In evaluating the careers of a departing senior class, seeing trips to the Final Four and Elite Eight on the resume would seem to indicate a high level of success. But as is the case for Ohio State's current seniors - Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, Amir Williams, and Trey McDonald - some accomplishments fail to paint the full picture.
Perhaps no class in recent memory has been as polarizing for the Buckeyes. While the team made deep runs in March during the quartet's first two seasons, they were mostly role players and reserves. The past two seasons have both ended with disappointing results as the class was called upon to lead.
What Ohio State Is Losing
The loss of Thompson, along with the high likelihood that freshman D'Angelo Russell will make the jump to the NBA, means the Buckeyes will be replacing their top two scorers next season. Thompson, who will always be remembered by fans of the scarlet and gray for his gravity-defying dunks, averaged 10.2 points and 4 rebounds a game in his final campaign. But he largely failed in his four years to develop any consistency on his jump shot, as evidenced by his 26 percent three-point shooting percentage. Where the Chicago native will be missed the most, though, is on the defensive end, where he emerged as Ohio State's best perimeter defender as a senior, frequently matching up with the opposition's top scoring threat.
In Scott, the Buckeyes will also be replacing their top assist and steals man. After waiting three years behind Aaron Craft to take the reins as starting point guard, Scott led the Big Ten with 5.9 assists per game, and was in the top five with 1.7 thefts. Much like Thompson, Scott's perimeter game never developed as one would have hoped, though he did show flashes. The Alpharetta, Georgia native, who has been projected as a potential second-round pick in the NBA Draft, shot a meager 28.4 percent from long-range as a senior.
Williams is a guy who Buckeye fans (including, to an extent, myself) have loved to hate throughout his career. The former McDonald's All-American from Detroit Country Day never met the expectations, fair or not, that his pedigree and physical tools suggested. Williams, who measures in at 6-foot-11, managed to average just 6.4 points and 4.7 boards a game in his final season, though he did finish sixth in the conference with 1.6 blocks per contest.
ESPN analyst Dan Dakich loved to remind viewers the past couple of seasons that McDonald should have redshirted as a freshman, but was too stubborn to do so. The 6-foot-8 Battle Creek, Michigan native was not called on to do much in his time in Columbus outside of rebounding and playing physical defense, and in that he was fairly successful. In just under 12 minutes a game as a senior, McDonald 2.8 points and 2.6 rebounds, and seemed to always pick up a couple of fouls.
A fifth member of this class, Anthony Lee who transferred from Temple for his final season of eligibility, was hampered by injuries throughout the season, greatly limiting his effect. After leading the AAC in rebounding for the Owls, Lee averaged just 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds on the year, missing 14 games.
How Will Ohio State Replace Them?
Despite the projected loss of Russell, it is not outside the realm of possibility to think that Ohio State may be better next year. Due to the strangeness of their roster construction, the Buckeyes will have only one upperclassman (Marc Loving) on next season's squad. This year's freshmen, along with a highly-lauded incoming group of newcomers, appear on paper to provide head coach Thad Matta with a more balanced, talented team.
At the point, Scott will be replaced by one, or both, of a pair of incoming freshmen in A.J. Harris (Dayton Dunbar) and JaQuan Lyle (IMG Academy). Harris is a true point guard, standing 5-foot-9 and possessing a solid handle and good quickness. Lyle, a five-star recruit, is more similar to Russell, clocking in at 6-foot-5 and being able to play both guard positions. There are those around the program that already expect he will be the one to step up to fill Russell's shoes as a scorer for Ohio State.
The loss of Thompson's seemingly nightly highlight-reel dunks cannot be replaced, but his play on the wing is in very capable hands. Loving, who prior to a midseason suspension was the squad's second-leading scorer, and Keita Bates-Diop, who came on strong at the end of his freshman season, are in line to fill the void. Joining them will be incoming freshmen Austin Grandstaff, a sharpshooter, and Mickey Mitchell, a point-forward who can play inside and out and is lethal in transition.
The big men also have a stable of replacements waiting their turn. Trevor Thompson, who sat out this season after transferring to the Buckeyes from Virginia Tech, is a legitimate 7-footer who averaged roughly 5 points and 5 rebounds in limited time as a freshman for the Hokies a season ago. Joining Thompson will be redshirt freshman Dave Bell, who sat out this season and may take some time to develop, and newcomer Daniel Giddens, who has been impressive playing for national powerhouse Oak Hill Academy this season.
And don't forget Jae'Sean Tate, Ohio State's other freshman All-Big Ten performer who showed the leadership and motor to be a star in Columbus. Tate, who became a starter midway through the season, averaged 8.8 points and 5 rebounds a game while consistently going against opponents who were much taller. The Pickerington, Ohio product quickly became a fan favorite and proved to be the quintessential Matta "glue guy."
With such a young roster, and such better balance and talent across it, the 2015-16 Buckeyes look as though they have the chance to make the disappointments of the past two seasons distant memories.