10 Storylines to Watch: Basketball Media Day
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s that time of year again. The time when football season collides head-on, without so much as a foghorn, with the start of basketball in Columbus.
Remember that sport? The one with the round orange ball that goes in the circular cylinder with the net hanging down? Players dribble it around and pass it back and forth to one another until someone decides to throw it at the hoop without getting blocked?
Starting to sound familiar?
The Buckeyes don’t actually play their first official game on the hardwood until next month, but they do have an exhibition game against Walsh in late October. Here is our breakdown of some important storylines heading into today’s Ohio State’s basketball media day in Columbus.
1. Who replaces Jared Sullinger in the paint?
This obviously going to be a much larger question than just which body they decide to use down there most often during the upcoming season. Sullinger was a rare talent, and he quickly became the focal point of just about every game he played in during his two seasons at Ohio State. The Buckeyes don’t have anyone on the roster who can replace what Sullinger gave them offensively, or on the glass, but maybe they can be a little bit better defensively.
We’re hearing good things about Evan Ravenel this offseason, but the Buckeyes need to get something out of Amir Williams and/or Trey McDonald if they are even going to begin to replace Sullinger’s presence in the paint.
2. Where will the points come from outside of Deshaun Thomas?
Photo by Jim Davidson
Deshaun is going to score, that’s what he does. He’s done it at every level, and we saw in the tournament last year just how dangerous he can be on the offensive end when he gets on a roll. The big question will be where the other points will come from on this OSU team, because it’s not just Sullinger who has to be replaced, but also William Buford. Together, Buford and Sullinger combined to score 32 points a night last season. The Buckeyes likely won’t be able to get that from two guys, so they will need a bunch of guys to be ready to score this season.
3. Is Deshaun ready to take that next step to superstardom?
This may be the biggest question facing the 2012-13 Buckeyes as they look to repeat their recent postseason success. Aaron Craft is the heart and soul of the team, and there are a lot of good young players on the roster, but there is only one potential superstar (at least right now). We know Thomas can put up big numbers at the offensive end, but this season will really test his ability to be a star player, as most opposing defenses will turn their attention from Sullinger to the guy wearing No. 1 for the Buckeyes.
4. Will this be the year Thad Matta finally uses his bench?
There is no way we are going to get through an OSU basketball media day without talking to Matta about the bench and whether this will finally be the year he extends his rotation. The answer will probably go something like this: “Sure, I would love to. I think we have some talent, but we have to see them do it in practice before we feel comfortable putting them out there in a game.”
The one difference this year is that he may need his bench. Without Sullinger and Buford, the starting lineup is going to be lacking a little firepower. Craft, Thomas and Lenzelle Smith Jr. are the three returning starters, but they have a lot of other guys who will need to contribute. That includes Ravenel, Williams, maybe McDonald, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott and LaQuinton Ross.
5. Where will the leadership come from?
Buford was the lone senior on last year’s team, but the group really followed the leadership of Craft and Sullinger. Buford became a more vocal leader during the tournament, but so did junior big man Evan Ravenel. With Sullinger and Buford gone, a lot of the leadership will have to come from Craft, but also from Rav, the only senior on this year’s OSU team. He’s only a junior, but Lenzelle Smith is probably the third guy who brings leadership as well.
6. Does Craft have to score more for this team to be successful?
Photo by Jim Davidson
Craft only averaged 8.8 points per game last season, but he does so many other things for the Buckeyes, it’s hard to then ask him to also be one of the primary scorers on offense. Without Sullinger and Buford in the lineup, he may not have a choice. Craft showed us in the tournament that he can be a dangerous scorer when called upon, and that should happen with much more frequency this season. He shot 50 percent from the floor last year, but only 36 percent from behind the arc. They need him to shoot better from outside, which he did in conference play a year ago, but they also need him to be more aggressive getting to the basket.
7. Can LaQuinton Ross be an offensive force and also play within the system?
Everyone wants to know about LaQuinton Ross. He is the international man of mystery right now because his name is being talked about for the NBA and he has yet to play a meaningful minute for the Buckeyes. Much like Deshaun Thomas, Ross appears to have limitless talent at the offensive end, but it took Thomas a whole year to really understand how to be a team player. In fact, he’s still learning that, but the Buckeyes may be forced to play Ross whether he understands that or not because of what he can give them at the offensive end.
8. How much have Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott improved during the offseason?
Photo by Jim Davidson
Two highly-recruited kids in last year’s class, Thompson and Scott both showed glimpses during their freshman seasons at Ohio State. Thompson more that Scott, but both have the ability to impact the game at the defensive end. Thompson is a walking highlight real, both as a dunker and a shot-blocker, but the Buckeyes need both of these guys to elevate their overall game as sophomores.
9.Will the Buckeyes get anything from Amedeo Della Valle as a freshman?
Take one look at Della Valle and he seems like the perfect candidate to sit over at the end of the OSU bench in one of the spots occupied by Jordan Sibert or J.D. Weatherspoon a year ago. But Della Valle can handle the basketball and he can shoot. Is he a young Jon Diebler? Only time will tell. It seems like there are too many guys ahead of him right now, but you can never have enough good outside shooting.
10. Can Amir Williams be an impact player at the defensive end even if he doesn’t give them much offensively?
This will be an interesting storyline to watch throughout the season. Williams looks a bit like a young Dallas Lauderdale, a guy who can swat shots in the stands but doesn’t give you much else at either end of the floor. He reportedly has a 15-foot jump shot he can step out and make, but what this team really needs from him is solid defense and rebounding around the rim. Highlight real blocks are great, but what separated a guy like Greg Oden is how he always managed to be in position to at least alter shots and then grab the ball off the rim.
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