Ohio State’s goals are fairly straight forward heading into the 2013-14 college basketball season.
The Buckeyes want to win the Big Ten regular season, win the Big Ten tournament and make the Final Four. If a national championship came along with that, there probably wouldn’t be too many fans decked out in scarlet and gray complaining.
But what about the individual players?
Read on to find out a goal for each projected starter this year.
If you took a straw poll of every major college coach and media member in the country and asked who the best defensive player in the game was, chances are Aaron Craft’s name would come up frequently.
However, despite the universal recognition of the excellence that is his defense, he has never won National Defensive Player of the Year honors. The 2013-14 season will be his last as a collegiate, and if Craft puts up the types of defensive performances we are accustomed to, he will be on the short list of candidates for the award.
It would almost be a type of career-achievement recognition if the voters were to go with Craft in his senior year. Sure, shot-blocking big men are forces on defense and often get the nod in votes like this, but there is much more to stopping the other team from scoring than that.
Craft should strive to be the best defender in the nation this season.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. does a little bit of everything for the Buckeyes, but because there isn’t one thing that he is a standout at, he often gets underappreciated by fans.
He is probably the best established rebounder on the roster at this point, is a solid defender, can shoot the three and slash the lane. However, the one thing that has been missing from his game during his first three seasons is a level of consistency at the offensive end.
One would assume Smith will be ready to provide that as a senior leader. With no more Deshaun Thomas in place, Ohio State is going to need its other players to pick up the scoring. It can’t all come from LaQuinton Ross, who has never been asked to carry an offense at this level before.
If Smith can consistently provide double-digit scoring, Thad Matta would be pleased.
Ohio State has a handful of players that can knock down the three, but it doesn’t have that one guy that strikes fear in opponents’ hearts like Jon Diebler did.
Asking Sam Thompson to become that is unfair, but he did lead the Buckeyes in three-point percentage last year and is in a prime position to do so again because defenses will be focusing so much attention on LaQuinton Ross. Between that and Aaron Craft’s passing ability, Thompson should find himself with plenty of open shots.
If Thompson can become a reliable three-point shooter (which we started to see at the end of last year), it will help stretch the floor for the Buckeye offense and make up for some of the production that departed with Deshaun Thomas.
Look for Thompson to be recognized for more than his impressive dunks this year.
With no more Deshaun Thomas in tow, everyone is simply assuming LaQuinton Ross is going to step up and be the next dominant scorer to wear scarlet and gray.
That’s a lot of pressure on someone who just began to show glimpses of his potential in March of his sophomore season. We aren’t that far removed from the Ross that barely saw the court following an academic-based suspension as a freshman.
Just because it is a major assumption doesn’t mean Ross won’t deliver. He has all the talent to do so and should provide more consistent results as an upperclassman. Between his slashing ability, three-point prowess and height, Ross has a number of ways to find the basket.
A first team All-Big Ten type of performance would be monumental for the Buckeyes. They are counting on Ross to be the main man in the half-court offense, and the only way the Big Ten title goes through Columbus is if that happens.
Let’s face it Buckeye fans. Amir Williams is never going to be Greg Oden, Jared Sullinger or even Kosta Koufos.
That being said, he can still play a major role in the potential success of the 2013-14 Ohio State team. Instead of dwelling on his offensive shortcomings, Williams should devote more attention and energy on becoming a force on the defensive end.
If there is one thing he does particularly well, it is blocking shots, and a bit more seasoning and directed effort could result in more than two swats a night. If Williams becomes a bit tougher in the paint and utilizes his size, he should become a better rebounder, as well.
Williams emulating someone like Dallas Lauderdale on defense would be critical for the Buckeyes.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.