Future success of Ohio State hoops team hinges on point guard play

Matt HammondI cannot remember watching a team that provides as much frustration as this year’s Ohio State men’s basketball squad.

Getting a root canal provides as much pleasure as watching this Buckeyes team play. At times, they play really well. At times, they look like the worst team in the Big Ten. No lead is ever safe as the Buckeyes rarely play a consistent game from start to finish. There are more peaks and valleys in an Ohio State basketball game than there are on a Cedar Point rollercoaster.

The root of Ohio State’s inconsistent play lies at the point guard spot. Several circumstances have led to a point guard mess that is hindering the possibility for current and future success of the Buckeye program.

The point guard position is currently being shared by juniors P.J. Hill and Jeremie Simmons. While I like some of the qualities of each player, neither is a natural point guard.

Hill came to Ohio State two years ago after one year at a junior college. The only reason he was recruited was because the Buckeyes needed depth at point guard when Mike Conley declared for the 2007 NBA draft after only one season in Columbus. When Conley left, there was only one point guard (Jamar Butler) on the roster and Hill was needed as a backup.

I am confident OSU head coach Thad Matta never saw Hill as a player he would have to count on at point guard. Hill rarely played last year in his first season as a Buckeye and this year he started the season in the role of a glorified walk-on. He was third string at point guard and only played in the second half of blowouts.

Simmons spent two years at a junior college in Flint, Mich., before transferring to OSU this year. While he was highly regarded as a junior college player, he was thought of more as a shooting guard prospect than a point guard.

A good outside shooter, Simmons has given the Buckeye offense a boost as a three-point threat. However, when he has run the point, he has not shown the ability to penetrate and find open shooters like a quality point guard should be able to do.

Hill and Simmons are the only options at the point now because Anthony Crater, who Matta spent a great deal of time recruiting, left the program this season just 10 games into his college career. Crater’s transfer threw a wrench into Matta’s plans at point guard because Crater was expected to lock down the position not only this season for years to come.

The result has been what one would expect from a team lacking a quality point guard: inconsistency. It’s like a football team that is weak at the quarterback position. A team can have great running backs and great receivers, but if the quarterback struggles, the entire offense is going to struggle to find a rhythm.

I have heard a lot of Buckeye fans complain that this year’s basketball team has underachieved. A question uttered over and over is, “How can a team with several future NBA prospects be so average?” The answer is simple. While there is a lot of talent on this team, the lack of a proven point guard keeps the team from developing any chemistry.

I don’t see much changing next year unless Matta snags a quality junior college point guard — if there is even one out there at this point — who can come in and provide immediate help.

Unfortunately for OSU hoops fans, the frustration of watching the Buckeyes looks like it will continue for a while.