Jared Sullinger and crew are back this year after a disappointing loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 round of last March’s NCAA Tournament. Sullinger came back largely in part due to that fact, to guide a team that started out last seasons 24-0, but eventually collapsed when it counted most.
Odds to win 2012 NCAA Tournament: 15/2
“I’ve got a lot more winning to do,” Sullinger explained.
What’s more is that the Buckeyes are bringing in a host of talented new freshman, a group that includes Trye McDonald, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, and Amir Williams. They will also welcome Evan Ravenel, a transfer from Boston College. Though Ravenel is not the most skilled you will ever watch, he works hard and is a polished player, if not very dull to watch. But Ravenel isn’t about increasing the excitement quota; he’s about making the Buckeyes a better team…
Sam Thompson will be a defensive stopper from day one.
That’s not to mention the incumbents.
William Buford returns for his final NCAA season after averaging 14.4 points per game last season while shooting 44.2% from three. Deshaun Thomas figures to play a bigger role after averaging 7.5 ppg in 14 minutes of work a night. Thomas is a strong lefty with a unique game. While it is early to project where he’ll go in the NBA draft when his day comes, one would have to figure if his talents alone are able to dictate it, that it will be somewhere in the first round, perhaps next year, or two years from now.
Aaron Craft should also step up in his sophomore campaign, after averaging 29.6 minutes per game last season, a minute total behind only the aforementioned Buford and Sullivan.
Sullinger has a legit chance at winning the national player of the year. He’s about as talented as they come, both with his skillset, and physical gifts. He’ll give the Buckeyes a legit chance again at making waves this March. He is best suited to play power forward and the Buckeyes are hoping Amir Williams can start along side him at center. Amir Williams offers “size and defensive presence…and could factor in what we’re doing defensively” Buckeyes coach Thad Matta remarked.
That is where the transfer student Evan Ravenel comes into the picture. If Amir is not quite ready to start, Ravenel gives them a solid option to start. Amir is able to swat a lot of shots and his presence on the boards will strengthen the Buckeyes inside.
Shannon Scott will see big mins in the backcourt, the son of former NBA star Charlie Scott. Though a freshman, the Buckeyes expect big things from Scott and believe his ball handling skills will enable backcourt mate Craft to work harder on his defensive game. Jordan Silbert is coming into his sophomore campaign, and while he didn’t play a big role last season, he could be a difference maker this year. Matta said he “(wants) him to be able to knock down open shots…buit also play…defense.” Scott is great at setting up his mates, and also runs the pick n roll with great effectiveness.
Amir Williams and Shannon Scott both figure to play big minutes, if not start.
There’s a lot of reasons to get excited about this Buckeyes team. Last season’s performance was impressive, but left fans hungering for more, especially after the early season dominance. They’re basically going to go as far as Sullinger carries them. Sullinger shot 54% from the floor last season and his skill set enables him to get a lot of easy looks around the hoop, so he realistically could improve that field goal percentage to as high as 57 or 60%…and if he does that, Ohio State will be a very scary team come March. In four of the last six years, Ohio State has been either a #1 or #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. There’s a lot of reason to think they might make that five out of seven this year.