During last season, it seemed very likely that the Ohio State Buckeyes would lose all five starters. However, Jared Sullinger and William Buford chose to return to school rather than enter the NBA Draft. Those two will anchor a young, but very talented team that should once again be in national title contention and could possibly be even better than last year's team that won 34 games.
Sullinger would have easily been a top-five pick in last season's NBA Draft but decided to come back to Columbus. He is a beast down low as both a scorer and rebounder but also has a nice touch on him jumper and range out to the three-point line. Sullinger has slimmed down since last season and looks to be in amazing shape, which will only help his all-around game. He will draw a ton of attention on the block from opposing teams, which should help open up opportunities for the other Buckeyes on the perimeter.
DeShaun Thomas will join Sullinger in the starting frontcourt. The lefty has a solid inside/outside game and a knack for scoring the basketball. He will need to tighten up his play on the defensive and play bigger since Ohio State will likely use a lot of three-guard looks with Thomas at the four.
After a solid freshman season, Buford has been somewhat of enigma being overshadowed by guys like Evan Turner and Sullinger. Buford has a smooth stroke from the outside but needs to become more aggressive in attacking the basket this season to help reach his full potential.
Aaron Craft was the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year a season ago but ultimately played starters' minutes. He hounds people and plays with an edge on the defensive end. Offensively, Craft is a terrific floor general and can also shoot the ball from deep. It looks like off guard Lenzelle Smith will be the fifth starter at the beginning of the season. Smith was seldom used a year ago but has a solid all-around game. He won't be asked to do too much on the offensive end with so much talent surrounding him and will really benefit the team if he can end up replacing David Lighty as the team's glue guy.
Thad Matta has not gone very deep on his bench the past couple seasons, keeping his rotation to seven or eight players. With a lot of talented youngsters in the fold, it will take some time for Matta to figure out which reserves will play what roles, but it certainly gives him more options than he has had in previous years.
Boston College transfer Evan Ravenel figures to be the first post player off the bench. He is an active and athletic power forward who will make his biggest impact as a rebounder and defender. Ravenel holds the edge over McDonald's All-American Amir Williams due to Ravenel's experience. However, the long Williams offers more size and a shot-blocking presence, and could be called upon if Matta chooses to use a bigger lineup. Trey McDonald doesn't figure to crack the rotation and could end up redshirting. LaQuinton Ross was supposed to give the Buckeyes another frontcourt option but was ruled a non-qualifier by the NCAA and will not play for Ohio State this season.
Another McDonald's All-American, Shannon Scott will serve as the backup point guard when Craft needs a blow. The two could be used on the floor at the same time. Jordan Sibert gives the Buckeyes a shooter off the bench while Sam Thompson has ridiculous athleticism and is the definition of a high flyer. J.D. Weatherspoon figures to once again be the odd man out of the rotation.
Player to Watch: Aaron Craft, PG
It is really hard not to like this kid's game. He gives 100% on every possession, and I am not sure I have every enjoyed watching someone play defense as much I do with Craft. Despite only being a sophomore, he doesn't shy away from being a vocal leader on the floor but also backs it up with his effort and ability.