With the announcement of Jared Sullinger’s decision to put his name into the mix for the 2012 NBA Draft and William Buford’s graduation, Ohio State’s success next season would now appear to ride on whether or not Deshaun Thomas will return.
The 6-foot-7 Thomas had become a scoring machine over the course of the final month of the season. Prior to an off-night in the Final Four against Kansas, Thomas had averaged 20.2 ppg and 7.7 rpg while shooting 54.1% from the floor and 41.8% (23-for-55, more than 4.5 attempts per game) from three over a 12 game stretch and 22.3 ppg and 8.5 rpg in the four previous NCAA tournament games.
The performance was impressive enough that it got people asking the question: will Thomas end up being a better pro than Sullinger? That point is (very) debatable and probably shouldn’t be based simply on one 12 game stretch, but the point is that if there is discussion regarding Thomas’ potential to be better than a guy projected to go sixth in this year’s draft, there may be a chance that he isn’t returning to school.
And if Thomas is gone, Thad Matta is going to have his work cut out for him if he wants to make a return to the 2013 Final Four.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of potential on the roster. Matta has proven to be one of the most consistent recruiters in the country, and that has allowed him to stockpile top 100 recruits on his bench much the way that Bill Self was able to plug in guys like Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford for Kansas this season.
But Matta won’t be able to rely on Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson the way Self did. In other words, where will the points come from? Aaron Craft isn’t at his best when he’s forced to be a primary scoring option. Lenzelle Smith had a couple of big games, but no consistency. No one else that would return averaged more than 3.4 ppg.
Buckeye fans better hope Thomas puts off the NBA for one more year.