Yesterday, Alex took a look at how the 2010 team, with the stellar recruiting class on the way, might stack up and while things look promising long-term, the united projected to take the court this winter should be pretty damn good in their own right.
Before we get into what the lineup might look like, let's try to establish some assumptions about who is staying and who is leaving early. Mullens is gone -- you can argue with whether he's ready or not all day, but we can't fault him for wanting to take care of his family. Though Matta thinks an extra year could be worth as much as $8 million and Rick Pitino seems to agree, I would be shocked if didn't enter the draft.
While BJ may get drafted on talent alone, Evan Turner seems to be the opposite. Already accomplished, having just come off a sophomore season in which he contended for Big Ten POY honors, he would likely be a lottery pick if he elected to enter the NBA draft.
A few weeks ago, news broke that he was returning for his junior season and many of you were rightfully skeptical. Since then, he's done nothing but reiterate that, including immediately after the loss to Siena. There's still the tiniest of lingering doubts, but we're counting him back.
Same for William Buford. He has a shot you want to make love to, but until he learns to play defense and handle the ball a little better, he'll be shredding nets in Columbus instead of the NBA.
So, assuming the departure of Mullens and the return of Turner and Buford, the 2009 Buckeyes could have something they haven't had in a long time - experience and depth. Returning from a squad that finished 22-11 and earned an eight seed in the NCAA tournament are 90% of the minutes, 84% of the points, 85% of the rebounds, 98% of the assists and 92% of the steals.
And though there are no incoming recruits on the books for next year, the Buckeyes do see the return of one important component as well as potentially two other solid contributors. David Lighty will be a redshirt junior and is the lone connection to the tournament finals run of Oden and Co. The staff gushed about his leadership heading into last season and with another year of experience (albeit watching, studying) under his belt, he could be a two-way force. 2009 will also see the return of Nikola Kecman from season-ending injury as well as our first glimpse of seven-foot transfer Zisis Sarikopoulos.
So, what would the lineup look like?
Warts and all, I think PJ Hill starts the season at point guard. There may be room for a JUCO PG, but indications are anything gained from Mullens/Crater will be put toward 2010. There's a chance Walter Offutt steals some minutes at the point and we could also see a situation where Turner runs the point again, but Hill will improve. Whether he's able to create off the dribble is doubtful, but he will get better at the small things
Junior Jon Diebler will start at the two. He played nearly 37 minutes per game this season and you would have had to have been blind not to notice the improvements he made on defense. While some say he could only drain a three when unguarded, consider that he couldn't even hit those his freshman season. He will be a weapon next season.
Turner is a no-brainer at wing. We all know what he can do and next season he'll be doing all of that, only a bit better. He needs to work on his turnovers, but he could be ready to record only the 2nd triple-double in Buckeye basketball history.
Lighty returns to fill the four and though he may be a bit undersized at this spot, his versatility and defense more than make up for this. Do you think having him on the floor late in the game would have helped against Siena?
Lauderdale is your center and although he had more than his share of cringe-worthy moments this season, he'll improve as well. He may never get to his level, but Terence Dials was not exactly a dominant player in his first couple of years at Ohio State, either. He'll need to improve on his rebounding and toughness, but those can be addressed.
Looking towards the bench, you have the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year in Buford coming in to spell Diebler or Turner, Simmons and Offutt providing depth in the backcourt and Kecman, Sarikopoulos and Madsen backing up the bigs.
The lack of a true point guard still scares the hell out of us, as does the team's seeming hatred of rebounding, but you can't argue with some of the firepower outlined above. The Big Ten has a lot of young talent, so winning a conference title will be a challenge, but who knows, Titus may even have a chance to break out of Club Trillion in a couple of early season blowouts.
What about you? Who do you see starting?