The fourth-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes will kick off their 2012-13 college basketball season Friday aboard an aircraft carrier in Charleston, S.C. There couldn't be a better atmosphere to start off what should be a special year for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes take on unranked Marquette Friday night, and it should be an easy victory that will set the tone for the rest of the season.
Thad Matta lost one of college basketball's most dominant players, Jared Sullinger, but the Buckeyes still appear locked and loaded heading into the season opener.
Ohio State is led by their floor general, point guard Aaron Craft. He sets the tone by being the nation's best perimeter defender and one of the most relentless on-the-ball players in basketball.
Craft, last year's Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, also saw his offensive numbers improve in 2011-12 as he went from under seven points per game to nearly nine points per contest. The junior averages nearly five assists a game as well and does a fine job running the Buckeye offense.
Nobody on the Ohio State roster will be on the receiving end of Craft's passes more than junior forward Deshaun Thomas.
Thomas was a scoring machine for Matta's squad last season, averaging 16 points per contest despite sharing the frontcourt with big Sullinger. His numbers will improve even more this season as he becomes the focal point of the offense.
Where will the Buckeyes finish in 2012-13?
Sophomore center Amir Williams will be heavily relied on to increase his production, as he's expected to take over the starter's role despite playing just six minutes per game last season and averaging less than two points.
Another pair of sophomores, Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott, will also need to step into much bigger roles this season after averaging a combined three points per game last year.
Despite entering the season at No. 4, Ohio State has its work cut out for it in the Big Ten. This could be the premier conference in college basketball this season with top-ranked Indiana, No. 5 Michigan and No. 14 Michigan State.
Ending the season with a top-five ranking will certainly be a tall task for these Buckeyes, but they have the leadership and scoring presence to become a dominant force in the conference and nation.