Ohio State Basketball: Final Report Card for Buckeyes' 2013-14 Season
The Ohio State basketball team that had such high expectations coming into the 2013-14 season saw its campaign crash and burn in shocking fashion in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Dayton.
The Buckeyes and Flyers traded baskets and momentum down the stretch, but Vee Sanford had the last laugh when he hit what turned into the game-winning shot over Aaron Craft’s outstretched hand. Craft’s attempt at the buzzer rolled off the rim, and Ohio State fans everywhere immediately turned their attention to spring football.
With the season officially in the rearview mirror, let’s hand out some final grades for the 2013-14 Buckeyes.
Aaron Craft: B
The Dayton game was something of a microcosm of the entire season for Craft.
He did so many great things, but he couldn’t quite push the team to the next level, just like his final shot missed even though he had just hit an incredible reverse layup in traffic to give the Buckeyes the lead on the previous possession.
Perhaps the biggest criticism for Craft this season was the fact that he tried to do far too much down the stretch of a number of close games. Sometimes it worked, such as the contests against Notre Dame and Wisconsin but sometimes it didn’t (like against Michigan).
Craft’s tendency to force the issue was a primary reason that he turned the ball over a career-high 2.6 times a game this year.
Despite these criticisms, he is the all-time assists and steals leader in program history (and the all-time Big Ten leader for steals), both marks that he added to this season. He finished with 9.8 points, 4.7 assists and 2.5 steals a game and played the type of game-changing defense that he always does.
Still, as the team leader, the disappointing finish has to at least somewhat fall on his shoulders.
Lenzelle Smith Jr.: C+
Fans grew very frustrated with Lenzelle Smith Jr. as the season progressed.
After all, he was one of the two seniors who saw significant minutes on this team and was supposed to step up on the offensive end. While he did average a career-high 11 points a game, he shot a career-worst 42.6 percent from the field and only shot 33 percent from downtown.
What’s more, Smith never really stepped up as a senior to take over any games this year on a consistent basis. He wasn’t the late-game scoring presence Thad Matta was probably hoping for this year, which was especially troubling given the lack of offense on the entire roster.
To Smith’s credit, he did average better than five rebounds a game and played solid defense, but he just wasn’t the senior leader that so many expected.
Sam Thompson: B-
Sam Thompson kept Ohio State afloat against Dayton in the second half with an offensive flurry and absolutely deserved a victory in the tournament game.
Thompson averaged 7.9 points and 2.7 rebounds a game this year, but he really turned the corner when he was moved from the sixth man into a starting role. Thompson never really looked comfortable coming off the bench in the early season, but his individual production improved when Matta made the move.
Thompson only shot 35 percent from behind the three-point line on the year, but he was much better in that area as the season progressed.
Thompson also gave solid energy on the defensive end and disrupted plenty of offenses with his length and athleticism. Still, it’s hard to give someone who statistically didn’t impact the game that much over the course of the year a better grade than a B-.
Thompson needs to score and rebound more consistently next season as a senior if the Buckeyes hope to advance deep in the NCAA tournament.
LaQuinton Ross: B
LaQuinton Ross was under immense pressure from the moment Deshaun Thomas decided to end his career in Columbus a year early.
Ross was supposed to be the alpha-scorer who carried the offense throughout the season. We saw glimpses of it early and more of it late, but the 15.2 points a game mark needed to be about three points higher for him to truly carry the offense. Still, he was the best offensive player on this team by far, which deserves positive recognition.
He also led the team in rebounds at 5.9 per night but only shot 35 percent from behind the three-point line, averaged less than one assist a game and is still a work in progress on the defensive end. As the focal point of the offense, Ross should have averaged at least a couple assists a night given how much attention opposing defenses directed toward him.
Ross also had issues keeping his emotions in check and was even ejected in the Northwestern game. Assuming he does come back for his senior season (which is a big assumption), Ross needs to maintain his composure even when he is struggling in individual games.
Amir Williams: C+
Amir Williams catches a lot of criticism from Ohio State fans and much of it is justified.
After all, he still has issues catching passes and finds himself in foul trouble nearly every game. He also struggled to contain physical centers on the post and still hasn’t become the offensive force that he should be at nearly 7'0" on the block.
That being said, Williams did play the best basketball of his career this season. He averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, which were all career highs. The Buckeyes also saw a drop off in production in a number of games that Williams had to leave early with foul issues.
The hope within the Ohio State program is that Williams makes another leap as a senior. However, the fact that he misses so much time with fouls and still hasn’t lived up to the expectations that were in place when he arrived on campus have to be held against him when dishing out grades.
Shannon Scott: B –
Shannon Scott has so much potential that it’s actually more frustrating from an Ohio State fan’s perspective that he isn’t a better player. Just look at the game he had against Michigan in the Big Ten tournament semifinals when he posted 18 points, six assists, five rebounds and three steals.
Still, performances like that were few and far between for the athletic guard.
The problem is that Scott’s game mirrors Craft’s. Both are terrific defenders who have trouble shooting from the outside, so when they are on the floor together defenses can just sit back in the lane and choke off any penetration.
Craft won’t be around next year, so Scott will be tasked with running the team (along with recruit D’Angelo Russell). Look for the Buckeyes to get out in transition more often with Scott at the helm.
Scott gets an A for his defensive effort this season and a C for his offense, so it cancels out to a B-. His outside jumper (30 percent from downtown) just wasn’t there, and the nearly two turnovers a game were concerning as well.
Marc Loving, Amedeo Della Valle, Trey McDonald: C –
The rest of the players on Matta’s bench get lumped into one grade because as a whole they were all disappointing.
Yes, we saw glimpses of what each can do. Marc Loving almost won the game at Illinois single handedly with a hot stretch in the second half, Amedeo Della Valle was critical in the comeback in the Big Ten tournament against Nebraska and Trey McDonald was at least something of a presence when Williams got in his inevitable foul trouble.
Still, Loving only averaged 4.4 points and 1.7 rebounds a game, while Della Valle averaged 4.0 points and 1.8 rebounds. Both were supposed to provide scoring punch off the bench but instead we saw a barrage of bricks far too often.
What’s more, both Loving and Della Valle looked lost on the defensive end far too often, which is certainly not going to win any points in Matta’s defensive-oriented game plans.
If Ross elects to go pro next year, Loving will be expected to step up his game on the offensive end.
Thad Matta: B
Ultimately, the fact that Ohio State failed to live up to its preseason expectations falls at the feet of the coach.
Still, considering the obvious flaws in the Ohio State roster this year, the fact that Matta got it to the Big Ten tournament semifinals, won more than 20 games and had the team ranked in the top 10 at times is certainly notable.
Even if Matta drew up perfect game plans and had his team playing elite defense, there was nothing he could do to will more perimeter shots to go through the net.
Fortunately for Buckeye fans, Matta is an excellent recruiter, which is just as important as the X’s and O’s at the college level. Columbus will be treated to the spoils of Matta’s efforts on the trail next season, which helps his grade for this exercise.
After all, the only way to win consistently is by bringing in the best players possible.