Ohio State Basketball: 5 Bold Predictions for Buckeyes' Incoming Freshmen
Thad Matta’s 2013 recruiting class doesn’t sit near the top of any class rankings (largely because it consists of only two members), but that doesn’t mean his freshmen won’t contribute in year one in Columbus.
Ohio State could use some help in the rebounding, post presence and perimeter shooting departments, and Marc Loving and Kameron Williams bring all of that as a combined force. Neither will likely start, but each will have plenty of opportunities in the early season to earn significant playing time.
Read on to see five bold predictions for the Buckeyes’ incoming freshmen.
Marc Loving Averages More Rebounds Than Amir Williams
Marc Loving isn’t going to tower over many Big Ten post players, but his length, wingspan and athleticism will help him contribute on the glass on both ends of the floor.
He will mostly play power forward and take some of the minutes that depart with Deshaun Thomas, but he could even slide into the center spot when Thad Matta utilizes his small-ball lineup. He can score from a variety of spots on the floor, but he will truly earn his minutes through rebounding and defense.
It certainly doesn’t hurt Loving’s cause in terms of living up to this prediction that Amir Williams has struggled to establish himself as a post presence during his two seasons in Columbus. Too often he is pushed around and fails to maintain a grasp on loose balls that a 7-footer really should grab.
Thomas led the Buckeyes in rebounding last year from the power forward/small-ball center spot. Loving will do the same in 2013-14.
Kameron Williams Leads the Team in Three-Point Percentage
Ohio State was an average three-point shooting team at best last season, and it loses one of the higher volume shooters on the squad in Deshaun Thomas.
Sam Thompson was the only Buckeye to shoot better than 40 percent from downtown, and he only did so after coming on strong in the second half of the year. He and LaQuinton Ross are more than capable of becoming lethal long-range scorers in 2013-14, but they will also be facing increased defensive pressure thanks to the loss of Thomas.
That is where Kameron Williams will play a factor. While Ross and Thompson are drawing the attention of the defense, and Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott are penetrating the lane and forcing defenders to collapse inside, Williams will camp out behind the arc.
He may not attempt that many (although Thad Matta would probably be upset if he didn’t, considering his scoring reputation coming out of high school), but Williams will lead the Buckeyes in three-point percentage next season.
Both Freshmen Average Double-Digit Minutes Per Night
For as much grief as Thad Matta takes for playing a short bench and relying on his starters for too many minutes, eight different Buckeyes averaged better than 16 minutes a night in the 2012-13 season.
That will once again be the case next year as Marc Loving and Kameron Williams take the vacated spots of Deshaun Thomas and Evan Ravenel (in terms of keeping the rotation at eight, not necessarily taking Thomas’ starter minutes). While neither Williams nor Loving will likely start, both will be important contributors all season.
The key for both Williams and Loving is establishing themselves as reliable options off the bench early in the season. Ohio State will have a handful of marquee non-conference showdowns, but it will also feature a number of cupcakes on the early slate. Those are the games that each freshman has to take advantage of and show Matta what he is capable of doing.
Williams and Loving will play double-digit minutes per night in Matta’s eight-man rotation.
Marc Loving Earns a Spot on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman Team
There are a number of talented incoming freshmen in the Big Ten, but these wouldn’t be bold predictions if we didn’t go out on a limb a bit.
Many of the conference’s best first year players will be in the shooting guard/small forward roles in 2013-14, so there is an opportunity for Marc Loving to earn a spot on the Big Ten’s All-Freshman Team if he lives up to his potential as Ohio’s defending Mr. Basketball.
Loving will need to score, rebound and help out on the defensive side of the ball for Thad Matta’s squad if he wants to play significant enough minutes to earn such a distinction. His biggest competition from the power forward/center spots will likely come from guys at Indiana and Michigan.
The Wolverines have Mark Donnal, while the Hoosiers will feature Noah Vonleh (who was once a Buckeye target) and Luke Fischer. Playing time will go a long way toward determining the post players on the All-Freshman squad, which gives an advantage to Vonleh and Loving with the departures of Cody Zeller and Deshaun Thomas.
Loving will be a critical player in the Buckeyes’ rotation and earn a spot on the team alongside Vonleh.
Kameron Williams Averages Better Than a Steal Per Game
Thad Matta’s Ohio State teams are built on defense every single season, and the 2013-14 campaign won’t be any different.
Look for the Buckeyes to utilize a full-court press more often next year with the athletes Matta has at his disposal. Shannon Scott, Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Sam Thompson form a versatile and athletic core to back up super-defender Aaron Craft, and even Marc Loving and LaQuinton Ross should help on defense with their lengths and wingspans.
Kameron Williams will slide right into that mentality. His biggest asset is his propensity to score the ball on offense, but he is shifty and quick, which will prove valuable on the defensive end.
Williams will be paired with Craft or Scott when one needs a blow and will be expected to hold his own on defense. He will do just that, and with the Buckeyes’ style of play he should force a number of turnovers. Look for Williams to average better than a steal a game alongside the best defensive backcourt in the country.
Follow Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.