Coach: Thad Matta (132-70 at Ohio State, 200-125 overall)
Ohio State’s best days are ahead of them since most of their impact players are sophomores and juniors, but this group has a bad taste left in their mouth after losing to Siena in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in their home state. Not surprisingly, center B.J. Mullens left after his freshman campaign, but he only started two games all year long and barely averaged over 20 minutes per game. He will certainly be missed, but losing your sixth man is usually not too big of a deal.
Key Losses for OSU: C B.J. Mullens
The most intriguing position to watch is the most important in college basketball. Jeremie Simmons never really got in the groove of playing point guard. While he dished out 2.5 assists and did a decent job keeping the turnovers down, he lost his job by the end of the year to P.J. Hill. Both are seniors and one of them has to step up and at least be able to bring the ball up the court. The strength is on the wings where Evan Turner is the superstar. Turner’s superb play will open up space for Jon Diebler and William Buford. Diebler connected on 41.6 percent of his attempts from long range and knocked down nearly three per game. Buford came on strong late in his freshman campaign and ended up second on the team with 11.3 points per game. Fitting them all into the starting lineup will not be possible and somebody out of that mix, likely Diebler or Buford, will have an early lead on the conference’s sixth man award.
Ideally David Lighty would be on the wing too, but the 6-5 junior’s willingness to do anything Coach Thad Matta needs him to do allows him to play at the four spot. Lighty missed all but seven games last year due to a foot injury, but he will be back to his old ways for his junior campaign. Lighty is a superb athlete who can fly above the rim. His absence really hurt the Buckeyes on the glass, but that should not be an issue this year assuming he can stay healthy. Dallas Lauderdale will not do much scoring, but he is a bruiser under the basket and led the team with 2.0 blockers per game. With Kecman and Sarikopoulos, and possibly senior Kyle Madsen as well, ready to play quality minutes off the bench, the frontcourt is in better shape than it looks.
Who’s In for Ohio State:
There are no incoming freshmen, but Zisis Sarikopoulos will try and help fill the void left behind by Mullens. Sarikopoulos spent one year at UAB before transferring to Ohio State where he did not play very much. However, since that time, he has really emerged on the national stage playing great ball at the U18 European Championships…for Greece, if you could not guess by the name. The other semi-newcomer is Nikola Kecman. He transferred in from Eastern Arizona and had to sit out the first 12 games of the 2008-2009 season. Two games later the 6-8 forward was done for the year after tearing an ACL.
Turner is the unquestioned leader of this team after leading the team with 17.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.8 steals. The 6-7 wing will even block a shot every once in a while. Turner does not take too many three-point shots, but he can definitely hit them when he wants to. Mostly Turner attacks the basket and that is why he got to the free-throw line an amazing 6.7 times per game last year. His ability to hit the glass from the wing and find his teammates makes him one of the best players in the conference.
Final 2009-2010 Ohio State Projection:
Turner might win the Big Ten Player of the Year award, but he still needs help from the rest of the team if Ohio State wants to win the conference. They certainly have the weapons, but in the end it will come down to Simmons and Hill and how well they can run the point. It is feasible for this team to win a lot of games without either of them on the floor, and thus playing their five most talented guys, but finding a consistent point guard will go a long way in determining their success come March.
Projected Post-season Tournament for OSU: NCAA
2009-2010 Ohio State Basketball Projected Starting Five:
Jeremie Simmons, Senior, Guard, 6.8 points per game
Jon Diebler, Junior, Guard, 11.2 points per game
Evan Turner, Junior, Guard, 17.3 points per game
David Lighty, Junior, Guard, 9.7 points per game
Dallas Lauderdale, Junior, Forward, 4.7 points per game
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer