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6 OHIO STATE Buckeyes

One starter exited. The four who are back will have help getting over that

ON THE afternoon of April 7, while all eyes in Columbus were focused on junior Evan Turner as he declared for the NBA draft—"This is the toughest thing I had to do," the National Player of the Year proclaimed behind a microphone at Ohio State's practice facility, voice quavering—his fellow starters were making a choice of their own. William Buford, Dave Lighty, Jon Diebler and Dallas Lauderdale supported their friend by attending his press conference, but once Turner announced his choice to leave Ohio State, the quartet decided that there was only one place for them to turn: the gym. "We clapped for him, talked to him a little bit," Lauderdale, a senior, says, "and then we went to work." Adds classmate Lighty, "It was our own little session. We figured, we might as well get used to life without Evan Turner."

Accepting the departure of a player like Turner is never easy—"You think, Gosh, what if Evan would've stayed and we had all five starters back?" coach Thad Matta admits to wondering—but these Buckeyes are primed to handle such a loss.

OSU has the aforementioned foursome back, in particular the explosive Buford, and will introduce a freshman class that is regarded as one of the best in the country. The biggest boost comes from Jared Sullinger of Northland High in Columbus, a two-time Ohio Mr. Basketball who is said to have a more polished offensive game than Matta's last dominant big man, Greg Oden, the NBA's No. 1 pick in '07.

"Jared's a great player who can take you outside and inside. I'm just trying to get him ready for the physicality of college," says Lauderdale, who will round out the frontcourt with yet another top 25 recruit, 6'6" freshman Deshaun Thomas.

Says Matta, "Jared has a very college-ready body." If not quite NBA-ready—or so he hopes. Recalling Turner's early exit, the coach says, "I told Jared, 'I'm not going to get you into pro shape till your junior year.'"


Coach Thad Matta (7th season)

2009--10 record 29--8

Big Ten 14--4

NCAA tournament Sweet 16

[The following text appears within a diagram. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual diagram.]


Returning starters

*High school stats


Nov. 12 North Carolina A&T

Nov. 16 at Florida

Nov. 20 UNC Wilmington

Nov. 23 Morehead State

Nov. 26 Miami (Ohio)

Nov. 30 at Florida State

Dec. 9 IUPUI

Dec. 12 Western Carolina

Dec. 15 Florida Gulf Coast

Dec. 18 South Carolina

Dec. 21 UNC Asheville

Dec. 23 Oakland

Dec. 27 Tennessee-Martin

Dec. 31 at Indiana

Jan. 4 at Iowa

Jan. 9 Minnesota

Jan. 12 at Michigan

Jan. 15 Penn State

Jan. 19 Iowa

Jan. 22 at Illinois

Jan. 25 Purdue

Jan. 29 at Northwestern

Feb. 3 Michigan

Feb. 6 at Minnesota

Feb. 12 at Wisconsin

Feb. 15 Michigan State

Feb. 19 at Purdue

Feb. 22 Illinois

Feb. 26 Indiana

March 1 at Penn State

March 6 Wisconsin


Standing in the way of Ohio State and the Big Ten title is Michigan State, and don't be surprised if their lone regular-season duel is decided in the paint. The Buckeyes' Sullinger, Thomas and Lauderdale will get a stiff challenge from the big, bruising trio of 6'8" Delvon Roe, 6'6" Draymond Green and 6'9" Derrick Nix.

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DALLAS LAUDERDALE The 255-pound center must muscle his way to more rebounds for the Buckeyes to hold sway in the Big Ten.