November 8, 2007

Big Ten Basketball Preview - Ohio State

This is a hard preview to write. Every other preview out there starts with who is gone (something called Oden?) and how there are stud freshmen stepping in their shoes. It is true that there is another solid recruiting class coming on the heels of Oden/Conley/Cook, but I don't think this is an apples to apples comparison. Oden was a once in a decade kind of center, Conley was a top 5 player as well and Cook was top 25. That isn't just a great class that is an amazing class. The 2007 newcomers are also very good and highly rated but not quite in the same 'class' as last year's group. I could be wrong but I don't see any of the new freshmen as lottery picks in next summer's draft.

Anyway, there is still talent on this roster with Butler, Hunter and Lighty returning to go with this new class of talent. On the bright side Matta and staff will be used to teaching the A,B,C's of Buckeye basketball. Here is what the Buckeye's will look like.

PG - Jamar Butler - the only returning starter from last season's national runner-up. Butler will probably be given the opportunity to lead this team and make it his. An unselfish player who will team with Hunter to bring along the newcomers and attempt to lead them to great success once again.

SG - David Lighty - great defender and works hard at improving his game. Lighty didn't play much to start the year but eventually was a valuable contributor in the NCAA Tourney. How well he steps from a role player to a key member will be a big question for Ohio State.

SF - Jon Diebler - Ohio's all time leading scorer in high school and led the nation last year looks to be an immediate impact on the wing and maybe at the point when Butler has to sit. Diebler is a gunner and will likely shoot a LOT of 3's this year. He will be an exciting player to watch but I wonder how the grind of the Big Ten season will wear on this young body.

PF - Othello Hunter (pictured right) - He and Butler will provide the experience that should help ease the transition of the new players. Hunter is

C - Kosta Koufos - will be a lottery pick, maybe 2008 or for certain 2009. Koufos is a scorer and an all around good basketball player. Coming in right behind Oden will be an ugly shadow to start your career in but he has put in 15 and 20 in Ohio State's 2 exhibition games so hopefully he can become his own player.

Key Bench - Matt Terwilliger - 6'9" F/C, junior, kind of unknown as he was buried behind Oden and Hunter last year. Needs to become more productive and consistent.
Key Bench - Eric Wallace - 6'5" freshman, strong rebounder.
Key Bench - Evan Turner - 6'6" freshman, excellent defender and scorer. Through the 2 exhibition games Turner played the most min off the bench.
Key Bench - PJ Hill - JUCO transfer who will see time as the backup PG. Has won his high school's state championship and a JUCO national championship in consecutive years. Wouldn't it be a feat to win that next big championship?

Prediction - there are a lot of newcomers with tremendous talent on this team. But what will really help this team is their returning experienced players. What gets lost in the hoopla surrounding their 2nd straight outstanding recruiting class is the fact that they are starting 2 seniors and a talented sophomore who has been tourney tested. Butler, Hunter and Lighty will ease the transition of Koufos, Diebler, Wallace and Turner.

Ultimately this team isn't as good as last year (for now). I think they'll finish a tight 4th place at 13-5 in the league. By the time March comes around they could be one of the most dangerous teams in the country.

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