141827941 Rising Star: Ohio States Deshaun Thomas

(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

By: Mark Chalifoux

The NCAA tournament has seen some great individual performances and some great players, but perhaps no better scorer than Ohio State sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas.

Opposing defenses can’t focus too heavily on stopping Buckeyes center Jared Sullinger because Thomas has been deadly when the ball gets kicked out. The sophomore averages 16.1 points but has scored more than that in three out of the four tournament games so far.

Thomas put up 31 points in Ohio State’s opener against Loyola and followed that with 18 against Gonzaga. He had 26 points against Cincinnati to get to the elite 8 and scored 14 points against Syracuse to help the Buckeyes get to the Final Four.

Thomas has shown an ability to score at the rim and to knock down outside shots. He’s only a 35 percent 3-point shooter on the season but he’s been shooting above 40 percent from beyond the arc in the tournament.

He did lightheartedly apologize for being such a shooter in the tournament (he isn’t exactly an expert passer, he only has five assists in the tournament) but he’s been getting the job done in other areas too. Thomas is also averaging 8.5 rebounds per game in the tournament, up from his average of 5 per game this season and has also been a solid (not exceptional) defender.

Thomas is projected as a late second-round pick in the NBA draft if he leaves after this season (he doesn’t shoot well enough for the NBA and doesn’t have the size to play power forward at the next level) but part of that may depend on how he plays in the Final Four.

So far, he’s been spectacular. He had perhaps the best four games of anyone in the tournament as he averaged 22.3 points and has been a terror for opposing defenses. Thomas has elevated his play in the tournament and that’s a major reason Ohio State is in the final four. Kansas will be the stiffest challenge the Buckeyes have faced but with Thomas’ scoring ability and the Buckeyes defense, Ohio State is the early favorite to advance to the title game.

Deshaun Thomas drops 23 against Wisconsin

Mark Chalifoux is a contributing writer to CBS Local Digital Media and can be reached at mark.chalifoux@gmail.com and @markchalifoux on Twitter.

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