Sure enough, the Buckeyes went from 9-18 before Williams to 16-11 and then 19-12 with him. Now Ohio State just may have, as Ransey says, "the best talent in the country."
The dozen or so Buckeye fans who camped outside of St. John's Arena for a week before season tickets went on sale certainly think so. And with good reason. OSU retains four starters and seven of the top eight scorers from last year's NIT semifinalists. Ransey, who poured in 21.4 points a game on 54.7% shooting in 1978-1979, is the only senior in a starting lineup that includes Williams, a dominating center, especially on defense, and two other juniors, Forward Jim Smith and Guard Carter Scott.
But it is a big man who wasn't there last season who makes the difference. He is freshman Clark Kellogg, who will step into the last starting spot. Kellogg is expected to make full use of the skills that not only made him one of the nation's best high school players but also have put him on some preseason All-America teams even before his first college game.
"We try and downplay freshmen here," an OSU aide says, "but there's really no way to do that in Clark's case." The 6'8", 225-pound Kellogg will start at forward, but don't be surprised if Coach Eldon Miller occasionally puts him in the backcourt, a la Magic Johnson. If so, Miller could then bring in another freshman, 6'10" Granville Waiters, whose high school team beat Kellogg's for the Ohio AAA championship last season. Also expected to make strong contributions are another freshman. Guard Larry Huggins, junior Guard Todd Penn and three-year letterman Jim Ellinghausen, a forward.
"The trick will be making all this talent work together," says Ransey. That, of course, is Miller's job, and he sure likes what he's seen at practices, which have been closed to the public "to eliminate all the distractions," he says.
"It's too early to tell about anyone's team, but we're pleased that others think so highly of ours," Miller deadpans. "We'll be good, but how good only time will tell. Talk makes no difference; sooner or later you have to go out and get it done—and that's what we'd like to do, go out and get it done."
Which is exactly what Ohio State will have to do. Besides a non-conference schedule that includes Virginia, Tennessee and Louisville, the Buckeyes' first three Big Ten games are against conference powers Indiana, Purdue and Iowa.
But Miller is not overly worried about the prospect of a rocky start in the conference. "Every team in the Big Ten will be good," he says. "You can't play favorites or worry about a particular game." Chances are Miller is right, and even if his Buckeyes are nipped for the Big Ten title, they are likely to get a rematch with the conference champ in Indianapolis.
3 NORTH CAROLINA
From the gift shops on Franklin Street to the outback dorms of South Campus, bumper stickers are popular items in Chapel Hill, N.C. Smug provincialists prefer the one that reads: IF GOD ISN'T A TAR HEEL, THEN WHY IS THE SKY CAROLINA BLUE? Scorners of North Carolina's biggest rivals favor: WAKE IS FAKE, DUKE IS PUKE, BUT THE SCHOOL I HATE IS N.C. STATE. Recently a new sticker has been vying for space on car bumpers and bulletin boards. Its message: UNC is WORTHY OF A NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP. Never mind that an NCAA championship would read better; the meaning is what matters. Observers who know basketball believe that freshman James Worthy can join four starters from last year's ACC champions and make North Carolina No. 1 in the nation.