Last season, Caity Matter was the best shooter at Ohio State, in the Big Ten, and maybe in the entire country. But as the Buckeyes head into 2005-06, Matter is gone and will be missed.
Still, Ohio State coach Jim Foster has one heck of a team coming back, and the Buckeyes were voted No. 3 in ESPN.com's preseason top 25 poll. Jessica Davenport is the best center and post player in the country. The 6-foot-5 junior led the Big Ten in scoring (19.3 points per game) and blocks (3.3 per game) and was second in the conference in rebounding (9.3 per game) and field-goal accuracy (58.7 percent) last season.
Sophomore Marscilla Packer will try to replace Matter as the team's best outside shooter, but this could be a problem all season long for Ohio State. Matter led the Big Ten in free throws (90 percent) and 3-pointers (44.5 percent).
Brandie Hoskins, a tremendously talented junior off-guard who led the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (59.6) last season, also will be asked to assume part of Matter's scoring. With Davenport consistently drawing double-teams, Hoskins and Packer will get plenty of wide-open looks -- but they need to knock them down.
Debbie Merrill, a 6-1 senior, joins the club after transferring from Cincinnati. She will play down low with Davenport in what should be a pretty good inside tandem.
Ohio State, which led the nation in field-goal percentage each of the past two seasons, will continue to be an inside-outside team. If, or when, someone steps up as the primary outside shooter to stretch the defense, the Buckeyes will be very tough to handle.
Peter Newmann is the college basketball researcher for ESPN. He can be reached at email@example.com.