Ohio State Basketball: Best-Case Scenarios for Projected Starters in 2013-14
Every college basketball offseason is filled with best-case and worst-case scenario projections. The irony is the truth almost always lies somewhere in the middle, albeit at the individual level or for the team as a whole.
That being said, let’s play the optimism card here and discuss what the best-case scenarios are for each projected Ohio State starter in the 2013-14 season.
There is no more Deshaun Thomas in place to lead the Big Ten in scoring, so the Buckeyes could use the actual production to mirror these hypotheticals if they want to challenge for another Final Four.
Point Guard: Aaron Craft
13 PPG, 6 APG, 4.5 RPG, 2.5 SPG
Aaron Craft will always be an absolute defensive force, and a best-case scenario season for him would include a much-deserved national defensive player of the year award, but his offensive game will be the focus of much attention and angst in Buckeye Nation.
In the second half of last season, Craft reinvented his offensive attack by driving the lane and settling for fewer perimeter shots, even if they were open. He saved some of his best scoring games of his career for critical moments, such as versus Indiana and Michigan State late in the year and once again against the Spartans in the Big Ten tournament.
A best-case scenario 2013-14 for Craft would include an increase in his point totals to about 13 a game and a rise in his assist numbers to six. He can reach those totals by penetrating more and either finishing at the rim or hitting open shooters. That type of season would also feature more rebounds and, of course, another incredible season-long defensive effort.
Shooting Guard: Lenzelle Smith Jr.
11 PPG, 3 APG, 6.5 RPG, 1 SPG
There is a very real chance that Lenzelle Smith Jr. will play fewer minutes than the shooting guard combination of Shannon Scott and Kameron Williams, but Smith will be the starter.
A best-case scenario season for Smith would include first and foremost more consistency. His entire career he has been a player who is capable of dropping 20 at any instance or completely disappearing for an entire game. That must change in 2013-14 for the will-be senior.
Solid production along the lines of 11 points and three assists would be more than enough for Thad Matta. That type of effort would also include the typically strong defense that Smith brings to the table.
The intriguing thing about Smith as compared to the other shooting guards on the roster is his rebounding prowess. He is the leading returning rebounder for the Buckeyes, and the argument can be made that he is the best at hitting the boards on the entire roster.
A best-case scenario season for Smith would include an impressive effort on the boards.
Small Forward: Sam Thompson
15 PPG, 1.5 APG, 5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1 BPG
Where Ohio State will find a way to replace the lost production of Deshaun Thomas is still the dominating storyline heading into the 2013-14 for the Buckeyes, regardless of Thad Matta’s recruiting efforts or anything else.
The presumed assumption is that LaQuinton Ross will fill Thomas’ alpha role, but Sam Thompson is set to fly under the radar as a dominating scorer himself. The Scarlet and Gray will look to run more this season, and the high-flying Thompson will be the primary benefactor of that style.
Look for Thompson to finish a number of Aaron Craft or Shannon Scott lobs in transition and continue to improve his three-point shot. A best-case scenario season would feature Thompson scoring 15 points a night thriving in those types of situations.
In this hypothetical, Thompson will also continue to play formidable defense thanks to his length and athleticism. The result would be a block and better than a steal per night.
Power Forward: LaQuinton Ross
19 PPG, 1 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1 SPG, .5 BPG
This is it for LaQuinton Ross. This is the moment and the season that he has been waiting for since he stepped foot in Columbus as a highly regarded recruit with the sweet stroke from behind the three-point line.
Ross will be the alpha scorer for the Buckeyes in 2013-14 from the get-go, and whether he can thrive in that role with the additional defensive attention or not will define much of Ohio State’s success or failure to live up to expectations.
A best-case scenario season would see Ross average nearly 20 points a game (a la Deshaun Thomas’ Big Ten best totals last year) and improve his three-point percentage significantly (which was below 40 percent in 2012-13). He would also play better defense and cut down on the turnovers.
As long as Aaron Craft is on the roster, Ross won’t be the emotional leader for this Buckeye squad, but Thad Matta is going to need Ross to carry the half-court offense at times this season. Whether he can or not will be one of the most interesting storylines in the Big Ten.
Center: Amir Williams
8 PPG, .5 APG, 8 RPG, 2 BPG
As long as Amir Williams is part of the Ohio State basketball team, Buckeye fans will have something to complain about.
Thus far in Williams’ career, those complaints have been valid. He hasn’t lived up to the McDonald’s All-American status granted him coming out of high school and continues to befuddle Buckeye supporters with his inability to catch passes or rebound.
A best-case scenario season for Williams would mean he finally turns the corner. That wouldn’t necessarily involve dominating production, but the frustrating mistakes he is prone to making would disappear, and his defense would set him apart from the other post players on the Buckeye roster.
Something along the lines of eight points, eight rebounds and two blocks would be more than enough from Williams. He will never be Greg Oden or Jared Sullinger, but is Dallas Lauderdale too much to ask for?
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.