Although it still may be difficult to comprehend, the Aaron Craft era in Columbus has finally come to a close. The point guard was one of the most decorated Ohio State Buckeyes ever, and for four years, his defensive greatness was what made coach Thad Matta‘s team go.
Certainly, Craft was an outstanding defender, but his offensive struggles — especially this past season — were very apparent. And from the most important position on the floor at an elite program like Ohio State, those struggles evolved into a major problem.
The Buckeyes were never able to score on a consistent basis this year, and ultimately that is what did them in. LaQuinton Ross was supposed to emerge as the go-to-guy such as DeShaun Thomas and Jared Sullinger had in past seasons, but quite frankly, that never happened. Ross is a nice player but simply nothing more. Just recently, the junior chose to enter his name into the NBA Draft meaning Matta and company will lose another key player. I can’t say that’s an early college exit that I understand.
The departures don’t end here. Also gone are guards Lenzelle Smith Jr. and Amadeo Della Valle. Smith Jr. was a solid three-plus year contributor, but his streaky shooting bothered Buckeye fans year in and year out. Della Valle is the bigger loss. The Italian sophomore looked as if he was developing into a really nice and versatile offensive weapon, but at the season’s conclusion, he opted to return overseas to pursue a professional career there.
While the Buckeyes will miss these four players, the cupboard is not completely bare. Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Marc Loving and Amir Williams all return. Additionally, Matta has assembled one of the nation’s top incoming recruiting classes centered around combo-guard and consensus top 15 player D’Angelo Russell. Furthermore, two talented transfer big men have selected Columbus as their next landing spot in Temple‘s Anthony Lee and Virginia Tech‘s Trevor Thompson. Lee is eligible to play immediately.
As it stands today, it’s difficult to predict how this team will fare come 2014-15. The roster has a lot of moving parts yet talented and interchangeable pieces. Matta is an excellent coach, and I am certain he will figure it out; however, at this point in time, there’s too much uncertainty to say that they’ll be this good or vice versa. My gut tells me this will be an NCAA Tournament team, but we’ll simply have to wait and see how it all meshes together.
Matthew Sturgeon is a College Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @OfficialSturg27