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College Basketball Preview: 7. Ohio State Buckeyes

Aaron Craft

7. Ohio State Buckeyes 31-8 in 2011 (13-5 Big Ten)

The talent coming into 2011 was frankly impressive. Jared Sullinger was dominant down low, Deshaun Thomas could score automatically and Aaron Craft was beginning to be dominant. The season ended with a Final Four loss to Kansas. Now, Thad Matta's club has just as much talent but in the tough Big Ten is it enough to get to a Final Four? Maybe, if Deshaun Thomas becomes the next Sullinger and Craft continues to improve. Those don't seem like big ifs but they could mean the difference between a disappointing tournament exit and a run to the championship.

Backcourt: Matta found a true gem in Craft. Craft is one of the best passers in the nation, can force turnovers on defense and can score occasionally. His numbers should continue to multiply maybe even his 98 steals last season. Lenzelle Smith should start opposite him, at the shooting guard spot and could end up being dangerous. Smith can shoot and has the size to be able to drive and make shots underneath. Sophomore Shannon Scott disappointed in his first season with the Buckeyes but has the potential to have a fantastic second year. Want a dangerous shooter? How about powerhouse Findlay Prep star Amedeo Della Valle. He'll shoot a lot and he'll usually make them and provides a nice change of pace at shooting guard from Smith. Expect walk-on Alex Rogers to see some minutes with little depth.

Deshaun Thomas
Frontcourt: Expect Deshaun Thomas to be the Buckeyes top frontcourt option without Sullinger. As the team's third scoring option (behind Sullinger and Buford) Thomas had 15.9 points per game including a dominant NCAA tournament. Expect that 15.9 to jump all the way to a chance at 20 a game. Center Amir Williams is a rebounding machine but didn't get the minutes to prove it. He has the size to be truly dominant and has the smarts to be effective. Sophomore Trey McDonald should back him up. McDonald is more of a threat to score but doesn't have the ability to block or rebound the way Williams does. Boston College transfer Evan Ravenel provided a solid big man up front that Matta could count on. He shouldn't score in bunches but is a tough defender and plays hard. LaQuinton Ross finally has a chance to play which means Matta has a rebounder that can score more than Ravenel or Williams. Another sophomore, Sam Thompson will block shots left and right, swatting one every 24 minutes.

Top NBA Prospect: Deshaun Thomas
Big Ten Rank: 3rd
PG Aaron Craft- Junior
SG Lenzelle Smith- Junior
SF Deshaun Thomas- Junior
PF LaQuinton Ross- Sophomore
C Amir Williams- Sophomore
Sixth Shannon Scott- Sophomore

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