What Does the Loss of LaQuinton Ross Mean for Ohio State Next Season?Posted by Brendan Brody on March 25th, 2014
On Monday afternoon, Ohio State’s LaQuinton Ross decided to forgo his final year of eligibility in Columbus to head for the NBA. Ross had a tremendous Big Ten Tournament and some other outstanding performances in his career, starting with the team’s 2012-13 run to the Elite Eight. But this season was marred by inconsistency in that he was expected to give the Buckeyes a reliable scorer from the wing to take the place of Deshaun Thomas. While Ross had his moments this year, he never did really replace the production of Thomas and the Buckeyes underachieved as a whole. He also didn’t fit well into the defensive-minded approach spearheaded by Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott on the perimeter. Right now Ross is projected as the 56th pick in this year’s draft by NBADraft.net, while DraftExpress lists him at 48th overall. So now the key question for the Buckeyes heading into 2014-15 is how does Ohio State replace him?
Ohio State isn’t in full rebuilding mode by any stretch, but they do have some significant players to replace in addition to Ross. They are also losing Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Amadeo Della Valle has decided to return to Europe to play professionally there. This leaves Thad Matta with five players from a rotation of nine slated to return. will take over at the point guard slot for Craft, while Sam Thompson is expected to be the starting small forward. Amir Williams and Trey McDonald will continue to provide a post presence. The most logical replacement for Ross’ position would have to be rising sophomore Marc Loving. Loving showed flashes of potential throughout the season, with 13 points in 17 minutes against Nebraska and 10 in a season-high 23 minutes at Michigan State. Matta lost confidence in him down the stretch, however, as he didn’t crack double-figure minutes in any of the team’s last eight games. It remains to be seen if Loving can match Ross’ ability to rebound but he has shown a decent touch from outside. He’s listed at 6’7″ and 215 pounds, so he’s already built similarly to Ross.
The Buckeyes also boast the sixth-best recruiting class in the nation, according to 24/7 Sports. Included in this class is Keita Bates-Diop, who is ranked #50. Jae’Sean Tate is ranked #79, and is also listed as a small forward despite only being 6’5″. These two top-100 recruits will be in the mix to take some of the minutes freed up by Ross’ early departure. Ohio State could opt to play one of these two freshmen at the three, going with a small lineup with Sam Thompson sliding over to the four spot. Tate has been described as physically ready for the Big Ten right now, so there should be some options here with some combination of Tate, Bates-Diop, Loving and Thompson logging the majority of the minutes.
It’s also worth noting that Ohio State is still in the running to land Myles Turner, a 6’11″ center and top recruit from Texas. If Matta can get Turner to commit, Ross’ rebounding abilities will easily be taken care of in the form of the McDonald’s All-American from the Lone Star State. All in all, though, the Buckeyes will have some work to do in the summer months. They return a solid combination of veterans and add some intriguing newcomers, and as long as Loving makes typical freshman-to-sophomore strides in his development and the freshman can score the ball, Ohio State shouldn’t expect to slip all that much after losing Ross and the seniors.