College basketball season is finally here, and tonight, the Ohio State Buckeyes will open their 2012-13 season in style against Marquette at the 2012 Carrier Classic.
Aboard the USS Yorktown, the Buckeyes will get their first opportunity to show the nation why they're considered to be a contender for the 2013 NCAA title. With Deshaun Thomas leading the way, they'll do just that.
In Thomas, Thad Matta's team has one of the country's top forwards, which is why the junior was tabbed a preseason All-American, and if all goes according to plan, he'll be a lottery pick at the 2013 NBA Draft after a breakout season in Columbus.
That's why Brian Hamilton of The Chicago Tribune says that Thomas will be the guy opposing teams design their defensive schemes around, and that will begin tonight against Golden Eagles.
However, as Hamilton's article points out, Thomas is far from the only capable scorer on OSU's roster, but it'll have to make up for the losses of Jared Sullinger and William Buford.
Thomas is the only returnee who averaged double-digit scoring last season (15.9 points per game). Even if his play matches the All-America expectations, there are still holes to fill.
"Everybody says all eyes are going to be on me, you're going to see double teams and all that," Thomas said. "I can't see it. With the scoring that (Aaron) Craft does and LaQuinton Ross and (Lenzelle Smith Jr.), it's going to be hard to double-team and focus on one player."
So the Buckeyes' focus may be on playing fast enough to be a blur.
Luckily for Ohio State, this season Thomas should be an even bigger offensive presence than he was in 2011-12, when he posted 15.9 points per game.
If he plays to his potential, Thomas will run rampant on Marquette, which, despite reaching the Sweet 16 in 2012, doesn't project to be as big of a threat this year after losing its two best players to the NBA this summer.
Heading into the game, Thomas told Bob Baptist of The Columbus Dispatch that despite the Golden Eagles being unranked, he and his teammates won't be taking them lightly.
“They’re a physical team,” Thomas said. “They try to pressure you, try to make you turn the ball over, try to make you panic. They like to execute off energy plays, get steals and the 50-50 balls and dunk at the other end.”
Physicality aside, Thomas has all the tools to make the 2012 Carrier Classic a statement game for his Buckeyes, because in terms of skill, Marquette doesn't have the offensive weapons that Matta's squad does.
With a win over Marquette in a very special setting, Thomas and the Buckeyes will get the ball rolling in what could be a championship-caliber season. Anything less than a Final Four appearance will be considered a missed opportunity.