A couple weeks ago, it looked like Ohio State could have their best season since Greg Oden and Mike Conley were in Columbus. They started the season 8-1 and reached as high as No. 2 in the country, including receiving nine first place votes. Since that media praise they have lost three straight in matchups against West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Maryland. While none of these losses are debilitating in and of themselves, it bears some worry on behalf of Buckeye fans. We’ll take a look at some of the key takeaways from the past couple weeks of Ohio State basketball.
1. Will the real D.J. Carton please stand up?
The freshman guard was nonexistent in losses against West Virginia and Wisconsin, scoring a combined three points in those contests. Carton has shown a propensity for not taking care of the ball as he has nearly as many turnovers (38) as assists (41) on the season. It’s understandable to become overwhelmed by West Virginia’s schizophrenic defense, but he needs to take care of the ball better than committing five turnovers while dishing out only two assists against the Mountaineers. The recent disappearing act was highlighted by missing his only field goal attempt in 21 minutes against Wisconsin while turning the ball over four times.
Carton was able to bounce back slightly by scoring 14 points against Maryland on Wednesday night. He shot only 6-15 from the floor, but this added aggression may be a good sign despite the inefficiency. The Buckeyes need the freshman to become more dependable as a secondary scorer in order to reach the team’s full potential of making a run into April. He received his first start of the season against Maryland when CJ Walker was suffering flu-like symptoms on Tuesday. By having Carton take the start from Walker, Holtmann is likely seeing that his freshman guard needs to play up to snuff regardless of circumstances.
2. Can the Buckeyes solve their offensive woes?
The “Press” Virginia Mountaineers have developed the reputation since Bob Huggins arrived in Morgantown of being a defensive powerhouse built on rotations of nine or ten guys. Their opponents are currently averaging 60.4 ppg which ranks 20th nationally in defense. All this is to say is that it’s understandable, maybe even expected, for Ohio State to struggle in a matchup against West Virginia. However, scoring 59 points against the Mountaineers and then following that up with offensive duds of 57 points and 55 points against Wisconsin and Maryland, respectively, is worrisome.
Kaleb Wesson has shown that he will be the anchor that Holtmann can rely on, averaging almost a double-double. What the Buckeyes need to figure out are the secondary options. DJ Carton is hitting the freshman wall and needs to adjust the grind of Big Ten play. Duane Washington Jr. seemingly can’t buy a bucket, contrary to what his 18 points against Wisconsin might tell you (he shot 31.6% from the floor). Kyle Young was shooting 66.7% from the floor before undergoing an appendectomy. He’s still day-to-day
After starting the season red hot, shooting 40.8% from three, the Buckeyes shot a combined 26.7% from three in their last three games. Some of this can be explained by a regression to the mean. However, the Buckeyes will need to figure out their shooting woes if they expect to get back on track as the Big Ten slate looms. They cannot solely rely on Kaleb Wesson to get the ball and figure things out himself. Ohio State needs somebody to establish himself as the go-to secondary scorer behind Wesson. Too many times this season it has taken the Buckeyes too long to figure out who they can rely on game to game.
Holtmann and his squad will play a struggling Indiana team on Saturday before taking on Nebraska on Monday. If Ohio State can’t figure out their offensive problems against these two teams, this season could turn into disappointment despite the promising start in non-conference.