The issues that will determine whether Ohio State has a successful 2013-14 season are fairly well-established at this point.
The Buckeyes will have to replace the scoring of Deshaun Thomas, continue to play excellent half-court defense and hope Amir Williams develops into the player he is supposed to be.
However, we have learned some things about Thad Matta’s program during this offseason outside of those critical focus points. Read on to see five of them.
The past few recruiting cycles have been fairly lackluster for Thad Matta, but the 2014 group will be one of (if not the) best in the country.
He recently picked up a commitment from guard D’Angelo Russell out of Louisville. Russell is considered one of the top 25 players in his class and joins a loaded group that already includes Jae’Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop and David Bell.
Tate and Bates-Diop are also two of the best players in the class of 2014, and Bell is an intriguing prospect who should improve the longer he is on campus. Bell also provides some much-needed size and rebounding ability for Ohio State.
While many programs would be thrilled with that coup, Matta is far from done. He is still going hard after top prospects such as the nation’s No. 1 player, Jahlil Okafor. Point guard Tyus Jones, among others, is in the mix as well.
Look for another big name or two (one of which will be a center) before Ohio State’s 2014 class is all wrapped up.
Ohio State’s 2013-14 nonconference schedule is not complete yet, but the dates that are in place present a handful of challenges for the Buckeyes.
The Scarlet and Gray will lock horns with the Ohio Bobcats for the first time since OU knocked off the Buckeyes in 1994. That is 19 years between dates, which is entirely too long for these two in-state schools, especially considering Ohio’s recent success.
The Buckeyes also have a scheduled trip to Marquette, a neutral-court showdown with Notre Dame and an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game against Maryland.
Of course, the Terps will be in the Big Ten soon enough, but for this season it is still a nonconference battle.
Look for Ohio State to add another intriguing game or two to the schedule before the season tips off.
While Ohio State will be challenged in the nonconference portion of its schedule, the Big Ten slate will be a bit softer than it was a season ago.
Not only will the conference take a small step back from its incredible depth a year ago with the losses of such stars as Trey Burke, Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller, but the Buckeyes only have to play Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin one time each.
Those are three of the five or six realistic contenders for a league title. Thad Matta’s bunch got a bit of a break from the scheduling gods.
What’s more, Ohio State doesn’t have to go to Northwestern this season, a place at which it has struggled recently. The Wildcats are always scrappy, but they pose less of a challenge when they are on the road than at home.
Chris Jent has been an assistant on Thad Matta’s bench the past two seasons and was basically Ohio State’s basketball version of an offensive coordinator.
His well-respected resume includes helping LeBron James with his jump shot and a number of stints in the NBA. He was also an impressive recruiter during his two seasons in Columbus.
Jent accepted a coaching position with the Sacramento Kings this offseason, which left a gaping hole in the Buckeyes’ coaching staff. Greg Paulus, who has served as Ohio State’s video coordinator the past two seasons, was promoted to fill the vacancy.
That puts a lot of pressure on the young Paulus, who would love to parlay his experience in Columbus into a head coaching job one day. He will certainly be asked to deliver in 2013-14.
In the majority of profiles and scouting reports regarding incoming freshman Kameron Williams, his shooting stroke has been the main point of focus. Considering Ohio State’s lack of consistent three-point production since Jon Diebler graduated, that certainly makes some sense.
Thad Matta could use a pure scorer to come off the bench and give a squad that often struggles to score in the half court a lift. Williams will certainly be an option to fill that role.
Thanks to all the focus on his three-point shot, though, many Buckeye fans failed to grasp Williams’ athleticism. Then the highlights from the West Coast All-Star Classic slam dunk competition leaked online, and many realized Sam Thompson may have some competition in the pregame dunking lines.
The Williams show starts at the 29-second mark of the video.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.