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Are Ohio State's young centers already outproducing last season's oft-criticized duo?

Inspired play from Trevor Thompson and Daniel Giddens has shown Ohio State's center position is in good hands for years to come. But were Amir Williams and Trey McDonald better than Buckeye fans remember?

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Entering what very clearly was going to be a transitional season for Ohio State, one could make a compelling case that the position undergoing the most significant transformation was center. Out were Amir Williams, Trey McDonald, and Anthony Lee, and in were Trevor Thompson, Daniel Giddens, and David Bell.

Given the real (and perceived) underachieving by the 6-11 Williams and 6-8 McDonald -- who were four-star and three-star prospects, respectively, in Ohio State's seventh-ranked 2011 recruiting class, there was real excitement surrounding the debuts of Thompson, a 6-11 transfer from Virginia Tech, and Giddens, a 6-10 jumping jack who at the very least would play with the emotion that many Buckeye fans felt Williams rarely exhibited during his time in Columbus.

During their senior campaigns last winter, Williams and McDonald received the lion's share of the minutes at center -- I removed Lee from this exercise because injuries robbed him of substantial playing time -- while to this point in the 2015-16 season, Thompson, a redshirt sophomore, and Giddens, a true freshman, have landed the overwhelming majority of the minutes at center for the Buckeyes. (Redshirt freshman David Bell has logged just 112 minutes on the year.)

Thad Matta has very rarely strayed from his single big approach -- the opposite would be a team like North Carolina, which prefers to play with two post threats -- meaning we can maintain an accurate comparison between the two duos to determine if Williams and McDonald were better than Ohio State fans remember, or if Thompson and Giddens have already surpassed last season's primary post pair.

Let's start off with comparing Williams-McDonald (2014-15) and Thompson-Giddens (2015-16) with some basic statistics:


Minutes

Points

Rebounds

Blocks

Field Goal %

Free Throw %

2014-15

1,055

9.2

7.3

2.1

60

57.5

2015-16

932

10.9

9.0

2.9

53

57.5


Among the four players, Thompson is the most productive scorer (7 ppg), rebounder (5.1 rpg), and free-throw shooter (77 percent), which is why the standard, mainly per-game statistics mostly favor the Thompson-Giddens combination.

The differences in output between the two duos really shows up in points and rebounds. But what does that mean? Are Thompson and Giddens, who already have 15 more field-goal attempts combined than Williams and McDonald did through all of last season, more active around the basket than their much-maligned predecessors? Not necessarily.


Offensive Rating

Defensive Rating

Offensive Rebound Rate

Turnover Rate

Player Efficiency Rating

2014-15

116.5

94.1

11.2

16.8

17.6

2015-16

102.7

93.1

10.4

18.9

16.5

The more advanced statistics lean in the direction of Williams and McDonald. Surprisingly, Williams was perhaps more productive last year than the eye test indicated on offense (121.5 offensive rating) and defense (91.0 defensive rating), outperforming the other three players in both categories.

McDonald was the Buckeyes' top offensive glass cleaner (12.2 offensive rebound rate) a season ago, though he holds the worst defensive rating (97.1) of the four players. Giddens' defensive rating (92.8) is strong, but his turnover rate (21.8 percent) is by far the worst of the group.

The Williams-McDonald combination outperformed Thompson-Giddens five categories to four, with one tie. (I disregarded minutes played). What does it all mean? Right now, last season's center combo is narrowly more productive than Ohio State's current centers. That makes sense given that both Williams and McDonald were seniors.

But over the next few seasons, Thompson and Giddens should vastly exceed Williams and McDonald's production. Thompson has already come miles physically -- he could pass for Marc Loving in this photo from his high school days -- while Giddens may need a year for the college game to slow down for him. As early as next season, Ohio State could possess one of the most potent post duos in the Big Ten.