After years of being underwhelmed by the likes of Amir Williams and Trey McDonald (and at times Anthony Lee), Ohio State fans should be excited with all the new frontcourt at Thad Matta's disposal. The Buckeyes are set to have plenty of talent and several options this season upfront.
Let's look at the three players who will likely spend time patrolling the paint for the Buckeyes.
Trevor Thompson, Redshirt Sophomore
Thompson is the only player here with any college experience to speak of. In one season at Virginia Tech, Thompson averaged 5 points and 4.7 rebounds, including two double-doubles (against Western Carolina and Wake Forest). He was able to work his way into the starting lineup for 11 games, but struggled shooting the ball all year long (just 41 percent from the floor and 65 percent from the free throw line).
After choosing Ohio State over Indiana, Butler, and Purdue, the Indianapolis native attempted to secure a waiver to play in 2014-15. After that request was denied, Thompson had a full season to work against the aforementioned trio of Williams, McDonald, and Lee. He showed flashes of brilliance in practice that Buckeye fans are hoping can immediately translate to Big Ten play. The game that signaled Thompson's arrival to the college game was a 15 point outing at Cameron Indoor Stadium. If his upward trajectory continues, Thompson could be an absolute force by the time conference play begins.
David Bell, Redshirt Freshman
Bell is still a bit of an unknown. The 6'10", 225 pound big man redshirted last season after coming to Columbus as a "project"-type player. He was a phenomenal post defender in high school, and came to school looking to develop more of an offensive game. Bell has drawn comparisons to Tyrus Thomas (who redshirted his freshman year at LSU and made it to the NBA soon after) from his head coach, and it's clear that this is the best-case scenario in Matta's mind. As it stands now, that outcome does not seem extremely plausible. Bell will still need a year or two before he is done developing, and should come off the bench behind our next player.
Daniel Giddens, Freshman
Giddens is clearly the best of the bunch, and the highly-touted freshman should make an immediate impact. I've already written at length about him, so most of what I say here will be the same analysis as my previous article (for a full look at Giddens, click here). Giddens is known first and foremost for his defense, don't think that he is an offensive liability. There's a reason he is rated as the #10 center in the Class of 2015 by ESPN. Giddens has incredible athleticism, and can already finish with authority. But it is his defense that makes him stand out. At 6'10" and 240 pounds, Giddens is long enough that he can be an elite shot blocker and big enough that it is nearly impossible to move him off the block--let alone score on him.
Prior to his season at Oak Hill, Giddens played at Wheeler (Ga.) with 5-star recruit Jaylen Brown (Cal). In his junior season he was already dominant enough to average a double-double, tallying 12 points, 10 rebounds, and four blocks per game. Giddens has international experience as well. In 2014 he played for Team USA in the FIBA U-16 Americas Championship and took home a gold medal. The Americans won all five games by an average of 53.4 points.
Why does all of this matter? Giddens has already played with and against the best players in the country, and the transition to college competition should be seamless. This is especially important since Ohio State is playing an uncharacteristically difficult non-conference schedule, including games against Kentucky, Virginia, Connecticut, Memphis, and Louisiana Tech.
Giddens should be contend for the starting job from day one with Thopmson. There won't be a lot asked of Giddens offensively (at least initially), but a frontcourt pairing of Giddens and Jae'Sean Tate can stifle teams defensively. Giddens is still a work in progress at the offensive end. He can finish from the post and is athletic enough to throw down alley-oops (as he did countless times on feeds from Terrence Phillips at Oak Hill), but the development of a reliable 12-15 foot jumper would do wonders for Ohio State's spacing. Tate is an offensive liability outside of the paint and Matta can't afford to play Giddens and Tate simultaneously if neither can knock down a jump shot. Giddens' development over the next couple of years is crucial, and will determine whether or not he can be a star at Ohio State.
As I said about Ohio State's backcourt, the Buckeye frontcourt is definitely going to be overlooked by opponents (pretty much all of Ohio State's returners are wings). However, Giddens should be a defensive anchor, Thompson should provide veteran leadership, and Bell will show us just how much he improved during his redshirt season. Don't sleep on the Buckeyes.