Last year, Ohio State was anticipating a letdown after the loss of its backcourt that featured Michael Redd and Scoonie Penn. The Buckeyes found that big man Ken Johnson, a Detroit native, was able to carry the load as he led Ohio State to a third-place finish in the Big Ten and 20-11 overall record.

Based on some predictions for Ohio State as low as eighth in the conference it may need to brace itself for a hard fall from grace again.

The Buckeyes aren”t prepared to put too much stock in the preseason predictions, but will put it on their bulletin boards.

“We lose one player and add three pretty good players and we drop from third to seventh or eighth, I don”t know what it is all about. It should give our team motivation,” head coach Jim O”Brien said.

Ohio State needs to return its focus to the backcourt. Guards Brian Brown and Brent Darby are the top two returning scorers, averaging 14.5 and 9.6 points per game, respectively.

“We”re going to rely more on perimeter play,” associate coach Bruce Parkhill said.

But even if the Buckeyes find a way to score from the outside, Johnson”s irreplaceable defense will be missing. Even more impressive than his 7.3 rebounds a game were his 125 blocks for the season his specialty.

“We have to come every game ready to play good defense,” Darby said. “This year we can”t rely on Ken to be back there, so we will have to get back more quickly.”

“Ken was not the only guy who was on the floor for us,” O”Brien said. “We had other guys who factored in. Ken was a major part of it but all of these guys have had something to say about it, now they have to have a little more to say about it.”

Most of the experienced players on Ohio State are all listed as guards. Sean Connolly (7.6 points per game) and Boban Savovic (8.9 points per game) give the Buckeyes some height as both are 6-foot-5.

The incoming freshmen may also get a chance to play, with three forwards entering their first season. Parkhill did not want to predict what kind of minutes the newcomers would have, but he did say that Terence Dials at 6-foot-9 is the team”s “one big guy.”

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