2009-10 record: 29-8 (14-4), tied for first in Big Ten
Lost to Tennessee in Sweet 16
Coach: Thad Matta, 156-54, 6 years (258-85 overall)
Last NCAA miss: 2008
The good: Evan Turner’s gone – wait, this isn’t bad! – but the Buckeyes are positioned to be the rare team who doesn’t take a step back after losing the national player of the year. Every other starter returns and Ohio State adds its best recruiting class since 2006 when the “Thad Five” headed by Greg Oden and Mike Conley reached the NCAA title game.
The centerpiece is center Jared Sullinger, a 6-9, 280-pound beast down low (he’ll solve their lack of offensive rebounding), but can also hit from outside and pass easily out of double teams. In other words, he’s a guy capable of making everyone else around him better. Sound like Turner?
The bad: Who’s the point guard? Ohio State doesn’t have a natural point guard ready to step into Turner’s role, so coach Thad Matta will use a variety of players in the role.
Guards William Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty are decent ball-handlers, but none of them are appealing in that role. That means freshmen Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith could get a chance to step in. If Matta can’t find a solution, expect him to rotate early and often at point.
The unknown: How will the freshmen and upperclassmen mesh? Buford, Lighty and Diebler played nearly 54 percent of the team’s available minutes last season. Dallas Lauderdale, Jeremie Simmons and Turner took the rest. Matta has to find playing time for Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and either Craft and Smith, which could irritate the guys who did the heavy lifting last season.
But it’ll be necessary. The Buckeyes’ tired legs did them during their tourney loss to Tennessee.