Ohio State Buckeyes
Overall Rank: #19
Conference Rank: #3 Big Ten
2006-07: 35-4, 15-1, 1st
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Ohio State will not quite be the same this year, but overreacting to the departure of Greg Oden is a popular pastime in Big Ten country. Sure this is an even younger team than last year and the incoming class cannot compare to last year (but when can it), but the Buckeyes will not fall off the face of the earth. Coach Thad Matta will have his troops ready to go and Ohio State will be near the top of the conference and back in the tournament. They just will not stick around as long as they did last year.
Everybody knows what Oden did during his only year in collegiate basketball. He was a monster of a presence on both ends of the floor and averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. The early departures to the NBA by fellow freshmen Mike Conley and Daequan Cook make this look like even more of a rebuilding year. Conley was one of the most impressive freshman point guards the Big Ten has seen in a long, long time. He finished the season as one of only two players on the team to start all 39 games and averaged 11.3 points and 6.1 assists. Cook only started one game and averaged less than 20 minutes per contest, but that did not stop him from being drafted with the 21st overall pick in the draft. It will be awhile before anybody finds a sixth man as talented as Cook. Lost in the freshmen hoopla is the fact that there were a couple senior starters on last year’s team. Ron Lewis was second to Oden in the scoring department, averaging 12.7 points and versatile forward Ivan Harris added 7.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
Obviously, again, OSU has some holes to fill. And again, the freshmen will be the answer. The most important hole to plug may be on the wings. Eric Wallace, Evan Turner and Jon Diebler will battle for a starting spot. Wallace is nothing to pass over lightly and has a ton of scoring potential, but Turner and Diebler are the likely candidates to earn some starts. Turner is a slasher with a great mid-range game. His outside shooting needs some work and that is where Diebler comes in. Diebler is a terrific shooter, but he lacks the athleticism, quickness and defensive presence that Turner possesses. This team needs to find a shooter to put in the starting lineup and that will probably be Diebler. Point guard P.J. Hill played one year at Midland Junior College and led the team to a NJCAA national championship. He will not play that big of a role for the Buckeyes, but he could see some backup point guard minutes. Like Oden, Kosta Koufos is a talented seven-footer. But not much else is the same. Koufos will step outside and hit the long ball and his post presence has yet to be fully developed. He needs some strength to battle inside, but that will come with time. For now, Ohio State expects him to be a scorer and matchup nightmare for just about any opposing big man. Dallas Lauderdale brings the strength to the frontcourt. At 6-8 and 260 pounds, the forward is a beast under the basket, yet he may find playing time hard to come by for now. Kyle Madsen, a 6-9 center, transferred in from Vanderbilt after spending his only season with the Commodores redshirting and will provide even more depth up front.
Who to Watch:
It seems like Jamar Butler is the only constant for a team that recruits itself plenty of one-and-done players. This year he will be back running the point, just like he did two years ago when he led the Oden-less Buckeyes to a number two seed in the NCAA Tournament. Butler tends to be underappreciated due to the fact that he lost his job to a freshman, but he is a good point guard. Two years ago he averaged 4.6 assists and just 1.8 turnovers and added 10.1 points per game and his numbers should be close to those now that he is back running the show. David Lighty, the forgotten one of the Thad Five, earned a handful of starts last year. At times he looked unstoppable and those times will be more frequent now that he will be a fulltime starter. Lighty is not a shooter and will do most of his damage getting to the basket. That is why a player like Diebler, who can shoot the long ball, will be very important to the success of the Buckeyes.
Othello Hunter started early last year when Oden was hurt and stuck around as his backup the rest of the year. Now it is his time to shine. Hunter proved to be a more than effective rebounder and shot blocker and even his scoring output was decent. With more minutes, Hunter has the opportunity to develop into a big time player. Matt Terwilliger has been hovering around the ten minutes per game mark most of his career. Now a senior, the hardworking Terwilliger could eat up a few more minutes than that this year.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jamar Butler, Senior, Guard, 8.5 points per game
Jon Diebler, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
David Lighty, Sophomore, Guard, 3.7 points per game
Kosta Koufos, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
Othello Hunter, Senior, Forward, 5.7 points per game