For the first time in years, the Ohio State men’s basketball team won’t be starting the season with a dynamic player that is a sure-fire first-round pick.
There will be no Evan Turner or Jared Sullinger for Thad Matta to fall back on when a critical basket is needed.
However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a sure-fire first-round pick for the Buckeyes after the 2012-13 season comes to an end.
In fact, if Deshaun Thomas continues to play like he did in the NCAA tournament (outside of the Kansas game), NBA scouts will be lining up outside the Schottenstein Center doors in Columbus.
Moreover, if Thomas fills the role of go-to scorer for Ohio State as effectively as he is capable of, there is a chance he can win Big Ten (or even national) Player of the Year.
Here are four specific reasons why.
Technically, Deshaun Thomas is a power forward. But he plays more like a small forward.
The 6’7” Thomas was usually the second tallest Buckeye on the floor last season and probably will be frequently this year. That means if the opposition is lining up in straight man-to-man defense, Thomas will be guarded by plenty of plodding Big Ten power forwards.
This is a nightmare for opposing coaches because Thomas has the ability to stretch the defense by hitting an outside shot or by driving around slower big guys. Moreover, if other teams try to put smaller players on Thomas to negate his quickness of the dribble, he has the ability to go to the low block.
No matter what type of player is guarding Thomas, there will be some area for Deshaun to exploit. That should result in plenty of high-scoring games because you can bet he won’t be passing up any of those scoring opportunities.
When college basketball fans think of Deshaun Thomas, the first thing to come to mind is probably not defense. In fact, Thomas was more of a liability than an asset on the less-glamorous side of the ball at numerous times during his first two seasons in Columbus.
It got so bad that head coach Thad Matta stopped referring to him as Deshaun, and instead used the moniker “Shaun” because there was no D in his game.
However, Buckeye fans that were paying attention probably noticed something as last season drew to a close. All of a sudden, Thomas, who used to use the other team’s possession to plan where his next shot was coming from, was playing something that resembled defense.
Thanks to an improved devotion to defense, Deshaun earned the “De” back in his name. While he will never be mistaken for Dwight Howard on that side of the floor, he should hold his own this season against the majority of opponents the Buckeyes will see.
Alright, so this is a direct result of reason No. 1 on this list, but it is still the most important part of Deshaun Thomas’ game.
Thomas scores baskets, and he scores a lot of them. In fact, he led the Big Ten conference in made field goals last season and was ninth in the nation. And that was with Jared Sullinger and William Buford on his team.
Thomas’ other offensive accolades include the fact that he was third in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage and total points scored. He also ranked seventh in points per game in the conference.
There is no reason to expect anything less than more points from Thomas this season, which will only help his chances of winning the conference’s player of the year award.
In the 2011-12 season, Deshaun Thomas averaged nearly 16 points a game, which was second on the team behind Jared Sullinger.
However, he did that as basically Ohio State’s third option (although you can make the argument that he passed William Buford up by the end of last season to assume the role of the team’s second option).
This season, the entire offense will revolve around Thomas. While Aaron Craft is a great player, he doesn’t look to create offense for himself often and the rest of the Buckeye core is not quite ready for top-offensive weapon status.
While Craft doesn’t frequently look to establish his own scoring numbers, having him running the show will only serve to benefit Thomas. He is one of the best point guards in the nation and will constantly be searching for ways to get Thomas open.
As the No. 1 scoring option on the Buckeye roster, and a nightmare matchup for any defense, Thomas should put up even more impressive stats this season, which will undoubtedly enter him in any Big Ten Player of the Year discussions.