While improving after losing top scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker in Jared Sullinger will be difficult, there are few—very few—areas in which Sullinger's absence will actually help the Ohio State Buckeyes.
The vacancy left by Sullinger will lead to more opportunities for Deshaun Thomas, it will give the Buckeyes more chances to score on the fast break and will allow for the much more-athletic Amir Williams to receive heavy playing time.
Let's take a look at why each of these each of these will help the Buckeyes improve after losing a two-time All-American in Sullinger.
Junior to-be Deshaun Thomas will be the Buckeye's No. 1 offensive weapon this season, as two of their top three scorers have graduated to the NBA. The third player in that scoring trio—Thomas.
The 6'7'' forward averaged 15.9 points per game while shooting an impressive 52 percent and nabbing 5.4 boards per game. Sullinger, who led the team in scoring, also led the team in shots per game—11.9. Without Sullinger's 12 shots per game, Thomas' shot-per-game mark of 12 is sure to increase.
Thomas can be a dominant scorer and knows how to score the ball when he's relied upon. In the nine games that he had at least 15 shots, Thomas averaged nearly 23 points—including a 31-point performance where he shot 13-for-22 in the NCAA. Tournament.
The All-Big Ten Second Team selection has the scoring ability to average 20 points and could be one of the top players in college basketball next year. Now that Sullinger will be gone for the first time in Thomas' college career, expect big things from the former Indiana Mr. Basketball.
This may sound crazy, but that point average and already high shooting percentage could increase without Sullinger. Not having the 6'9'', 265 pound big man slowing down the tempo of the game will allow Aaron Craft to push the ball in transition and get some easy fast-break points.
Expect Craft's assist per game mark of 4.6 as well as his 8.8 points per game to increase significantly, as he will shoulder a much heavier load of offensive responsibility in the 2012-2013 season..
As great a low-post player that Sullinger was, he wasn't very athletic and wasn't a great shot-blocker by any means—averaging just about one block per game last year.
Now that he's gone, sophomore to be Amir Williams will step in as the Buckeye's go-to big man. He's listed at 6'11'', 220 pounds, meaning he won't be the banger inside that Sullinger was. Instead, Williams will rely on his elite athleticism to block shots and get rebounds.
He will definitely need to develop his offensive game down low, but the Buckeye coaches know that Williams' key contribution will be on the defensive end.
I feel like if I prepare myself good this spring going into next fall, I think I'll live up to everything I'm supposed to live up to.
You've got to love that kind of maturity and level-headedness from the soon to be sophomore. Buckeye fans should be just a little happy that Sullinger's gone—for Williams will thrive for Ohio State in a starting role.