Matt Edwards / Asst. multimedia editor
Although the Ohio State football team has found itself on the outside looking in for the past five weeks, one Buckeye team is finding itself ranked again, as the OSU men’s basketball team will open its season as the No. 3-ranked team in the nation, according to at least one poll.
The first ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll of the 2011-12 season was released Thursday and ranked the Buckeyes behind No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Kentucky. Defending national champion Connecticut and Syracuse rounded out the top five.
Expectations have run high for OSU since its top two leading scorers from a year ago, sophomore forward Jared Sullinger and senior guard William Buford, opted to bypass the NBA draft following the Buckeyes’ Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky. OSU sophomore guard Aaron Craft, last season’s leader in assists and steals, also returns to a Buckeye team that compiled a 34-3 record the 2010-11 season.
Sullinger, Buford and Craft were each preseason selections to the watch list for the John Wooden Award, which goes out to “the outstanding collegiate basketball Player of the Year,” according to the award’s website. Candidates must also have maintained a cumulative GPA of 2.00 or higher throughout their entire college career, the website says.
No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 18 Michigan were the only other Big Ten programs that will open the season ranked in the coaches’ poll. Before they meet the Badgers and Wolverines in conference play, the Buckeyes will will start the year against a trio of games against ranked teams. OSU will battle No. 10 Florida, No. 6 Duke, and No. 13 Kansas on Nov. 15, Nov 29 and Dec. 10, respectively.
OSU opens its season up Nov. 11 with a home game against Wright State.