By any objective standard, Ohio State had a very successful and productive 2011-12 basketball season. A Sweet 16 team that lost the B1G’s all-time leading three-point shooter (Threebler), a multi-dimensional leader (David Lighty) and a consummate team player (Dallas Lauderdale) should probably not expect to get to the Final Four, but this year’s squad reached heights that last year’s seemingly unstoppable team could not attain. For my money, last year’s team was the most enjoyable group of Buckeye ballers I’ve ever followed, and yet this year the team shone brighter on the big stage, coming ever so close to an appearance in the championship game.
This year I will probably seem a little harsh toward the bench, which we will review in today’s Part 1 and tomorrow’s Part 2. It’s difficult to grade a bench full of this many freshmen and sophomores—and with eight bench players this season compared to six last year, it required me to split the reserves over two days. I feel the bench players should be graded slightly differently than the starters, since much less is generally expected of a Thad Matta bench, and because limited minutes make evaluating the players a little bit tougher. In the end, it simply comes down to what was expected vs. performance. Let’s get to the grades:
Evan Ravenel: C
The man with the most commonly misspelled last name on the OSU hoops team (Ravenal? Ravanel? Ravenell? Ravinal? NO, Ravenel!) had a very schizophrenic season, to say the least. The transfer from Boston College had his first foray into B1G basketball—a league his physique seems perfectly suited for—and his results were hit-or-miss. He appeared in all 39 games, starting three times for an injured Jared Sullinger. He averaged 10.2 minutes, 3.4 points, and 2.2 rebounds per contest.
At times he provided a tremendous energy boost off the bench, while at other times he was a foul-prone turnover machine. His best outing for both points (11) and boards (7) came as a starter against Texas-Pan American on Dec. 3. He didn’t reach double figures again, but he did score nine points in starts at Kansas and vs. South Carolina-Upstate. He finished with nine assists, eight blocks and 10 steals, along with 81 rebounds (30 offensive). He hit 54.1% of his field goals and 69.1% at the foul line. Sometimes he was a bit lost both on offense and defense, but there were those few games where he provided some real energy to a team that was lacking that ingredient. Ravenel must improve his defense, reduce his turnovers and look for his offense more next year. He should also work on improving his free throws. If Sullinger turns pro, the Buckeyes will need a more consistent Ravenel in 2012-13.
Amir Williams: C-
Entering this season there was no freshman I was more anxious to see than Amir Williams. Throughout the season, the big guy showed glimpses of what he’s capable of. There were times I thought he should be seeing more playing time, though I’m not privy to the daily practices and am therefore ignorant to what issues the coaching staff may have with awarding him more minutes. I felt a legitimate 5 in the lineup would give Sully the freedom to wreak havoc on the offensive end at the 4 spot.
Williams appeared in 29 games, averaging 6.6 minutes and 1.7 points. He made 52.8% of his shots, but only attempted 36, as he struggled to find his spot on the offensive end. Williams provided 62 rebounds (27 offensive), five steals and two assists, but where he really shone was blocking shots. The big fella swatted 23 shots this season, finishing second only to Sullinger’s 39. To put that in perspective, Williams played more than 930 fewer minutes than Sullinger and blocked only 16 fewer shots. Three times this season he played as many as 15 minutes in a game, including at South Carolina on Dec. 17, when he scored a career-high six points. He set a career high with four blocks against VMI in November and pulled down seven rebounds in 14 minutes against Jackson State. He played nine huge minutes against Syracuse in the Elite Eight, with three points, four rips and two swats. Basically, I thought Amir looked good on the defensive end, although he was foul prone due to being overly aggressive at times. It is obviously the offensive end that requires more work, as well as the ability to earn Thad’s trust (and therefore more playing time).
J.D. Weatherspoon: D+
After showing off his athleticism last year, Spoon’s season can only be described as disappointing. Appearing in just 10 games as a freshman, largely due to academic issues, J.D. saw action in 25 games in his sophomore campaign, averaging 6.3 minutes—an increase of less than one minute per game over his freshman season. He averaged three points, with a career-high 10 on Nov. 23 vs. VMI, hitting all five field goal attempts. He also finished with five rips that night in 14 minutes of pure energy. Spoon scored eight points on two other occasions, including his longest outing of the season (17 minutes) against Jackson State on Nov. 18. He grabbed 27 rebounds (16 offensive), blocked four shots and finished with six steals and four assists. He hit 61.7% of his shots, making mostly dunks and missing most of his jumpers.
Unfortunately, his playing time dwindled once the B1G schedule started, after which he received double digit minutes only twice—playing 16 minutes Jan. 7 at Iowa and 10 on Jan. 25 vs. Penn State. He failed to score in his last five games, playing only 13 combined minutes in those contests. One plus is that he posted only two trillions on the season—a dreaded four trillion at Indiana on New Year’s Eve and a two trillion vs. Wisconsin on Feb. 26. There’s no doubt that Spoon has freakish athletic ability, but it’s unclear why exactly he hasn’t found a spot in Thad’s regular rotation. Some of his recent Twitter activity may indicate that he’s contemplating a transfer. That would be a shame, because we enjoy the flying circus that Spoon and Sam Thompson can put on.
LaQuinton Ross: Incomplete
Q’s season was derailed before it even started, when he was ruled ineligible. To his credit, he put in the work and gained his eligibility on Dec. 9, joining the team Dec. 11. By that time, it was really too late for the freshman to gain a foothold in terms of playing time. Ross was playing catch-up from the time he set foot on campus. He appeared in nine games this season, finishing with 18 points in 35 minutes—impressive when you consider he was coming in ice cold off the bench in a game’s waning moments.
He showed a glimpse of his talent in his first game, scoring five points in four minutes against Miami (OH) on Dec. 22. He matched that season high vs. Illinois on Feb. 21. He tallied four rebounds and an assist on the year, and his longest outing was seven minutes vs. Nebraska on Jan. 3. Only two outings resulted in trillions: a three trillion vs. Northwestern Dec. 28 and a two trillion at Iowa Jan. 7. Only two of his nine appearances were for fewer than three minutes. Despite his limited action, it’s clear that Ross has a very big upside and it will be interesting to see what he’ll bring next year.
Tomorrow: Part 2 (the rest of the reserves). Thursday: Part 3 (the starters).