Thad Matta,  LaQuinton Ross, Evan Ravenel

Christmas Wish List: OSU needs production from Ross, Smith

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Lenzelle Smith and LaQuinton Ross to keep playing well

The key to Ohio State’s season hinges almost entirely on the play of Smith and Ross. Let me explain. We all know how good of a scorer Deshaun Thomas is. He shoots a ton, he’d be a miserable guy to play pickup ball with, but there’s not denying the fact that he’s one of the most potent scorers in the country. Aaron Craft is an all-american. I love his game. He’s one of the best leaders and on-ball defenders in the country. He’s a throw-back point guard, and he does it better than anyone else in the country. But he struggles when he’s forced to be a primary scorer, a guy that needs to hunt shots and get 13-15 points for the Buckeyes to have success.

That’s where Smith and Ross come into the picture. Both players are currently averaging double-figures on the season, and while Smith is showing more promise as a spot-up shooter and Ross is better is more of a slashing role, the bottom-line is that they can score. And if Ohio State is going to contend with Michigan and Indiana at the top of the Big Ten this season, they need those two to take pressure off of Thomas and Craft.

Stocking stuffer: More minutes for Shannon Scott

Believe it or not, Scott has actually been better than Craft this season. Granted, it’s come in some limited minutes and he’s done some damage in garbage time against bad teams, but Scott’s raw numbers (5.0 assists, 2.6 steals, 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) and efficiency stats (he’s got a better offensive rating, assist rate and steal percentage than Craft) are phenomenal. Maybe, one day, the Ohio State staff won’t regret taking him over Columbus native Trey Burke.

Planning on re-gifting: Opponents outside the Kenpom top 100

Frankly, it’s difficult to truly form an opinion on this Ohio State team as is. They’ve only played one team in the Kenpom top 100 this year — Duke — and they put up a performance with two extremes. For about 28 minutes, they dominated the Blue Devils and looked like a legitimate top five team. For the final 12 minutes, they looked like they might finish sixth in the conference. Now, their weak schedule is entirely their fault. Rhode Island is way down because of a coaching change, Washington is usually better than they are this year, Long Beach State didn’t have their transfers eligible yet and Kansas comes to town on Saturday. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Buckeyes have played an extremely weak schedule thus far this season.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Rutgers hoping new duo can bring a spark

of the Ohio State Buckeyes against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights during their Big Ten conference game at Rutgers Athletic Center on February 8, 2015 in Piscataway, New Jersey.
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Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.

With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.

“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”

Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.

While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.

LSU looking into starting lineup options

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - MARCH 7:  Head Coach Johnny Jones of the LSU Tigers watches his team play during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bud Walton Arena on March 7, 2015 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Tigers defeated the Razorbacks 81-78.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.

While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.

Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?

Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.

Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.