Key Players: LaQuinton Ross

Thad Matta isn't shy about having his stars shoot the ball. Last year Deshaun Thomas took 32.2% of the shots when he was on the floor, which was more than anyone in the Big Ten. The previous year, three Ohio State players (Thomas, Jared Sullinger, William Buford) were among the 10 highest volume players in the conference.

Now, the Buckeyes are entering the post-Thomas era, and their most recognizable star is a guy who rarely shoots the ball. Aaron Craft took a miniscule 11.9% and 12.8% of the shots in his first two seasons, and then ramped that up to 17.7% last year. Craft may get slightly more high volume (or more accurately – less low volume) but the bulk of the shots are going to be coming from other positions.

Which leads us to 6-8 junior LaQuinton Ross. 

Ross wasn't shy about shooting the ball in his sophomore season. He never started a game, and he only played 42% of the minutes, but he took 27.1% of the shots when he was in, which was more than all but eight players in the Big Ten. 38% of his shots were from beyond the arc (and he made an impressive 39% of them) and he focused more on shooting than creating. His assist rate (6.0%) was basically non-existent, and his free throw rate was lower than everyone on the team besides Lenzelle Smith.

Now the versatile forward enters a year in which it is highly likely that he'll have some sort of "break out" season. This, as usual, will be qualified by the national media in terms of standard stats of points per game, rebounds per game, etc… But the key to his season – and perhaps Ohio State's season – is whether or not he can step up in anything approaching an efficient manner. His offensive rating as a sophomore was below 100 (worst on the team). A lot of the shots he's replacing will be from Deshaun Thomas, who was one of the most efficient players in the conference.

Either way, Ohio State is stacked. They have more consensus top 100 recruits on their roster than every Big Ten team besides Michigan State and Indiana. So even an average year will land them with a decent seed in the NCAA tournament. Though making the tourney isn't Ohio State's goal. They're bigger than that. Four straight seasons they've advanced to the Sweet 16, and twice they've advanced beyond that, including the 2012 Final Four. We know what Ohio State is getting out of Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith (and to a lesser extent Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott). But if they want a chance at another Final Four (and the crap shoot that comes once they're there), then someone needs to step into the high-volume, high-efficiency role that Coach Matta covets. If LaQuinton Ross can do that, then Ohio State can play with anybody.

Key Players:

Duke, Quinn Cook

Louisville, Montrezl Harrell

Virginia, Justin Anderson