From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about our Unreasonable Expectations. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our Unreasonable Expectations here.
There are a lot of question marks that will follow the Ohio State basketball team into the next season after the 2021-22 season. However, there is one thing that is not a question mark: Bruce Thornton is the team’s starting point guard and the floor general for the Buckeyes.
Thornton will enter his sophomore season as one of the most-watched players in the conference after his solid freshman season, where he started all 35 games for the Buckeyes and averaged 10.6 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. There is always someone who makes a huge leap in their sophomore season, and Thornton is a prime pick.
The two things I want to clarify here are that Thornton making an all-Big Ten team in his career is not an unrealistic expectation, but a very realistic one. This is strictly talking about next season. Also, I only think it might be unrealistic because of the other guys on his team. Roddy Gayle, Jamison Battle, and Zed Key are all guys who can average double-digits in scoring and could take away statistics from Thornton, which these all-Big Ten teams are all about.
The Big Ten has a big question mark when it comes to guard play next season. The top ones are Jahmir Young at Maryland, Boo Buie at Northwestern, the trio of Tyson Walker, Jaden Akins, and A.J. Hoggard at Michigan State — as long as Akins and Hoggard withdraw from the draft — Xavier Johnson at Indiana, and Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith at Purdue.
Also, Thornton is coming off some incredible momentum from the Big Ten Tournament, being named to the Big Ten Tournament team. He was only the fourth freshman in school history to be named to the team, joining Greg Oden, Mike Conley, and Jared Sullinger.
Not bad company to keep.
The freshman struggled a bit during the start of conference play in January, but he fought through that and ended the season playing the best basketball he played all season. Even Ohio State’s opponents last season saw the growth in Thornton and what he was able to battle through.
Marquette assistant coach DeAndre Haynes attempted to recruit Thornton to Michigan and to Maryland when he was an assistant coach for those programs.
“He’s just a leader,” Haynes told Adam Jardy of the Columbus Dispatch before the NCAA Tournament. “Leader, to me, is making the people around you better, and that’s every day. That’s what I see in him. I saw it in AAU. His coaches always used to send me clips and I loved that about him. He’s a great, young point guard here (at Ohio State).”
Michigan State guard Jaden Akins echoed similar sentiments to Jardy.
“He was the main guy this last time because he was going on a run, going on a tear,” Akins told Jardy before playing USC in the NCAA Tournament in Columbus. “He was basically our main focus (that) last game. You’ve got to give him credit. He works. He got better throughout the season and he’s a good player.”
Thornton is an incredibly smart player with natural talent and a drive to be better. That tends to be a pretty solid combo. I said before the season ended that he could be the best point guard Ohio State has had since Mike Conley so as you can see, my expectations for him are pretty much sky high. Let’s see if he delivers.
My guess? He will.