That’s far from a surprise. He’s averaging 19.1 points and 5.5 assists, both Top 30 marks nationally, and is hauling in a team-high 5.8 rebounds a contest. He has unquestionably been one of the best players in the country this season.
With Russell making noise nationally and the Buckeyes off this week, I thought it was as good a time as any to see which Ohio State players might be in line for some postseason honors.
Obviously the headliner for the Buckeyes, Russell is in contention for some national awards and a lock for some conference honors. The Buckeye freshman has put himself in contention for national player of the year awards like the Naismith and Wooden, but he likely won’t win either. ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan did not have Russell in the Top 5 of his most recent Wooden Watch (Feb. 11), though he has appeared there in the past. CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish had a vote for the Wooden Top 20 list and Russell was third on his ballot.
That is likely the ceiling for Russell in POY voting as Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky and Duke’s Jahlil Okafor have established themselves as a clear 1-2 in the race to be crowned the country’s best player.
Third is no slight on Russell and leaves the freshman in good position to be named an All-American in his first (and likely only) season in Columbus. Stat guru Ken Pomeroy has an elaborate ranking alogorithm (of course he does) for the player of the year race, where Russell is currently eighth, but he does rank in the top 10 percent nationally in 10 of the 15 categories that KenPom.com ranks.
Russell is also in contention for the Wayman Tisdale Award given to the country’s best freshman, though he is chasing Okafor in the race for that award. The Duke center is averaging 18.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game for the fourth-ranked Blue Devils.
While it appears Russell will finish on the outside looking in for national awards, though he certainly could be an All-American, the freshman should make some noise when it comes to Big Ten honors.
Russell is the top scorer in conference games, averaging 20.5 points per Big Ten tilt. The 6-5 guard is also the seventh best rebounder in conference at 7.0 per game and first in assist at 5.7. Russell is fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio in the Big Ten. He is an absolutely lock for All-Big Ten first team honors. The conference’s all-freshman team is also a forgone conclusion.
He will be right there with Kaminsky for the Big Ten Player of the Year award. It is possible he could finish behind the Wisconsin big man for national awards, but beat him out in conference if Russell finishes the season strong. Kaminsky is third in the conference in scoring and second in rebounding and is helped by the fact that the Badgers haven’t lost a conference game that the center played in.
While Russell is a shoe-in for certain postseason honors, he may not be the only Buckeye freshman to be recognized as Tate has a legitimate claim to a spot on the Big Ten’s all-freshman team.
The Pickerington native is the third leading rebounder among freshmen in conference play with 4.8 per game and is second among all players in the league in field goal percentage, connecting on 59.3 percent of his attempts in the conference. Tate is averaging 10.3 points per game in the league and the fact that he has come on lately will only help keep stay fresh in voters’ minds.
Russell is a lock for the all-freshman team as are Maryland’s Melo Trimble and Indiana’s James Blackmon Jr. It isn’t a particularly deep crop of freshman in the league and right now it would appear that Tate and Bryant McIntosh of Northwestern would be the ones in line to fill out the team.
Thompson was shut out of the conference honors as a junior, but has a real shot to find his way on some postseason team as a senior.
The Buckeye wing is second in conference play in steals with 1.9 per game and 11th in blocks with 1.1 rejections per contest. Thad Matta has repeatedly put the senior on the opposition’s best wing player and Thompson has shown he is more than capable of slowing down some of the league’s best players (ask Penn State’s D.J. Newbill about that).
Thompson appears to be the safest bet of any Buckeye to make the Big Ten’s all-defense team. He is averaging 10.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.8 assists in league play, giving him a shot to be a third-team All-Big Ten selection.
After making the team last season, Scott has a good chance to end his career with a second straight all-defense selection.
While Scott’s steal numbers are down this year – he is averaging 1.2 per game in the league (11th in Big Ten) – he is still an above average defender with some of the best hands in the conference.
For the entire season, Scott is averaging 1.9 steals a game, just off the 2.0 per game he recorded last season. He is on pace to finish second all-time in steals at Ohio State and for seniors these type of postseason honors are often as much about career accomplishments as they are about a single season.
Furthermore, defense is a lot about reputation and having made the team last year, Scott will likely repeat this season. He is averaging 7.7 points in conference and 4.7 assists (fourth). Like Thompson, Scott could find himself on the all-Big Ten third team.
It seems unlikely that any other Buckeye will garner postseason attention.
Marc Loving’s suspension may have cost him a spot on any postseason squad, though he is averaging 9.6 points per game in the conference and connecting on 45.7 percent of his three-point attempts (sixth). The sophomore could be a third team selection or an honorable mention.