Buckeyes will have plenty, even without Oden and Co.
Don't cry for Ohio State. Even after losing Greg Oden and maybe Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook, they should be quite formidable next season, writes Andy Katz.
Ohio State will be fine. Maybe even better than fine. Maybe NCAA Tournament/Sweet 16 fine.
You see, no one outside of Ohio State seems too concerned about the Buckeyes' plight. Even the Buckeyes' coaches and staff aren't whining, either.
Will Ohio State be a Final Four team next season without Oden and Conley, let alone Cook and seniors Ron Lewis and Ivan Harris, too? Probably not, but the Buckeyes shouldn't drop that far, staying in contention with Michigan State and Indiana for a possible Big Ten title in 2008.
"Ohio State had a great year," Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. "But the difference is that that they have a very good program. It wasn't just a great team."
Here's why everyone is so high on the Buckeyes, even sans Oden, Conley and friends: The Buckeyes return Jamar Butler at the point, where he will be a senior playmaker. He already has led the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title (as a sophomore) before the Thad Five arrived.
Freshman David Lighty likely will be one of the team's top defenders. He seems poised to become one of its top shooters as he improves on his skill work.
The shooters are there in droves with the arrival of Jon Diebler, the all-time leading scorer in Ohio high school history, and Evan Turner.
The frontcourt will be as deep as any team in the Big Ten with incoming freshman Kosta Koufos, a 7-foot-1 3-point shooter who can handle the ball, post up, rebound and block shots.
"He's good, very good," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Add Koufos to returning seniors Matt Terwilliger and Othello Hunter as well as Vanderbilt transfer Kyle Madsen -- Oden's main opponent in practice this past season -- and freshmen forwards Dallas Lauderdale and Eric Wallace. That crew makes the Buckeyes deeper than they were inside this past season.
"When Oden got into foul trouble in the NCAA Tournament, [Hunter and Terwilliger] did a great job," Pearl said. "People forget what kind of job Hunter did off the bench. He doesn't get nearly the credit he should. And Terwilliger is formidable. Ohio State maybe didn't expect to lose Conley and Cook so quickly, but they'll respond."
Syracuse followed up the post-Melo title season with a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2004.
"Obviously it's not going to be the same level, but they'll still end up being a good team," Boeheim said. "But it will be different without those two players [Oden and Conley]. They're fortunate they recruited well."
According to Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt, the key to bouncing back quickly is to work on skill development with the other players throughout the season. He should know, having lost Chris Bosh after one season in 2003 only to make the Final Four in 2004. If that's the key, then don't cry for the Buckeyes. Ohio State's players have improved during Matta's brief three-year tenure, with Harris and Lewis being key examples.
"This is the deal we're all going to have to go through now," Hewitt said of potential one-and-done players in light of last year's NBA draft rule change.
"Thad and Ohio State knew this, and that's why he recruited so well," Pearl said. "Obviously the way he's coaching and scheduling, he knew. Ohio State will be back and they'll be back with great consistency."
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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