This will be the first Ohio State basketball team without Aaron Craft on the roster since 2010, despite the fact that it seems like he was the Buckeyes’ point guard since the turn of the century. He and Lenzelle Smith Jr. started on teams that reached the Final Four and Elite Eight in consecutive seasons and manned the backcourt in Columbus for the last three years. Combine this with the loss of leading scorer LaQuinton Ross and the Buckeyes have numerous question marks heading into this year’s campaign. Freshmen like D’angelo Russell and JaSean Tate will certainly help offensively and returnee Marc Loving showed signs last year that he could become a double-figure scorer at some point in his Buckeyes’ career. But this team will only go as far as its senior class — Shannon Scott, Amir Williams, Sam Thompson, Trey McDonald and Anthony Lee — will take them. After a disappointing 25-10 mark as a result of a questionable offense (10th in the B1Gin offensive efficiency), the seniors need to prove that they can continue to defend at an elite level without the services of the best on-ball defender in the country, and that they can actually find better ways to put some points on the board.
At this point it’s probably safe to say that Williams will never be a dominant force on the offensive end. He is, however, useful as a rim-protector, finishing fourth in the league last season in blocks. McDonald made strides last season as a backup big man, showing that even though he too lacks offensive polish, he can contribute on the defensive end and on the glass. Both players foul far too often (a combined 11.1 fouls per 40 minutes), but if the pair can stay on the court long enough to combine for about 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks per game, then they’ll have done their job as a tandem. Thompson saw his numbers drop across the board last season, and much like with Williams, it’s tempting to just assume that he is who he is at this point in his career. Even if he does nothing to improve his offensive numbers, Thompson can improve his team if he becomes a lockdown perimeter defender (which he has the athleticism to do) and if he increases his rebounding output. At 6’7″, only two conference players at the same size or taller (Will Sheehey and Joey King) had a lower defensive rebounding rate than Thompson last season. He did shoot 40.4 percent from deep as a sophomore, but he slipped back down to 35.5 percent last year. If he can knock down about 38 percent of his attempts from three and add to his rebounding totals, he should be on the floor for Thad Matta at crunch time.