Next up in our Around the Big Ten preview series: Ohio State. The Columbus Dispatch’s Bob Baptist stepped in to answer our questions about the Buckeyes this year. You can hear more from Baptist on his twitter account or his blog.
Evan Turner is gone but there is no shortage of talent in Columbus
Losing the most productive college basketball player is obviously a tough blow to handle but this is still a very talented roster. Is this a team that compete for the Big Ten championship?
It can, but I think bad things would have to happen to Michigan State and Purdue for it to happen — like, Kalin Lucas and Robbie Hummel going down again. And I don’t want to see that happen. Michigan State is just as deep if not deeper than it was last season, and Purdue has the best threesome of any team in the conference in Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. Ohio State can’t match either, in my opinion, at least not at this point. I could be persuaded differently come February, but I don’t see it changing unless, as I said, Sparty and the Boilers have health issues.
Jared Sullinger is the top-rated freshmen in the Big Ten
Jared Sullinger highlights a star-studded freshmen class. Can you break down the incoming freshmen and how much they are expected to contribute?
Sullinger, from everything I hear out of “open gym” — closed gym, actually — is a load and is going to give people problems on the offensive end. Defensively, I’ll be interested to see how his matchups are handled by the coaching staff. One matchup I’m looking forward to is watching him and Draymond Green of Michigan State bang on each other.
I also hear good things about point guard Aaron Craft, who naturally is going to have his share of doubters because he played at a small high school. Craft, I’m told, plays within himself and does the things the team needs him to do, which is take care of the ball, set up his teammates, defend and make the open shots he gets.
DeShaun Thomas could be a factor at the 4 when Sullinger is at the 5 or not in the game. He can score. The question will be how much his man scores on him.
Jordan Sibert appears recovered from his knee injury and making shots, Matta said recently. What Matta wants to see more of is for Sibert to embrace a role of defensive stopper and use his length and athleticism to become a lockdown defender on the perimeter. Over the years, that’s been the surest way for freshmen to earn early playing time under Matta, on the defensive end. David Lighty is Exhibit A in that argument.
Lenzelle Smith is recovering from wrist surgery and may or may not be ready for the start of the season.
J.D. Weatherspoon is a jumping jack who can rebound and flourish in a transition game, but he may get caught in a numbers game. Speculation is he will redshirt. Matta said he won’t make that call until he has to.
Will William Buford take his game to the next level?
William Buford is a kid that I feel like has the potential to be a first team all conference player. What do you expect from Buford this year?
It all depends how confident he’s become in his handle after working on it during the offseason. He probably has the silkiest pullup jumper I’ve seen at Ohio State in the dozen or so years I’ve covered the team, but for him to become a first-team All-Big Ten player, as you suggest, he needs to round out his game with some dribble-driving. He also could be helped by more of a transition game on offense if Ohio State can improve its rebounding enough to trigger it more. If indeed he has improved his handle enough to create his own shot more, Buford also needs to become more assertive in the flow of the offense and not defer to the seniors.
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