If you are a fan of the Ohio State basketball program, you should be commended for watching the performance of the offense the past couple of seasons. Ranking somewhere between awful and abysmal, the Buckeyes have struggled to put the ball in the basket, particularly from the perimeter. As a team, Thad Matta's squad shot a paltry 32.4 percent from three-point range a season ago, with no individual player shooting better than 35.5 percent. Add that to bottom of the barrel assist totals (227th in the nation in 2013-14) and a nearly complete lack of transition opportunities, and Ohio State's supporters have been treated to a steady diet of offensive stagnation and enough bricks to build a new arena.
In order for the Buckeyes to make a jump from last season's disappointing results, the team simply must shoot the ball better and score more efficiently. Lucky for fans of the scarlet and grey, a new man on campus could be the antidote to Ohio State's offensive ineptitude.
It's tricky to place so heavy a burden on a young man that won't turn 19 years of age until February, but that is exactly what is taking place with freshman D'Angelo Russell. The 6'5" shooting guard was a composite five-star recruit, and considered by many to be the best pure scorer in his recruiting class nationally. Russell, a lefty who led Montverde Academy in Florida to consecutive prep school national championships, has the pedigree and potential to be an impact scorer from day one.
Russell, who will wear number 0 for the Buckeyes, is a talented ball-handler who can create his own shot off the dribble, slashing to the basket or pulling up from the midrange. He is also a knockdown shooter from beyond the arc, and a skilled and willing passer. Russell should not only provide much needed scoring punch, but also get his teammates quality looks at the basket. The big question for the lauded freshman will be whether his 180-pound frame can stand up to the physicality that will confront him in the Big Ten.
On a team in which players such as Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson have not developed any sort of consistency in their outside shooting during their careers in Columbus, Russell, along with fellow freshmen Keita Bates-Diop and Kam Williams, will be relied upon to prevent opposing defenses from sagging into the lane by knocking down shots. If the trio can do so, Ohio State's offense may be able to pull itself out of its recent doldrums, and the Buckeyes should be in the mix for a Big Ten title in March.