Buckeyes Head Into Opener With Balance, Depth

With Deshaun Thomas departed, the 2013-14 Ohio State men's basketball team lacks a go-to scoring threat. Ahead of the season opener against Morgan State, head coach Thad Matta and juniors Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson spoke about the increased balance and depth on a team that Matta has described as "unselfish."

In recent years, it's been rare to find a Thad Matta-coached Ohio State basketball team with even scoring distribution, and that's hardly a criticism as those teams have found much success on the hardwood.

The Buckeyes have reached the Sweet 16, Final Four and Elite Eight in three successive campaigns. Few programs in America can match that feat, and Matta's recipe to achieve it usually consisted of two or three dominant scorers with lesser contributions from the rest of the team.

Balanced scoring hasn't been part of the recipe at Value City Arena for years, but Matta and his men are confident they can produce similar success with steady scoring from across Ohio State's 2013-14 roster. The Buckeyes' general confidence in each other to score is spilling into how the team is approaching lineup changes, too.

"I feel like we have so many players that are capable of (taking over a game)," Ohio State junior guard Shannon Scott said before the team'S Friday practice. "Seeing the box score from (the exhibition game against Walsh), everybody had such even scoring and everybody contributing in equal ways. I feel like there won't be a time when we need one player to get 30 or 40 points… All of us as players can manage that."

If almost every player is capable of contributing their share on the offensive end, then there likely won't be any complaints about the starting lineup from this group. Junior forward Sam Thompson said he's confident in whatever combination of players takes to the court this year.

"Nobody on this team, nobody in that locker room cares about who gets called up for the starting lineup," Thompson said. "At the end of the day we all want to win and we all want to do what's best for the program. Whoever gets called to start the game starts the game and that's not going to take anything away from what we do. We're still going to play hard for 40 minutes.

"I don't think we're as top-heavy as we have been in (Shannon and my) careers. I think that the talents that everyone has will be showcased. We're such a balanced team with balanced scoring."

Time will tell if Ohio State can walk the walk when it comes to balanced scoring, but Thompson is correct in his statement about previous versions of the Buckeyes.

Former Buckeyes Jared Sullinger and William Buford were the top two scorers in 2010-11, piling on more than 17 and 14 points per game, respectively. There were few complaints, though, as the Buckeyes reached the Sweet 16 as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament that year.

The following season, Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas and Buford led the team with 17.5, 15.9 and 14.5 points per game en route to the 2012 Final Four.

The Buckeyes' top-heavy attack was even more lopsided in 2012-13 when Thomas scored 19.8 points per game, followed by now-senior guard Aaron Craft's 10 points. That combination took the Buckeyes to the precipice of back-to-back Final Fours before upstart Wichita State eliminated Ohio State in the Elite Eight.

Sullinger and Buford and long gone, and Thomas left Ohio State in the spring for the NBA Draft, eventually landing at French club AFC Nanterre. Craft is now the only remaining player that registered as one of the top two scorers during the last three seasons. There's no guarantee than any he or any other current Buckeye will ascend to the role of a dominant scorer, and based on what Matta expects from his team on the offensive end, that's not a bad thing.

"Guys are pulling for each other," Matta said. "I think we've got great depth… (The players) know what their job is. They're very selfless."

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