Tonight Kish and I will be heading to the Ohio State-Marquette game as the guests of two of our generous friends. It will be my first chance to watch an Ohio State basketball team that will feature a dramatically new look.
For the first time in four years, the Buckeyes’ roster won’t include Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith, Jr. (No Aaron Craft! No Lenzelle Smith! Sniff!) Those two players were mainstays of a series of Ohio State teams that won Big Ten championships, Big Ten Tournaments, and compiled a pretty good NCAA Tournament record.
Now they are gone, and there are some new faces. We’ll still have Slammin’ Sam Thompson at forward and steady Shannon Scott at the point, and Amir Williams and Trey McDonald will patrol the paint, but the identity of last year’s team was mostly set by Craft and Smith. Now the Buckeyes will have to find a new identity — and given last year’s shooting woes, that might not be a bad thing.
This new-look Buckeyes team seems to have a lot of talent, but it’s raw. There’s a lot of buzz about a group of freshmen that includes D’Angelo Russell, a guard who is rumored to be the lights-out outside shooter we’ve been waiting for since Jon Diebler graduated, guard Kam Williams, and forwards Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate, as well as Anthony Lee, a power forward who transferred from Temple. I’m also interested in seeing how Marc Loving, a sophomore who played well at the beginning of last season but seemed to hit the freshman wall, has developed over the past year.
It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from the Buckeyes’ first game, when they smeared UMass-Lowell, but in that contest the Buckeyes played ten-deep and pressed for much of the game. Whether Ohio State plays the press against a Big East team like Marquette tonight — to say nothing of the non-conference games against perennial powers Louisville and North Carolina that are coming up — remains to be seen. For now, we’re just trying to get to know this team and hoping that they fill the hole left by the departure of two fan favorites. I’m guessing, though, that Thad Matta thinks he’s got something here.