Only five programs in the history of college basketball have been to more Final Fours than Ohio State, so losing to Dayton in the round of 64 was simply not supposed to happen (even if that Dayton team did make an impressive March Madness run).
The Buckeyes' middling offense was to blame for both the postseason loss and the rather mediocre regular season in Columbus. It ranked 128th in Ken Pomeroy’s pace-adjusted offensive efficiency ratings, 208th in points per game, 227th in assists per game and 138th in field-goal percentage.
Not a single player on the roster shot even 36 percent from behind the three-point line, and the team finished with a 32.4 percent mark from downtown overall. Ohio State also only shot 68.9 percent from the free-throw stripe, so it couldn’t even take advantage of its easy opportunities.
Thad Matta discussed some of his offensive frustrations after a particularly difficult loss to Penn State during the regular season, via Bob Baptist of The Columbus Dispatch:
Converting free throws in a timely fashion, when we need them. Being where we need to be, on the same page, offensively. Spacing. Timing up the cuts with when the pass is supposed to be delivered. Penetrating at the angle we want to penetrate as opposed to 4 feet the other way. Screening the top foot (of the defender) as opposed to the bottom foot. … I could go on forever.
Considering the Buckeyes finished third in Pomeroy’s defensive rankings, the offensive struggles were even more frustrating.
Buckeye Nation will be longing for more points in 2014-15, and the only question now is whether it will receive them or not.
The most notable change in the roster is the departure of Aaron Craft. He was arguably the best defender to ever come to the program and will certainly go down in Buckeye lore, but the offense will not suffer because of his absence.
Craft struggled to convert on any open shots, which allowed opposing defenders to play off him and crowd the lane. That cut off penetration for both Craft and his teammates, which further stifled an offense that was mediocre at best from long range.
Defenses won’t have the luxury of sagging off this year with D’Angelo Russell handling the ball.
He can do a little bit of everything from the guard spot (either point or shooting guard) with a three-point stroke and an explosive first step that allows him to attack the rim. Russell finishes through contact and can find open teammates if and when the defense collapses.
Furthermore, it is only natural to wonder if Craft’s absence will open things up a bit for Shannon Scott. He is more of a natural point guard but had to play off the ball a lot with Craft. Scott is extremely quick in transition and when getting to the rim, but he needs to improve on his jumper.
While Craft’s departure may be a blessing in disguise for the perimeter offense, losing LaQuinton Ross certainly hurts at forward. Yes, Ross had the tendency to frustrate at times, but he was a pure scorer who was capable of carrying the offensive load on his back for the Buckeyes.
There will still be some familiar faces in the rotation for Buckeye fans, as Sam Thompson and Marc Loving will need to pick up the slack with no Ross.
At this point, we know what we are getting with Thompson. He is an incredible dunker and acrobat in the air and is a solid three-point shooter who came on stronger at the end of the year. He was also arguably the only Ohio State player who actually played well on the offensive end against Dayton.
As for Marc Loving, he needs to play at a more consistent level now that he will be a sophomore. He showed flashes of it as a freshman, and the fact that he has a year of experience under his belt will help. If Loving can make a jump with his perimeter shot, he will be the most improved player on the roster.
Down low, Ohio State is still stuck with Amir Williams, although he did play some of his best basketball as a junior. However, the presence of Anthony Lee will give Matta more depth and a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor. Lee can score from mid-range and on the blocks, and he will clean up on putbacks on the offensive glass.
The Buckeyes will also have a more explosive bench offensively this season.
Kameron Williams missed last season, but he can drill it from behind the three-point line and attack the rim with a ferocity that Buckeye fans are only accustomed to seeing from Thompson.
Elsewhere, Keita Bates-Diop and Jae’Sean Tate are both versatile freshmen who can play a number of different roles. Bates-Diop has a smooth stroke from the outside, while Tate is comfortable working in the lane. They will be solid complements to each other.
Ohio State’s offense will certainly improve this year, although the defense will likely take a step back without Craft. Still, more points this year will lead to a deeper postseason run.
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