Last year, head coach Thad Matta obviously had no choice but to go with Jamar Butler and essentially only Jamar Butler because of the surprise loss of Mike Conley. This year, he had a chance to address the situation and he did. He brought in Anthony Crater and Jeremie Simmons, two guards who brought different skill sets to the table.
Crater's ill-advised departure meant the onus would fall to Simmons to produce, and he has clearly struggled with those expectations. The player known as "Automatic Offense" (AO for short) is fifth on the team in scoring average at 7.0 points per game. Good, but not great. He has 29 assists against 14 turnovers – an average of 2.4 assists per game. That's not good enough.
Butler averaged 5.9 assists per game last season. Simmons is adapting to a lot of things, and reserve P.J. Hill is still teaching him a number of things about the point guard position. I think the problem here is that Simmons is too focused on putting the ball in the basket and not in the hands of his teammates, and that is a product of his career to this point.
I'm not sure I've seen Simmons attack the basket with tenacity and look to dish and I'm almost certain I've never seen him feed the post. Ironically, those were areas I felt Crater was ahead of the junior.
In relief for Simmons is Hill, who for all his hustle and determination is not a player you can count on to play a major role on a team hoping to challenge for a Big Ten title. He is not a threat to shoot and he has a hard time attacking the basket – although in his case, I think he's trying.
Both players were pressured the entire length of the floor by Minnesota, and neither showed a great ability to handle that.
What can Matta do?
I wonder what Walter Offutt would look like at the point.
I think … The problems in the backcourt are nearly matched by those in the frontcourt. The Buckeyes are simply not getting enough production from their paint players.
Against the Golden Gophers, B.J. Mullens led the way with five points. Fellow reserve Kyle Madsen was next with four, and starter Dallas Lauderdale had two. Lauderdale has made massive improvements to his overall game since last season, but he still has work to be done on offense.
We asked Matta about the lack of post production prior to the Minnesota game, and he pointed out that his post players are not getting the ball as close to the basket as they need to be. That is prohibiting them from being able to really do much if they do actually get the ball there.
These guys need to get open, and their teammates need to be looking. Here's where a point guard really comes into play.
The lack of production here will probably keep Turner – who has been the best post player for the Buckeyes so far this year – at the 4 and away from the point guard spot. For those of you who complained about David Lighty's abilities, I hope you are now seeing how important he is to this team's chances for success.
I think … the more I start to like this zone defense, the more I start to hate it. It's a great way to take advantage of OSU's overall athleticism on defense, and it's been fun as I have gotten more knowledge about how it actually works. Perfectly executed, it has the ability to be positively dominant.
But it's not, and teams are getting way too many open looks. Matta said Iowa was so successful because it's a good shooting team, plain and simple. Other teams with only one or two really good shooters are not going to knock down as many shots as the Hawkeyes did, and I buy that argument.
Against Minnesota, the Buckeyes found themselves on the bad end of some long offensive rebounds. Those are going to make a defense look worse because your players are supposed to be crashing the boards. As a result, players are left wide open for second-chance three pointers.
I'm not sure either performance are reasons why the Buckeyes should get out of the zone. However, I'm one more bad performance away from hitching my cart to that bandwagon.