Now that actual college basketball games are over, leading national basketball writers now focus their attention towards the 2014-2015 season. It's time, of course, for the first installment of the Too Damn Early Top 25s (or Top 15s, or Top 10s, or whatever arbitrary number you want to use). Which teams look to head into the season "hot", thanks to breakout performances in the NCAAs? Whose proverbial stock has cooled? And most importantly, what do these guys think about next year's Ohio State team? Can they muster a better result than a first round exit to....Dayton?
Well, let's take a look at where folks have Ohio State ranked.
Gary Parrish-CBS: 22nd (out of 26)
C.J. Moore-B/R: 25th
Eamonn Brennan-ESPN: Unranked, but listed as a team that crack the list before November
Scott Gleeson-USA TODAY: Unranked, but "on the cusp"
Joe Lunardi-ESPN: 6 seed, facing 11 seed Stanford
It seems like a general consensus might be around the idea that Ohio State would be a team in the 20-30 range to start next season. The relative lack of preseason accolades for the Buckeyes shouldn't be a huge surprise, given that the team is losing their leading scorer (LaQuinton Ross), their leader, best on-ball defender, and totem (Aaron Craft), their second leading scorer and team leader in "DON'T SHOOT THAT" (Lenzelle Smith Jr), and the spirit animal/lead candidate for president of USG (miss u, Amedeo).
Plus, this team lost to Dayton in their first NCAA Tournament game in really recent memory. Not exactly the best final impression to leave on folks, no?
If it's any conciliation, folks who complained about Ohio State's schedule strength last season will have a tougher slate to look forward to. North Carolina, a team Ohio State will play in Chicago next year, is a staple in most preseason top tens, if not top fives (the Buckeyes will also play Marquette and an unnamed ACC team; our best guess is that team is Pitt, but it could be any number of squads). Wisconsin, barring a swath of injuries, should be the undisputed preseason Big Ten favorite, and also appears in most top five lists. The Buckeyes will be tested.
Now, should we assemble the pitchforks and torches, and claim that ***NOBODY RESPECTS THE BUCKEYES***? Should we panic that next year's team won't be able to surpass this year's less-than-outstanding results?
Yes. We should absolutely panic, because the season has been over for like, 48 hours. if you want to be talked out of panicking though, two quick giant-ass caveats:
– Top 25 lists are being created without knowing exactly who is going to be back next season. Unless something absolutely shocking happens, Ohio State isn't going to have anybody currently on their roster depart. They know who is going to be playing next season. Other Big Ten teams, particularly Michigan and Michigan State, are still in flux. Is Glenn Robinson III coming back? Is Gary Harris? Hell, what about Sam Dekker at Wisconsin? We can make educated guesses to who is going and who is staying, but every year, there are a few players who make surprising decisions, and we can almost guarantee that some of those can shake up an early season Top 25.
– While Ohio State is losing a lot of talent, they're also bringing in a ton of highly regarded new faces that could make an early impact. The Buckeyes boast the top recruiting class in the Big Ten next season, and one of the best in the country, paced by five-star guard D'Angelo Russell. The Buckeyes also bring in a pair of four-star wings (Keita Bates-Diop and Jae'Sean Tate), and big man Dave Bell, who is almost certainly going to redshirt. Ohio State also has four-star guard Kam Williams from last year, who redshirted after an early season bout of Mono set back his development. That's a bevy of potential shotmakers that could give Ohio State a boost. Plus, there's Anthony Lee, a transfer from Temple, to add much needed depth to the front court.
It's so insanely early, but with potential defections at Michigan and Michigan State, some more rebuilding at Indiana, and a slew of talented youngsters joining the program, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Ohio State, and their ability to compete with Wisconsin, Maryland, Nebraska and the Michigans for the top spots in the Big Ten next season. Don't be surprised to see Ohio State climb on some of these lists before the season starts, and if not, maybe then we can cry about disrespect on Twitter and Facebook.