The Ohio State Buckeyes ended the 2009-10 campaign 29-8, wining both the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles, and advanced to the Sweet 16 before losing to Tennessee 76-73. The Buckeyes were led by the consensus player of the year Evan Turner, who put up 20 points, nine boards, and six dimes a contest, but Turner has left for the NBA and Ohio State enters the 2010-11 year depending on what many consider to be the country’s top recruiting class to help them return to the NCAA Tournament.

Even with the departure of Turner, the Buckeyes still have four starters returning from last year, giving the Buckeyes plenty of experience to go along with a very electric group of newcomers. Ohio State already has one game down, taking care of North Carolina AT&T 102-61 and it was freshmen Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas who stole the show. Here is a closer look at what Ohio State will have on the court this year, plus my prediction on where they finish the season in the Big Ten.

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Frontcourt: Seniors David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale return manning the paint, while freshman Jared Sullinger is added to the mix. Sullinger debuted with 19 points and 14 rebounds, while Lauderdale chipped in 12 points and 13 rebounds. These two should form quite the duo on the inside, and the Buckeyes should have one of its best rebounding teams in years. Lighty will spend the majority of the time playing the small forward, but has the versatility to move down and play the power forward position and can also handle the ball and play the point. Thomas didn’t start for Ohio State in the opener and scored a team-high 24 points and grabbed eight boards in just 20 minutes. If Thomas continues to put up numbers like this, head coach Thad Matta might not have a choice but to find a spot for him in the starting lineup. Freshman J.D. Weatherspoon adds depth, but might not see a lot of time on the floor.

Backcourt: Junior William Buford and senior Jon Diebler are both back in the starting lineup. Buford put up 14 points and almost 6 rebounds a contest as a sophomore, and while he was the fifth leading scorer in the team’s first game, this kid is a pure offensive threat and will be depended on a lot with the departure of Turner. Diebler is a three-point specialist, and one of the best in the nation from the outside, and when he is knocking down shots, Ohio State is very tough to beat. Freshman Aaron Craft came off the bench to score eight point with nine assists, and should be one of the top options off the bench this season. Also added to the mix are freshmen Jordan Sibert and Lenzelle Smith.

Prediction – Second in the Big Ten: I believe Michigan State is the only team standing in the way in the conference, but if the freshmen continue to play like they did in the first game, Ohio State could once again be the best in the Big Ten. I look for Ohio State to only get better as the season progresses, and I wouldn’t be amazed in the least to see Ohio State win quite a few games in the NCAA Tournament, regardless if they win the Big Ten or not.

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