Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas presents unique challenge for Arizona Wildcatsby Javier Morales on Mar. 26, 2013, under Sports
Ohio State junior forward Deshaun Thomas has numbers similar to what Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe averaged at Cal this season, but Thomas poses more of a threat.
Arizona, which plays the Buckeyes (28-7) Thursday in the Sweet 16 in L.A., knows how difficult Crabbe was to handle. Crabbe scored a season-high 31 points in Cal’s 77-69 win over Arizona (27-7) at McKale Center on Feb. 10.
The biggest difference between these wing players is Thomas has size — 6-foot-7-inches and 225 pounds — compared to Crabbe (6-6, 210). Thomas is a bull supported by a much more balanced cast.
Thomas is the Big Ten’s top scorer at 19.7 points per game. He averages 6.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. Crabbe tops the Pac-12 with 18.4 points a game. He averaged 6.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game before Cal was eliminated by Syracuse Saturday night.
“He’s so different and unique as a player,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said of Thomas on Monday. “It’s hard to describe him as a player. On one hand he’s a great three-point shooter, and on the other he’s big and he’s physical and he can score around the basket.
“He’s hard for everyone in the country and he’s a reason why Ohio State is who they are and we are no different. We will have to prepare well and it will be a team effort against him.”
The national media is hyping a matchup between Thomas and Arizona’s Solomon Hill, but Miller said that matchup will not materialize for the entire game.
“I don’t know if we can put Solomon on Thomas, maybe we can somewhat,” Miller said. “He’s big and physical, and I’m sure Solomon will draw him some.
“He has led our team from start to finish. His intent and his will to win, and how he practices and carries himself. Like Aaron Craft, where a lot of his intentions are contagious for Ohio State, Solomon represents a lot of those for us.”
Miller added that Parrom and freshman forwards Jerrett and Brandon Ashley will defend Thomas by committee.
“Solomon will guard him some with Brandon and Grant as well,” Miller said. “It will be a tough matchup for those guys. They’ve really progressed defensively. He sets so many of these ball screens, when the ball is passed back to him it will be the next guy rotating to him.
“It won’t be a single matchup.”
Miller and his staff should be more concerned about Craft and the rest of Thad Matta’s rotation.
Nobody has stopped Thomas all season, including in Ohio State’s seven losses. It’s not true that as Thomas goes, so go the Buckeyes.
Thomas has averaged more points a game — 20.7 — in the Buckeyes’ losses than he has posted overall. Also in defeat, Thomas is shooting 43.2 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from three-point range. He also has made 89.3 percent of his free-throw attempts in Ohio State’s losses.
If Thomas has a chink in the armor, it’s defense. His teammates chided him about it after the victory over Iowa State.
Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch writes that Thomas “isn’t exactly a lock-down defender.”
Thomas is quoted in Oller’s story as saying, “It (defense) is not what I’m known for, but in my years here I’ve worked hard at it.”
DraftExpress.com forecasts Thomas as a second-round NBA draft pick, the 51st pick overall. Crabbe is rated the No. 30 pick, the last selection of the first round.
Crabbe had 37 steals and 23 blocked shots. Thomas’ numbers: 19 steals and only nine blocked shots.
Despite that disparity, the Buckeyes can literally laugh about Thomas’ defensive shortcomings. They would not trade him for Crabbe or anybody else.
Read the entire blog at WILDABOUTAZCATS.net. Site founder and publisher Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club winner.