross showed promise at the end of last season, but fans in Columbus will expect consistency from him all year long as his playing time increases. Craft himself has big expectations, and was quoted at Ohio State Basketball Media Day as stating, “Lenzelle [Smith Jr.] and I are trying to make the most of this last year. We really think the best is ahead of us.” So….ahem…back to the hatred. As someone who saw a sign mocking Craft’s culinary distinctions (“Aaron Craft Eats His Boogers”) on College Gameday last season, what we really have is a case of envy. Buckeye red envy. Who doesn’t want an Aaron Craft of their own to generate show-stopping steals for their beloved team? Although there was some backlash in the spring along with an article which brought up the issue of race and Craft’s media darling status, this isn’t a race issue. This is a strong, selfless, shorter (there, I said it) guard playing hard and being hated for doing a damn fine job playing defense in a league that makes you bruise with the big boys. He often reminds me of Purdue’s Chris Kramer: unafraid to mix it up and get after it, night in and night out. Green, purple or blue: you’d still want him on your team. Lucky for the Buckeyes, he’s ready for a senior season that has every reason to be memorable, provided he can score points. * * * Related Posts:Stats Slant: The top five returning players in the countryElite Eight picks, Day 1Core 4: Seniors with NBA aspirations return for swan songBig 10 Conference – Cheat SheetNCDS: Washington’s Lamont Smith looks back at the Hall

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