For the next month or so, our friends at The Mag are previewing one high-profile school per day for their Summer Buzz series. For the sake of all that is synergistic, yours truly will be attempting the same, complementing each comprehensive Insider preview with some adjusted efficiency fun. Today's subject: Ohio State . Up next? Illinois.
It's still too early to make 2010-11 season predictions. Instead, allow me to make a prediction about the 2010-11 preview season: In every single season preview written about the Ohio State Buckeyes, you are going to hear one name over and over: Evan Turner.
Why wouldn't you? Turner was the Buckeyes in 2010-11. Watching Ohio State play was to watch Turner dominate in the way most talented sixth-graders dominate: consistently and comprehensively. Turner was on the ball at all times. He played point guard, even though he's a 6-foot-7 wing player, mostly because it seemed like the easiest way to get him the ball. Ohio State head coach Thad Matta coached Turner and the Buckeyes the exact way you or I would coach the aforementioned talented sixth-grader: "OK, guys, let's keep it simple. Evan, go score. On three, win!"
And why not? It worked. Turner was the consensus national player of the year, Ohio State won a share of the Big Ten title, and the Buckeyes were a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament before falling short in the Sweet Sixteen.
So, naturally, the impulse when previewing the Buckeyes is to wonder: What happens now? Who scores all those points? (Turner scored 20.4 points per game.) Who handles the ball? (Turner had the third highest possession percentage in the NCAA.) Who rebounds so well from the guard position? (Turner grabbed 9.2 rebounds per game; his defensive rebounding rate ranked him No. 65 in the country.) Who finds sharpshooting teammates for wide-open looks? (Turner's assist rate of 37.4 was the eighth-highest in the country.)
Who replaces Evan Turner?
The answer, of course, is nobody. But if the Buckeyes can recalibrate their lineup well enough -- and get big contributions from much-hyped incoming forward Jared Sullinger -- that answer could very well be: everybody.
After seeing Sullinger play at the Nike Skills Camp earlier this summer, I wrote that it was easy to see the Buckeyes completely changing their style in 2010-11. That means a menagerie of players have to chip away at what Turner did all by his lonesome.
The point guard spot is still up for grabs, and Matta is hesitant to turn over the reins to freshman recruit Aaron Craft. So why not slide guard William Buford and Jon Diebler into combo-guard roles and have both split some semblance of point responsibilities in the wake of Turner's absence? This could work: Buford turned the ball over on only 13 percent of his possessions in 2009-10, while Diebler, who gave it away at a rate of 11.3 percent, was even better. The addition of Deshaun Thomas, the No. 3 small forward in the class of 2010, means Buford and Diebler can afford to play even further from the basket.
Likewise, with Sullinger and Thomas entering the fold -- joining veteran big man Dallas Lauderdale under the hoop -- the Buckeyes shouldn't need a do-everything guard to clean up on the defensive glass. Their bigs should be able to handle that responsibility in more conventional fashion: block-out, rebound, outlet, run.
Offensively, Ohio State should be more balanced. Post looks for Sullinger and Lauderdale should lead to open shots for Buford, Diebler and senior guard David Lighty. No one player needs to dominate the ball, and no one player needs to take a majority of shots. The Buckeyes' look and feel should be totally different -- less guard-heavy, less reliant on a handful of similar talents, more plodding, bigger, stronger, deeper.
It will be very, very difficult to replace the impact Evan Turner had on the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2009-10. It would be impossible to do so with one player. But if the Buckeyes can mix the unconventional (the Buford-Diebler hybrid point guard setup) with the conventional (a greater focus on interior play, and better rebounding in the post) they might find a way to replace Turner's 34.7 percent possession rate by committee. In fact, it's the only way.