Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Rank: #34
Conference Rank: #4 Big Ten
2007-08: 24-13, 10-8, 5th
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Once again Ohio State has some huge losses, but once again the recruiting class should fill the void. Last season Ohio State missed out on the NCAA Tournament, but did manage to at least win the NIT. In a Big Ten conference that lacks a lot of firepower, Ohio State should have an easier time making the postseason tournament they prefer.
There are a ton of losses in Columbus, but Jamar Butler will prove to be the most important. The point guard not only dished out 5.9 assists per game, but also led the team in scoring. On a young team, it was Butler who was the leader on and off the floor. The good news is, besides little used Eric Wallace, Butler is the only loss on the perimeter. Kosta Koufos spent one year replacing Greg Oden and did a decent job, averaging 14.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. Unlike Oden, Koufos could stretch out the defense with his outside shooting. The other starter in the frontcourt was Othello Hunter who nearly matched Koufos’ numbers in most major categories. Unlike Koufos, Hunter was the bruiser under the basket. When Koufos or Hunter needed a rest last season, senior Matt Terwilliger was the first big man off the bench.
Coach Thad Matta needs a new one-and-done big man and B.J. Mullens could be the guy. The 7-0 center was one of the most highly touted recruits in the nation. Despite his size, Mullens will run the floor and finish around the basket. Mullens is a superb scorer in the paint and will even step outside and hit the mid-range jumper consistently. Just like with Oden and Koufos, the Buckeyes offense will run through Mullens this year. Nikola Kecman, a junior college transfer who has three years of eligibility remaining, will add some depth up front. Like most European big men, the 6-8 power forward can play on the perimeter and hit the three-point shot. The talent continues in the backcourt where Jeremie Simmons, Anthony Crater, William Buford and Walter Offutt will play an important role this year. Simmons and Crater will have the job of replacing Butler. Simmons, a combo guard, spent a couple years at Mott Community College in Michigan where he earned the 2008 Junior College Division II Player of the Year award. He handles the ball very well and will create shots for his teammates. But Simmons is such a good scorer that even if Crater wins the starting job at point, Simmons could be starting at the two guard spot. Buford is another great scorer to add to the roster. His outside shot will help replace Butler, but he can also get to the basket and play solid defense.
Who to Watch:
The newcomers are really good, but there is plenty of returning talent too…especially in the backcourt. David Lighty is prepared to become a leader after starting all 37 games a year ago. Lighty is also the team’s leading returning scorer after averaging 9.0 points per game as a sophomore. Evan Turner is a big wing who showed plenty of promise during his freshman campaign and Jon Diebler should emerge as a three-point specialist. A year ago Diebler only shot 28.9 percent from beyond the arc and 30.4 percent overall, but he is a much, much better shooter than those numbers indicate. Those guys are still young, but they all have at least one year of quality experience under their belt.
The frontcourt has a few more questions. Mullens and Kecman are ready to play major minutes during their first year in the program, but there is virtually no experience on the roster. Dallas Lauderdale, a 6-8, 255 pound sophomore, only averaged 6.9 minutes per game last year. However, it is important to remember that he was stuck behind Koufos and Hunter on the depth chart. If Lauderdale can live up to his potential, the frontcourt will be good…maybe not as good as the last two years, yet still good enough to finish in the top four in the Big Ten and reach the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jeremie Simmons, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
David Lighty, Junior, Guard, 9.0 points per game
Evan Turner, Sophomore, Guard, 8.5 points per game
Dallas Lauderdale, Sophomore, Forward, 0.9 points per game
B.J. Mullens, Freshman, Center, DNP last season