Now 17 games into the season, Ohio’s season has churned with unpredictable storylines, from great defense to flimsy offense and an MVP’s broken foot.
Basketball writers Luke O’Roark and Charlie Hatch offered some midseason grades on the Bobcats:
Ohio’s offense has diminished in year three of “Saul Ball.”
Statistically, Ohio’s offense hasn’t been nearly as efficient from a year ago. Its 75 points per game is seventh in the Mid-American Conference. Its free throw percentage, at just 66 percent, is the worst in the MAC. Its field goal percentage right in the middle (sixth); making 44 percent. Its nine offensive rebounds per game is the worst in the MAC, too.
The Bobcats only have one player ranked in the top-20 for points per game and he’s injured (Antonio Campbell).
Remember, this was an offense that ranked in the top-four in almost every offensive category last season.
At times, Ohio (against Sam Houston and Kent State) has looked similar to last year, with Jaaron Simmons getting downhill and crossing the opposition up. Kenny Kaminski and Jordan Dartis heated up on spot-up jumpers.
But those haven’t always happened (Western Kentucky and Tennessee Tech), and that could potentially deter the Bobcats’ chances heading into February and March.
Coach Saul Phillips reiterated his preseason goal endlessly: better defense.
The Bobcats were the second-worst defense in MAC play in 2015-16, allowing an alarming 76.1 points per game. Granted, the team has one of the conference’s best offenses, meaning sloppy play on the other side of the floor kept Ohio from becoming a complete team.
Phillips laughed in his office Monday when he thought of the turnaround.
This season the Bobcats have the best defense in the MAC, only allowing 66.5 points per game. That’s a drastic drop from a year ago, but it also shows Ohio’s campaign to become a multi-faceted team.
Whether Campbell’s absence will change anything remains unseen, but approaching the final dozen regular season games allowing 10 points less than last season shows considerable improvement.
TEAM MVP: Antonio Campbell/Jaaron Simmons
Before breaking his right foot, Campbell was on pace for a consecutive MAC Player of the Year title. His 16.4 points and 8.9 rebounds per game was irreplaceable.
While Jason Carter has played well since replacing Campbell (12.3 points, 10.3 rebounds), that’s still asking a lot from a freshman who only just started his first game Saturday.
With Campbell done, now it’s Simmons’ team. Posting a season-high 21 points at Northern Illinois, Phillips said his point guard pieced together his best Ohio performance to date.
Averaging 12.4 points and 6.9 assists per game, Ohio’s future rests on its point guard’s efficiency.