Entering his seventh season as Ohio State’s head coach, Thad Matta will be gunning for his fourth Big Ten title in 2010-11.
And he’s no stranger to reloading on the fly after losing players to the NBA.
So it would follow that with last year’s National Player of the Year Evan Turner now a member of the Philadelphia 76ers as the NBA’s No. 2 draft pick this June, Matta’s squad is prime for another year as a major player in the Big Ten — as well as the nation.
Incoming freshman power forward Jared Sullinger will soften the blow of losing Turner, a possible one-and-done player currently slated in Chad Ford’s Top 10 for the 2011 NBA draft.
The Buckeyes also return an experienced cast of characters: Senior Jon Dieber was one of the better shooters in the nation last year — his true-shooting percentage (64.0) was good for 23rd in the nation, while his effective field-goal percentage (60.9) was good for 30th. Without Turner around, junior William Buford could be an All-Big Ten selection. Senior Dallas Luaderdale will provide a well-seasoned counterpart to Sullinger up front, while senior David Lighty will give the Buckeyes a strong defender.
And freshman forward Deshaun Thomas, another five-star recruit, is icing on a talented cake.
Heading into the season, Ohio State’s most pressing issue will be find their main ballhandler sans Turner. The job could be Buford’s, but Matta has also spoken highly of freshman Aaron Craft, who could get time in the rotation off the bench.
Bottom line: It may take a little bit of time for the Buckeyes to get up to speed without Turner around and needing to work a talented freshman into the fold of an experienced cast, but once Ohio State is firing on all cylinders, watch out.
Along with Illinois, the Buckeyes present the biggest threat to Michigan State atop the Big Ten standings. And don’t be surprised if this team makes a deep run in the tourney, as a trip to the Final Four is certainly within play.
Quotable: “The thing I asked them the most was I’d like to think we do things a certain way at Ohio State in terms of the culture we have set for our program and teaching those guys how we do things, from going to class, to being respectful, to professors, whoever they come in contact with. But also a work ethic. And I think that the four veterans have done a tremendous job of teaching that. It’s like I told the freshmen on our first team meeting. I said: We’ve got a great tradition going here at Ohio State right now and you guys haven’t contributed one ounce of anything to it and you have to earn your stripes here; I want you to follow these guys’ lead. And as I told them, I think we’ve got four great leaders, but if you don’t want to be led it’s not going to work. And to those guys’ credit, they’ve done a tremendous job of engaging themselves and following the lead of those guys.” — Matta at Big Ten media day on his veterans showing the freshman the ropes
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