The Ohio State Buckeyes have a lot of questions to answer heading into the 2012-13 season.
With both Jared Sullinger and William Buford heading to the draft, there’s a huge discrepancy as to where the points are going to come from. And the fact that the Bucks don’t have any top-ranked recruits coming into town this year makes matters worse for OSU.
Sullinger led the team in scoring and rebounding last season, putting up 17.6 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, effectively leading the Buckeyes to the Final Four where they were eliminated by the Kansas Jayhawks. Buford was third on the team in scoring, but still averaged 14.5 points and five rebounds, and knocked down timely threes when the Bucks needed it most.
Without those two, OSU will be leaning on Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft to do much of the play-making and scoring, but it’ll be on G Lenzelle Smith Jr. to pick up the slack and put up better numbers than last year.
In 25.4 minutes per game, Smith Jr. averaged a paltry 6.8 points per game, and, at 4.8 attempts per game, didn’t get enough touches to put up big numbers. But we all know he can.
I know you saw that game against Indiana.
Smith has the ability to explode for big points at any given moment, so long as he gets enough shots. He scored 28 points on 10-12 shooting in OSU’s win over the Hoosiers and 17 points on 7-8 shooting against Cincinnati in the Sweet 16. And in both games, he only missed one three.
But 4.8 field goal attempts per game just isn’t going to cut it.
Thad Matta’s new offense is going to revolve mainly around Deshaun Thomas’ lethal scoring ability, but Lenzelle Smith Jr. will be equally as important to the Buckeyes Tournament run next season.
Even though Sully’s gone, the Bucks have Amir Williams to fill up the inside. And with Thomas and Craft’s expected increase in production, they’ll be able to make up for some of the points that Buford has taken with him.
But if Lenzelle Smith Jr. can become a consistent scoring threat for OSU — just as I predict he will — expect to see Buckeye Nation make yet another deep NCAA Tournament run next season.