Wright St.-Ohio St. Preview


Jared Sullinger was the only unanimous pick on the The Associated Press' preseason All-America team.

According to the powerful 6-foot-9, 280-pound sophomore, he'll be even tougher to stop now.

Sullinger will lead the third-ranked Buckeyes into the new season Friday night when they host Wright State.

Ohio State has been picked to win a third straight Big Ten title because of Sullinger, who opted to return to school after finishing second in the league in doubles-doubles (18), rebounding (10.2) and field-goal percentage (54.1) and sixth in scoring (17.2 points) as a freshman.

"He knew what he was going to do from the time he got to Ohio State in the summer," coach Thad Matta said. "When he told me he was coming back, I said, 'Are you sure? Let's talk about this.' I want what's best for our players. He said, 'No, there's no need to do it, I'm coming back.'"

Sullinger was a near-lock to be an NBA draft lottery pick, although he vowed to stay "at least two years" according to Matta. Now the forward is ready to showcase an improved game away from the basket after a summer of hard work.

"Teams are going to be so sold on doubling me in the post," Sullinger said. "It's going to be like, 'How do you double him when he's doing the pick and pop?' It's going to mess up some people's defensive strategies."

Sullinger is the first unanimous preseason AP All-American since North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough before the 2008-09 season.

Ohio State began 24-0 a season ago and finished 34-3, falling two games shy of the Final Four. Reaching college basketball's final weekend won't be easy after the Buckeyes lost key contributors in 3-point shooter Jon Diebler, versatile swingman David Lighty and shot-blocker Dallas Lauderdale.

The only returning starter joining Sullinger is senior guard William Buford. Sophomore Aaron Craft will be the starting point guard after he finished fourth in the nation among freshmen with 177 assists in 2010-11.

"Certainly Ohio State has maybe the two best players in all of college basketball on the floor together in Buford and Sullinger," Wright State coach Billy Donlon said. "And with the way he played at the end of last year, Aaron Craft was as good a point guard as there was. So they're very good."

Matta will be counting on Boston College transfer Evan Ravenel up front along with freshmen Amir Williams, Sam Thompson and Trey McDonald to make an impact.

"Getting these guys to understand there's no entitlement from last year's team to winning, they've got work to do," said Matta, who is 11-0 in openers. "I think that's been the beauty of coaching them to this point - they understand that."

Wright State hails from the Horizon League - the same conference as Butler, which reached back-to-back NCAA title games. The Raiders have averaged 20.8 victories over the last five seasons.

Donlon's top four scorers are gone, and none of his six returning players have more than one year of experience. The Raiders have eight freshmen, three juniors and one senior.

"You've gotta make shots early, especially in a game like that," said Donlon about Friday's game. "The longer you can make shots, the pressure can turn in a game like that."

Ohio State has won both previous meetings in 1990 and 1992.

This contest is part of the Global Sports Shootout, in which the Buckeyes will play four home games.

What to Read Next