October 25, 2012

Big Ten media day update

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Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

CHICAGO, Ill. -- With the Ohio State men's basketball team two weeks away from its tipoff against Marquette, head coach Thad Matta and preseason All-Big Ten selections Deshaun Thoms and Aaron Craft were in Chicago to take part in the conference's annual media day. With the Buckeyes selected to finish third in the Big Ten by the attending media, Matta touched on a number of topics while previewing the upcoming season.

Missing Jared

Although the Buckeyes are coming off of a Final Four appearance and are the three-time defending conference champions, repeating such success won't be as easy in the 2012-13 season. With the loss of Jared Sullinger to the NBA and William Buford, who graduated, Ohio State has 32 points per game missing on its roster, something that Matta acknowledged would be a challenge to replace this season.

"Anytime you lose two players of the caliber that we lost, the third all time leading scorer in Ohio State history in William, who won 120 games in his four years and then there you lose a first team All-American in Jared," Matta said. "Jared is definitely one of the greatest players I've ever coached and you see that now with what he is doing in the NBA with the Celtics."

As for how the Buckeyes will go about making up for Sullinger and Buford's departures, Matta said that the responsibility can't fall on any one or two players this season.

"You can't replace them," Matta said. "That's one of the challenges you have with your guys is saying, look, I don't need you to be Jared or William, I need you to be yourselves and the best you can be."

Thomas no longer a tank

While it may not be Matta's preference, there's a good chance that Thomas will take the task of replacing Buford and Sullinger's stats onto his own shoulders. Matta has been happy with the development of the junior forward throughout his career, and he's been specifically impressed by where he is at from a conditioning standpoint.

"Deshaun has made the progress that you make from your freshman to your sophomore year. He changed his body, he's kind of changed it again, he's a lot thinner this year than he was last year," Matta said. "The light is on for him in terms of what he has to do to be a fully effective player."

The Buckeyes' second-leading scorer last season with 15.9 points per game, Thomas is known as one of the top offensive threats in the country, however, Matta has noticed that the 6-foot-7 forward is now a much more complete player than he was when he first arrived in Columbus two years ago.

"The biggest thing that I have seen is he now has such a better understanding of the game of basketball and knowing that there is a lot of different ways that he can affect the game with his rebounding and defense," Matta said. "I've been pleased with what he's done defensively in practice thus far."

Coming along

The Buckeyes have only been practice for two weeks now, but Matta's been impressed with what is a relatively young roster, that features only one senior, three juniors, five sophomores, and one freshman.

"I've been pleased with how everybody has played," Matta said. "I've seen improvement in each guy's game."

Matta has noticed the development of several players on the roster, which will be key to OSU's success as it moves through a difficult non-conference schedule and against a Big Ten conference that is arguably the strongest in the country.

"From Amir Williams making tremendous strides, Evan Ravenel being our only senior, we face the season with only one senior like we did last year. Trey McDonald has come leaps and bounds in understanding the skill set," Matta said. "LaQuinton Ross is getting the meat and the potatoes of putting the system together, which he didn't have that luxury last year. Sam Thompson has surprised us with his overall play."


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