Since 2000, the Big Ten conference has been loaded with elite talents and some of college basketball’s greatest players. Fans have seen numerous Big Ten players earn All-Americans and National Players of the Year honors during that time.
But who have been the best?
With the offseason in full swing, BTPowerhouse has decided to sit down and break down the Big Ten’s greatest players since the start of the 2000-’01 season. We will be taking a look at each program and how it fits into the league.
This time, we will look at the greatest players from the last 17 seasons for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Please note that this evaluation only looks at college contributions at the particular school. It does not include a player’s contributions at another school or at the professional level.
Brief Program Recap Since 2000
However, before we jump into the discussion regarding Ohio State’s greatest players over the last 17 seasons, let’s take a second to recap what the program has done during that time frame. After all, 2000 may not seem that long ago, but there are kids literally on the verge of graduating high school who were born then. As such, it’s probably worth a quick recap.
Basic Stats Since 2000
- NCAA Tournament Appearances: 11
- Winning Seasons: 16
- Big Ten POTY Winners: Two
- Consensus All-Americans: Four
Ohio State has, without a doubt, been one of the best programs in Big Ten history. This includes consistent dominance throughout the 2000s. In fact, the Buckeyes only failed to finished over .500 once in this era.
Ohio State is currently working on a stretch of 13 consecutive winning seasons. Within this streak, the Buckeyes appeared in the NCAA Tournament seven straight times from 2009-2015.
In the 2000s overall, Ohio State has made it to the National Championship once (2007), the Final 4 once, the Elite 8 once, and four separate Sweet 16s.
Though the Buckeyes have missed the field of 68 in each of the last two seasons, this is only the second time in the 2000s that Ohio State has not been invited to March Madness in consecutive seasons. The other occurrence was from 2003-2005.
All in all, it’s clear that Buckeye fans have seen an immense amount of talent pass through Columbus in the 21st century. With that being said, it is extremely difficult to pick the best four OSU players since 2000. Though there are nearly 10 players that make a solid case, four in particular stand out.
Ohio State’s Mount Rushmore Since 2000
William Buford (2008-2012)
Buford averaged at least 11.3 points per game in all four of his seasons on OSU. The guard also averaged at least 14.4 points per game during his final three seasons as a Buckeye. This consistent scoring puts him on the leader board amongst the greatest scorers in program history. Buford’s 1,990 points with Ohio State ranks him as the third highest Buckeye scorer ever. He also converted the fifth most field goals (744) in Ohio State history.
Buford was clearly an extremely efficient scorer. Specifically from behind the three-point line. In fact, Buford trails only Jon Diebler and Jamar Butler for most three-pointers made in program history. Adding to his efficiency, Buford’s career free-throw percentage of 81.1 is the 10th best ever by any player to wear an Ohio State uniform.
Similar to Craft, Buford also rarely missed a contest. Buford played in 145 games for the Buckeyes, the third most in OSU history.
Finally, Buford showed up when it mattered most (March Madness). Buford currently ranks as Ohio State’s third highest scorer and rebounder in NCAA Tournament games.
Aaron Craft (2010-2014)
Aaron Craft was by no means one of the Buckeyes’ flashiest or even most athletic players since 2000. But one of the best? Hands down.
The 6-foot-2-inch Findlay, Ohio native is without a doubt one of the most driven, committed player any Big Ten fan will see in their lifetime. Craft left it all on the floor night in and night out. As a result, he graduated from Ohio State as one of the best point guards in program history.
Craft dished out an astonishing 694 assists in his four-year career with the Buckeyes, making him the all-time assist leader in OSU history. Craft is the assist leader by a long shot. Jamar Butler has the second most assists in program history, with 579. Craft averaged at least 4.6 assists per game in every season. His yearly assist totals also all rank within the top 10 of single-season assists in Buckeye history.
Besides being an extremely unselfish player on offense, Craft was stellar on defense as well. Craft won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year twice and was a member of the Big Ten All-Defensive team four times. Craft averaged at least two steals per game in each of his four seasons.
The guard could also put the ball in the hoop decently well. Craft is Ohio State’s 28th all-time leading scorer with 1,314 points in four seasons. He also averaged 9.9 points per contest over his final two seasons with the Buckeyes.
Jared Sullinger (2010-2012)
Though he only played two seasons with the Buckeyes, Sullinger was able to become only the third player in Ohio State history to be named an All-American twice.
The eventual first round draft pick was a double-double machine in college, averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game as a freshman during the 2010-’11 season. Similarly, Sullinger coasted to an average of 17.5 points and 9.2 boards per contest during his final collegiate season the following year.
Sullinger was also a member of the All-Big Ten First-Team during both of his seasons as a Buckeye. The 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year scored 1,282 points for Ohio State and is high on the Buckeye leader board for most rebounds in a season. The 377 rebounds collected by Sullinger as a freshman is the fifth highest single-season total in OSU history. The power forward/center’s 340 rebounds during the following season also ranks as the 6th best in Buckeye history.
Evan Turner (2007-2010)
While Turner had a somewhat quiet freshman campaign, his efforts during his final two seasons of a three-season Ohio State career rank him amongst the Buckeyes’ all-time best.
As a sophomore during the 2008-’09 season, the Chicago native and eventual second overall pick lit up the stat sheet on a nightly basis. Turner averaged 17.3 points per game while grabbing 7.1 rebounds and four assists each contest as well. However, this was only the beginning of Turner’s elite play. The following season, and his last in college, is what earned him a spot on OSU’s Mount Rushmore.
Turner averaged a ridiculous 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and six assists per game during the 2009-’10 season. It’s also worth noting that Turner is the only Buckeye during the 2000s to average at least 20 points per game in a season.
This incredible junior year for Turner awarded him Big Ten Player of the Year honors as well as National College Player of the Year honors. Of course, Turner was also an All-American in 2010. Adding to the list of ridiculous accolades notched by Turner in 2010, he was the Big Ten Tournament MVP and on the All-Big Ten First Team as well.
Turner is currently the 18th highest scorer in Ohio State history with 1,517 total points as a Buckeye. It almost goes without question that Turner’s 2009-’10 season was the best single season by any Ohio State player during the 2000s.
Since there were so many players that present a good case at cracking OSU’s Mount Rushmore, it would only be appropriate to mention a few of the players that were heavily considered, but didn’t make the cut.
D’angelo Russell and Greg Oden were by far two of the most memorable Buckeyes during the 2000s. Each displayed dominance greater than most Ohio State players during this era. Russell averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, and five assists per game en route to All-American honors during the 2014-’15 season. Oden was a double-double machine during the 2006-’07 season. He averaged 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds each contest along with 3.3 blocks. However, each of them only played one season, which is why neither of them were selected. If Russell or Oden stayed in Columbus longer, which I’m sure Oden wishes he did, their heads would most likely be displayed on this theoretical monument.
Terence Dials, who somehow played for Ohio State from 2001-2006, also makes a very, very strong case. Dials put up monstrous scoring and rebounding numbers for the Buckeyes in his final three seasons in Columbus. Dials averaged over 15 points per game in each of his final two seasons as a Buckeye. Dials is also OSU’s fifth leading rebounder ever and won Big Ten Player of the Year in 2006.