In the past decade, the only safer bets than assuming an Ohio State basketball player would be named to the All-Big Ten team were death, taxes and the Buckeyes beating Michigan on the football field.
Thad Matta has had a player named to the conference’s top team in every one of the past eight years, with Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft bestowed the honor in 2012-13. The second longest current streak for a Big Ten team is one season.
So who is it going to be this year? Read on to find out the three most likely Buckeyes to make the All-Big Ten squad.
While the lion’s share of the offseason attention in the Ohio State basketball program has been directed LaQuinton Ross’ way, Sam Thompson quietly has an opportunity to put together an All-Big Ten season.
The Buckeyes will look to pick up the pace in 2013-14 behind Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott’s turnover-heavy defense, which will lead to a number of different fast-break chances. That means alley-oops and crowd-pleasing dunks for Thompson.
There is more to Thompson’s game than just his high-flying acrobats, though. He led the team in three-point shooting last year (40.4 percent) and became much more of an offensive threat as the season wore on.
With defenses shifting much of their attention to Ross, who is assumed to be the top candidate to take over Deshaun Thomas’ scoring role, Thompson will have plenty of open looks. Expect him to cash in on them and continue the growth we saw toward the end of 2012-13.
As much as Ohio State fans love Aaron Craft, opposing coaches seem to as well.
Last year, Craft was named to the All-Big Ten first team by the coaches, but only the second squad by the media.
Furthermore, CBS Sports recently asked a list of coaches anonymously which player they would most like to add to their team in the entire country if they could choose one. Craft received the fourth highest amount of votes behind Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott and Andrew Wiggins.
There is a reason Craft is so coveted by these opposing coaches. His defense is unparalleled, his intangibles are something every team could use and he is a better offensive option than he gets credit for (although his jump shot definitely needs improvement).
Craft was a member of the All-Big Ten team as a junior last year when his backcourt competition included Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo. There is certainly a strong chance he will be back on the team as a senior, especially with those names no longer in the college game.
Look for Craft to be named the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2013-14 and improve somewhat on his offensive game. That could certainly be more than enough to land a spot on the squad.
LaQuinton Ross finally made the leap Ohio State fans have been waiting on during the 2013 Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. He also played a critical role down the stretch for the Buckeyes.
The key now for Ross is to extend that type of play over the course of an entire season as the No. 1 option in an offense. Doing what he did late last year with Deshaun Thomas drawing the attention of the defense is one thing, but he is going to have to create more of his own opportunities in 2013-14.
He certainly has the talent to do so, especially with Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott looking to set him up with good looks. Ross can hit the three, drive around slower defenders and even post up smaller guys, and may end up leading the Big Ten in scoring if he puts it all together consistently.
If he can improve on his defense and turnover numbers, Ross will end up being a legitimate NBA prospect come year’s end.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.