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Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

Thad Matta's squad still has enough to compete for national title

Updated: October 22, 2013, 9:14 AM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | ESPN Insider

Ohio State Buckeyes

2012-13: 29-8 (13-5)
In-conference offense: 1.03 points per possession (5th)
In-conference defense: 0.95 points per possession (2nd)

If Ohio State's 2012-13 campaign was a down season for the Buckeyes, then Thad Matta has his program functioning at a level few teams reach. With yet another star player to replace and no blue-chip recruits coming in to help in the short term, Matta will be relying on improvements from within to keep Ohio State on the national radar until yet another bombshell recruiting class lands in Columbus in 2014.

Last season, junior forward Deshaun Thomas took over the heavy lifting on offense and emerged as a Wooden Award candidate. And the defense -- led by Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Amir Williams -- more than held its own. Despite the ever-changing cast of characters, Ohio State has now finished in the top 25 in adjusted efficiency on both ends of the floor in each of the last four seasons. After a mini-slump in February, the Buckeyes went on an 11-game win streak that took them to the conference tournament championship and left them one game shy of Matta's third Final Four. Down season indeed.

Ohio State now finds itself in a position very similar to last season. Thomas departed for the NBA, which might have turned out to be an unfortunate decision. Picked in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs, Thomas showed well in Summer League action, but ultimately signed overseas in France. He still might have an NBA career in his future, but another season in Columbus might have lifted his stock into first-round status. We'll never know.

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