The Ohio Bobcats were one of the teams to put on Cinderella's slipper in last year's NCAA Tournament, advancing as a No. 13 seed to the Sweet 16 where the team nearly knocked off North Carolina before falling in overtime. Head coach John Groce left for Illinois, but Jim Christian comes from TCU to lead an an Ohio squad that returns all nine rotation players from last season.
Leading the charge for the Bobcats will be point guard D.J. Cooper, who really made a name for himself in the tournament. The All-MAC First Team Selection is a four-year starter bringing a ton of experience and leadership to the floor. He will once again be joined by starting wings Walter Offutt and Nick Kellogg. Offutt is a physical guard who made an immediate impact last season after transferring in from Ohio State, while Kellogg can really light it up from deep.
Reggie Keely and Ivo Baltic are a solid one-two punch in the frontcourt. Keely is more of a back to the basket player, while Baltic has a solid face up game since he can knock down mid-range jumpers.
With so much talent returning, the bench will once again be solid. Stevie Taylor, T.J. Hall, Jon Smith, and Ricardo Johnson were all effective in their roles last season and that should continue this year, though they will be pushed by a couple of new players.
The frontcourt depth gets a shot in the arm with Missouri transfer Kadeem Green, who will become eligible after the first semester. 6-8, 300-plus pounder Kenny Belton has battled injury after injury the past several seasons never full maximizing his potential, but, if healthy, provides Christian with a true bruiser down low. JUCO transfer Travis Wilkins could also steal minutes due to his three-point shooting.
Ohio also picked up a pair of transfer in Texas Tech point guard Javarez Willis and athletic forward Treg Setty from Southern Illinois. Both guys must sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules, but will be valuable additions for the 2013-14 campaign since the Bobcats will lose five seniors to graduation.
Due to all the returning talent on the roster, Ohio is the clear favorite to win the MAC. Don't be surprised if the Bobcats are once again a thorn in the side of major conference teams come NCAA Tournament time.
Player to Watch: D.J. Cooper, PG
The Chicago native has already made his mark as one of the best players in Ohio history. He enters his senior year as the program's all-time leader in assists and needs just one steal to take over that top spot. Barring injury, Cooper should also move into the top four on the Bobcats' all-time scoring list and could get to No. 1 in three-pointers. There's also a good chance he'll become the first Ohio player to earn MAC Player of the Year since Gary Trent earned that honor three consecutive years from 1993-95.