Coming off their second Final Four appearance under head coach Thad Matta, Ohio State is ready to emerge as title contenders from another grueling Big 10 season. The Buckeyes have won at least a share of the conference regular season title each of the last four seasons, and are expected to be near the top yet again.
Evan Ravenel and leading scorer Deshaun Thomas have departed, but the Buckeyes still sport a solid core of players. Aaron Craft is the emotional leader, while guys like LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. look to expand their roles in Thad Matta's offense.
It's never pretty in the Big 10, especially with a loaded Michigan State team, but Ohio State seems to be in the mix every March.
Aaron Craft: Deshaun Thomas was the Buckeyes' leading scorer for the first 38 minutes of every game, but it was Craft that took the big shots when it mattered. He is beloved in Columbus, inspiring Halloween outfits for adorable children. Now a senior, Craft will be counted on to continue to provide leadership and handle the ball with the game on the line. He will like improve on the 30% he shot from three last season, having sported better numbers earlier in his career.
Lenzelle Smith Jr.: The other senior in a veteran backcourt, Smith has a smooth 3-point stroke and is one of the better rebounding guards in the Big 10. He will be posting up behind the arc and crashing for rebounds as a dark horse candidate for an All-Big 10 Team.
Shannon Scott: A lock-down perimeter defender, in his junior season Scott will be asked tasked with keeping the score close when Craft and Smith take a breather. Averaging 3.4 steals per 40 minutes, Scott creates havoc in opposing team's backcourts. He also added a 3-point shot to his game, adding to Ohio State's weapons from deep.
Kameron Williams: Listed by Rivals as the No. 79 player in his recruiting class, the shooting guard has drawn comparisons to Juan Dixon for his passion for the game and scoring ability. With Craft's ability to play off the ball, look for Williams to run the point for short periods in games.
Sam Thompson: An efficient scorer, the 6'7 Thompson can post up or hit jumpers from the baseline. He doesn't have the body to replace Evan Ravenel down low, but his consistency on both ends of the floor is a weapon in itself.
LaQuinton Ross: The breakout candidate. A 6'8, 220-pound specimen who can play both forward positions. Ross can shoot, shoot from three and even handle the basketball. He should make at the Second Team All-Big Ten if he doesn't crack the First Team.
Marc Loving: The other top recruit for Thad Matta, Loving is No. 68 on the Rivals 100. He is listed at 6'8, 210 pounds but should be able to add weight as his career progresses, making him an ideal candidate to be the power forward of the future.
Amir Williams: Though not a threat to score, the junior has the raw skills to be one of the better rim protectors in the Big 10. He tended to disappear in games last season, but managed a six-block performance against Iowa that no Hawkeye fan will forget anytime soon.