The most important lesson learned this season by Ohio State may be the fact that next season could be special. This year was kind of a baptism by fire after the losses of Jared Sullinger and William Buford, as Thad Matta mixed and matched various lineup combinations until he finally settled on the defensive-oriented group that served as the catalyst for the late-season charge.
The question of Deshaun Thomas’ return will dominate the early offseason storylines, but even if he takes his talents to the NBA ,the foundation is in place for the Buckeyes to have a special year. Matta will know to utilize the Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott combination more frequently, and the development of the younger players will key next season’s efforts.
Specifically, LaQuinton Ross and Sam Thompson looked like completely different offensive players in the second half of the Big Ten season. If they continue to develop over the course of an entire offseason (something that often happens between the sophomore and junior seasons), the Buckeyes should be much more formidable on offense.
Throw in stretch forward Marc Loving and sharp-shooting Kameron Williams (who should help with the three-point woes), and Ohio State will be deep and talented. Aaron Craft will serve as the senior leader and maybe even Amir Williams will improve as he enters the realms of the upperclassmen.
A return trip to the Final Four may be the result.