Ohio State Basketball: Pass/Fail for Each Player Based on 2013 Expectations
If we are judging the 2012-13 Ohio State basketball season on expectations alone, it has been a colossal failure.
The Buckeyes were ranked in the top five of the preseason AP Top 25 poll, which naturally implies that many anticipated Thad Matta’s bunch would perform as one of the best teams in the country. Its 1-7 record against ranked teams (at the time of the game) says about all you need to know about this year’s efforts.
That’s not to say this is a bad basketball team. A poor squad could not beat Michigan once and take Michigan State and the Wolverines (in the rematch) to the wire on the road.
But this article is all about expectations versus reality. Read on to see pass/fail grades for each of the eight players based on preseason expectations.
Aaron Craft: Fail
On this slide more than the others it is important to remember that the fail grade is based solely on where preseason expectations stood for Aaron Craft.
He is still one of the best defenders in the entire nation and any coach would be lucky to have Craft anchoring the team on the defensive side of the ball. Cliché or not, he has more heart than anyone else on the Ohio State roster and is clearly growing frustrated with the lack of results against ranked squads.
However, all that falls right into place with what was expected of Craft. Nobody thought his defense would fall off, meaning he has met expectations on that front.
It is his offense that has disappointed. Many Buckeye fans expected Craft to contribute more in the scoring department in his junior year, especially after the departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford.
Instead he is last on the roster among scholarship players in field-goal percentage and his three-point shooting has statistically digressed every year he has been in Columbus.
Craft may be a fan favorite and a great college basketball player and leader, but he has failed when compared to the preseason expectations many had for him.
Lenzelle Smith Jr.: Pass
Whether Lenzelle Smith Jr. receives a pass or fail grade depends on what your expectations were for the Buckeyes’ starting shooting guard heading into the season.
The fact that Smith is averaging double-digit points per game and better than five rebounds a contest is more than enough to get him a pass here. He is the second-leading scorer and rebounder on Ohio State’s team, and considering his size, the argument can be made that nobody is better at hitting the glass for Thad Matta.
His defense and three-point shooting have been passable, although Buckeye fans would probably like to see a bit more in each of those departments. That being said, nobody thought Smith would be the best rebounder on the team and he is the closest thing to a second scorer Ohio State has this season.
Sam Thompson: Pass
Many expected LaQuinton Ross to seize the starting small forward job coming into the year, but Sam Thompson earned the role in training camp. Basically, Thompson was exceeding expectations right from the start.
He will never be a true offensive force and has a suspect jumper, but Thompson provides Ohio State with energy and length on the defensive side. He also contributes in the rebounding department.
The area where Thompson has surpassed expectations is actually the spot where many believe he struggles. He is shooting 48 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free-throw line and has gradually adjusted his game accordingly to a substandard long-range shot.
By earning a starting spot and being a bit better on offense than many thought he would, Thompson earns a passing grade.
LaQuinton Ross: Fail
LaQuinton Ross earns a failing grade for the inverse reason that Sam Thompson earned a passing grade.
The expectations were higher for Ross than Thompson coming into the season, and he has not lived up to them accordingly (Thompson on the other hand has surpassed lower expectations).
Ross has shown flashes of the offensive potential that had many Buckeye fans hoping for and anticipating a breakout season. He is a more naturally gifted scorer than anyone on the roster except for arguably Deshaun Thomas, but he still hasn’t grown into a reliable option.
The silver lining is that he has played better as the season has progressed and that all culminated in a breakout performance in Ann Arbor. However, he still looks like he is on ice skates when he is trying to defend the perimeter at times and is prone to a costly turnover or two every game.
Ross may have to be the go-to scorer next year if Thomas leaves, so Thad Matta would probably prefer a quicker learning curve for Ross.
Deshaun Thomas: Pass
Ohio State fans are starting to take Deshaun Thomas’ 20-point performances for granted at this point of the season, but there were certainly some question marks heading into the year.
Many questioned whether he could be a reliable scorer without the likes of Jared Sullinger or William Buford to take away the attention of opposing defenses, especially considering Thomas’ history of suspect shot selection.
He has answered those doubts in an impressive fashion and currently leads the Big Ten in points per game. Many expected him to be the Buckeyes’ best offensive weapon, but being the most prolific scorer in the nation’s premier conference is more than even Thad Matta could have asked for.
He also leads Ohio State in rebounding and hasn’t been a complete disaster on defense. Whether Thomas is around next season for his senior year remains to be seen, but the Buckeyes’ offensive star has surpassed expectations as a junior.
Amir Williams: Fail
Amir Williams looks like he would rather be anywhere else in the world but the basketball floor at times. If an outside observer didn’t know he had such a laid-back demeanor, it would appear as if Williams was simply going through the motions during his playing time.
No Buckeye has failed to live up to his expectations more dramatically than Williams. That is in part due to the hype that accompanied him as a McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school.
Williams is averaging slightly better than four points and four rebounds a game this year, which is not what a fanbase wants to see from a second-year player who was supposed to be the heir to the Greg Oden-Jared Sullinger throne in Columbus.
Williams still has time to develop into the star that Thad Matta was hoping he would get when he landed him during the recruiting process, but the question has now become if that will happen instead of when.
Evan Ravenel: Pass (barely)
If the Ohio State basketball team was in high school, Evan Ravenel would be getting straight C’s on his report card. In other words, he is doing just enough to pass and isn’t really exceeding any expectations.
He is averaging slightly better than five points and four rebounds a game but is doing so in limited action. He was never expected to do much more than rebound and provide solid defense, which is basically exactly what he has done, albeit in less than impressive fashion.
Taller players still give Ravenel fits on both ends of the floor, but his heart can’t really be questioned. He didn’t get upset (publicly) by a loss of a starting job and has hit 55 percent of his attempts from the field.
He may seem invisible on the court at times, but Ravenel is doing exactly what realistic Buckeye fans expected coming into the season.
Shannon Scott: Pass
It is not fair to suggest that there were zero expectations for Shannon Scott heading into the season, but nobody really though Ohio State’s success or failure would rest on the shoulders of the backup point guard who rarely played a season ago.
Scott has been inconsistent all year, but he has still passed preseason anticipations. He is averaging better than 1.5 steals a contest and has an incredible assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 4-to-1.
His speed has caused issues for a number of opponents and he is gradually becoming more comfortable slashing the lane. Were it not for his efforts this week against Northwestern, the Buckeyes may have taken a crippling loss at home.
Scott’s jump shot is not where it needs to be, but that just means he fits in perfectly with this Buckeye team. His control of the ball, defensive prowess and lack of turnovers are more than enough to give him a passing grade here.