Thomas, Craft Earn B1G Respect
October 26, 2012
The top players and all 12 men’s basketball coaches descended upon Chicago on Thursday to take part in Big Ten Media Day, where it was determined that Ohio State standouts Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft were named first-team Preseason All-Big Ten.
A 6-2 junior point guard, Craft is the conference’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year and is expected to play an even bigger role for a Buckeyes team that is coming off a Final Four appearance but had to wave goodbye to veterans Jared Sullinger and William Buford in the offseason.
Thomas is a 6-7 lefty forward who elevated his game during the Buckeyes’ postseason run and could be in line for the league scoring title this season.
Also, Ohio State was picked to finish third by a voting media panel. OSU ranked behind only Indiana and Michigan, which is in line with the views of the preseason publications and similar to the original USA Today coaches poll that was released last week and was headed by IU with OSU fourth and Michigan fifth.
The preseason Associated Press poll came out today with the same designations for those three Big Ten teams.
Considering that lofty opinion of the top end of the league and that Craft and Thomas made the same first team as Indiana center Cody Zeller, Penn State guard Tim Frazier and Michigan point guard Trey Burke – accomplished players all – the news carries even more weight.
“We’ve known for the past couple years that the Big Ten is one of the toughest conferences in the country,” Craft said. “With the games we play in and the players that we play against, it’s no surprise to us. That’s why you come to a place like Ohio State, to play in the Big Ten and play against the best, game in and game out. And it doesn’t matter where you start the season. It all depends on how you’re playing at the end and how you finish.”
Certainly Ohio State is not guaranteed of a smooth start. The Buckeyes have an aggressive nonconference agenda including games with Marquette (Nov. 9), Duke (Nov. 28), Long Beach State (Dec. 8) and Kansas (Dec. 22). Also, the Buckeyes will face Rhode Island No. 17 and either Washington or Seton Hall Nov. 18 in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off in Uncasville, Conn.
It all starts with a date with Marquette, of all places, on the USS Yorktown in Charleston, S.C. The game has been slugged the Carrier Classic, and it represents a daunting first challenge for the Buckeyes.
“I think it’s very similar to the last two years when we played Florida the second game of the season,” coach Thad Matta said. “Billy (Donovan) and I said we were going to know a lot about our team early, and I think playing a team as good as Marquette, we’ll get the same feel. I don’t know if we’re going to like it, but we’re going to get it.”
Indiana also could be a marked team. The Hoosiers face Georgia and either Georgetown or UCLA in a four-team event in Brooklyn, N.Y., Nov. 19-20 and also will take on North Carolina (Nov. 27), Butler (Dec. 15) and Mount St. Mary’s (Dec. 19) at home before delving into a very competitive Big Ten.
The 6-11 Zeller was the only unanimous selection for All-Big Ten and also was tabbed the Preseason Player of the Year. He was last season’s Freshman of the Year in the conference according to the coaches and also was named second-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and media.
Perennial league power Michigan State, a co-winner of last year’s Big Ten title along with Ohio State and Michigan, was not named in the top three and did not produce a first-teamer.
Led by fifth-year head coach Tom Crean, a former Michigan State assistant, Indiana returns all five starters and 11 total letterwinners from last year’s team that advanced to the Sweet 16 and finished with a 27-9 overall record.
Michigan welcomes back three starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament squad that won a share of the Big Ten title. Head Coach John Beilein enters his sixth year with the program and returns a pair of All-Big Ten selections in Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Burke was the media’s selection for Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season.
Ohio State returns three starters from last year’s Final Four squad – Thomas, Craft and guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. Matta, who is entering his ninth season in Columbus, has won five league titles.
Craft and Thomas both earned All-Big Ten recognition a season ago.
The complete 2012 Preseason All-Big Ten Team and preseason poll can be found below:
2012-13 BIG TEN PRESEASON RANKINGS
3. Ohio State
2012-13 PRESEASON ALL-BIG TEN TEAM
CODY ZELLER, C, Indiana
Trey Burke, G, Michigan
Aaron Craft, G, Ohio State
Deshaun Thomas, F, Ohio State
Tim Frazier, G, Penn State
2012-13 PRESEASON BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Cody Zeller, Indiana
Unanimous selection in ALL CAPS