Let’s be perfectly honest.
Thad Matta is a great college basketball coach who has done wonders for the Ohio State program. He has led them to two Final Fours, multiple Big Ten regular season and tournament crowns and has pumped players into the NBA at a rate that is unheard of in Columbus.
However, it seems like he is allergic to using his bench sometimes.
But the Buckeyes will be without two-time All-American Jared Sullinger and the criminally, underrated William Buford in the 2012-13 season. Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas are both great in their own right, but they are going to need some help.
And some of that help may just have to come from the bench.
The good news for the Buckeye faithful is that there are plenty of capable options at Matta’s disposal this year. Assuming Craft, Thomas, Amir Williams, LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. are the five starters, here are four of those options that will play their way into the Ohio State rotation.
Shannon Scott was supposed to be a primary part of the Ohio State rotation last season.
He came to Columbus as a highly-touted McDonald’s All-American and was the primary reason why Thad Matta didn’t recruit Columbus-native Trey Burke. Considering the type of year Burke had as a freshman, Buckeye fans would probably like to see more production from Scott the second time around.
Scott will play his way into the rotation this year, in part, due to his versatility. He will provide Aaron Craft with a much-needed rest at times but can also play beside him at the shooting guard spot.
That backcourt combination was something Matta used toward the end of last season, including in critical minutes in the NCAA tournament.
Scott will play a larger role this season based on the potential of that backcourt combination alone. Craft and Scott together gives Matta more speed to work with, which can lead to full-court presses, an up-tempo attack and more opportunities for fast breaks.
In the somewhat monotonous and slow-paced Big Ten, this backcourt could be an ace up Matta’s sleeve—but it is up to Scott to fulfill his potential.
Ohio State fans hope Sam Thompson plays his way into the rotation just so they can see more of the vast array of aerial displays that he is capable of busting out at any given moment.
Nevertheless, Thad Matta is going to need the 6’7” forward to do more than just entertain the crowd with dunking demonstrations if he plans on contributing more.
William Buford, Jordan Sibert and J.D. Weatherspoon are gone (the last two because of transfers), so Matta will probably ask Thompson to play anything from shooting guard to power forward when he comes off the bench.
Nobody is going to mistake Thompson for Reggie Miller when he shoots from the perimeter, but he is capable of providing defense, rebounding ability and infectious energy thanks to his length and versatile athleticism.
If he does all that, expect Thompson to be on the floor for extended minutes this year.
Evan Ravenel is not the household-name superstar that Jared Sullinger was for the Buckeyes.
Evan Ravenel does not have the athleticism or shot-blocking abilities that Amir Williams provides for the Buckeyes.
But Evan Ravenel has the willingness and ability to do the so-called “dirty work” for the Buckeyes that is required in the gritty Big Ten. And that makes Ravenel a serious candidate to play himself into the rotation as perhaps the first man off of Thad Matta’s bench.
With Sullinger gone, the Scarlet and Gray are noticeably thin in the paint. It is basically Williams, Ravenel and Deshaun Thomas, although Thomas isn’t exactly known for his physicality or work in the low block.
The most important services that Ravenel can provide for Matta and company are fundamental defense and a desire to grab every rebound that comes his way.
Ravenel constantly frustrates opponents with his physical approach on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, without his defending of Draymond Green down the stretch of last year’s final regular season game in East Lansing, the Buckeyes would have one less Big Ten Championship on their resume.
It is that type of effort that will endear the big man to Ohio State fans in 2012-13.
Ohio State seemingly had everything a college basketball team could ask for last year. There was a superstar in the paint, a dangerous and versatile scorer on the wing and a gritty point guard who directed the offense and played better defense than anyone else in the country.
But there was something missing.
The Buckeyes didn’t have a single consistent three-point shooting threat on the roster. Believe it or not, starting center Jared Sullinger actually led the team in three-point percentage.
That is precisely why Amedeo Della Valle can play his way into Thad Matta’s rotation, despite the fact that he was a lightly-regarded recruit coming out of high school.
He reportedly shot better than 50 percent from downtown during his one season at Findlay Prep, which are numbers that may remind glass half-full Buckeye fans of a certain sharp-shooter named Jon Diebler.
Furthermore, Della Valle can give Matta a reliable free-throw shooter that he can use down the stretch of close games and a lengthy defender that could help counteract taller guards in the Big Ten, such as Tim Hardaway Jr., Garry Harris and Victor Oladipo.
Not bad for someone that few big-time programs even gave a second look to during recruiting season.