Although the attention of Buckeye Nation is currently focused squarely on Urban Meyer and the Ohio State football team, the basketball season is just around the corner.
The Scarlet and Gray figure will once again be Big Ten title contenders and potentially even challenge for a return trip to the Final Four after coming up one game short last year. Despite the Buckeyes’ position as conference contenders, there are still some things to cross off the offseason to-do list.
Read on to find out what they are.
There has been considerable hype surrounding Thad Matta’s 2014 recruiting class for quite some time now since the early commitments from Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate, but Ohio State is still missing an impact big man.
Yes, Dave Bell figures to contribute down the road, but there isn’t enough depth in the cupboard behind the inconsistent Amir Williams for Matta to feel comfortable with a long-term project. That is the main reason he has swung with the fences pursuing the likes of Jahlil Okafor, Myles Turner, Elbert Robinson and Goodluck Okonoboh.
Unfortunately for Matta, things are looking bleak at the moment on the big man front. Robinson and Okonoboh recently committed to LSU and UNLV respectively, and Okafor trimmed his list to four with the Buckeyes nowhere to be seen.
That leaves Turner on that list of elite big men, and many have assumed he is Kansas bound. If Matta can get him on campus for an official visit, perhaps Ohio State can garner some momentum, but he is yet to do so this offseason.
Keeping everyone healthy should be on the offseason to-do list for every college basketball team, and Ohio State is no different.
The reason that it is so imperative for the Buckeyes to stay injury free is because Thad Matta only has six returning players that saw meaningful minutes during the 2012-13 season. Yes, freshmen Marc Loving and Kameron Williams are expected to contribute, but the jump from high-school production to Big Ten success isn’t an immediate guarantee.
Furthermore, for as much criticism as Amir Williams receives, there really isn’t any depth behind him on the post. Trey McDonald is unproven, and Loving doesn’t have the size to contend down low for 40 minutes a night with some of the physical presences in the Big Ten.
Ohio State needs to stay healthy with the season approaching.
Thad Matta needs to use the rest of the offseason to develop his freshmen for the same reason that the team needs to stay healthy.
Depth could be somewhat of a concern for the Buckeyes this year, especially if Marc Loving and Kameron Williams don’t contribute like they are expected to. Fortunately for Ohio State, there is plenty of talent to go around between these two, so a solid offseason should prepare them for the grind of the regular season.
Look for Loving to play at the power forward position at times while also occasionally spelling Amir Williams as the de facto big man in Matta’s small-ball lineup. Loving may not have the strength necessary to play center for an entire game against Michigan State, but he has the versatility to play it in spurts.
Williams could be a scoring spark plug off the bench the same way that Nate Robinson was for the Chicago Bulls last year.
At this point, it has become clear that Amir Williams isn’t going to turn into a Greg Oden or Jared Sullinger overnight. Just because he hasn’t followed in the footsteps of those former McDonald’s All-American big men doesn’t mean he can’t be productive as a junior.
The Buckeyes should use this offseason to prepare Williams for a more specialized role. It may be best to focus less on the offensive side of the ball and more on defense and rebounding.
If Williams can find a way to mold himself after someone like Dallas Lauderdale, the Buckeyes would be in solid shape. There are other scoring options on this roster, but rebounding and interior defense could be two issues.
A season along the lines of two blocks and eight rebounds a night out of Williams would work just fine for Ohio State.
Last season Amedeo Della Valle spent the majority of the time at the end of the bench, serving as late-game entertainment for the fans that stuck around to the end of early season blowouts.
That could very well be the role that Della Valle plays again as a sophomore, but there are some pieces to his game that the Buckeyes could use in important minutes.
For one, he has the potential to develop into a lethal three-point shooter if given the opportunities and open looks. Considering the fact that only Sam Thompson shot 40 percent from downtown for the Buckeyes last year (and he was right at 40), better three-point shooting is imperative in 2013-14.
Della Valle actually won MVP honors this summer at the U-20 European Championships by leading his Italy squad to the title. Perhaps Thad Matta can find a way to harness that talent in a productive way for Ohio State this offseason.
Follow and interact with Ohio State basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.