It’s easy to play “what if” with the 2017 Bobcats.
What if ... Antonio Campbell didn't break his foot midway through his senior season?
What if ... Jaaron Simmons wasn't trapped at the top of the 3-point line with the season on the line?
What if ... Ohio doesn’t blow multiple second-half leads during the regular season?
But that’s all disingenuous.
Coach Saul Phillips won’t flirt with those ideas.
“We're not going to make an excuse,” Phillips said. “I don't think I've had a group that showed the resiliency and togetherness throughout this whole process.”
The reality is: Ohio finishes its 2016-17 season 20-11 despite preseason goals to reach the NCAA Tournament.
During the preseason, Ohio was picked to finish a top of the Mid-American Conference by numerous polls — and almost did.
But after Campbell broke his foot and lost the rest of his final season on Jan. 19, Phillips and the Bobcats had to salvage their season without their best player.
With Simmons and freshman Jason Carter developing a 1-2 punch thanks to screen and rolls and motion-based offense, Ohio went into the MAC Tournament as the No. 2 seed.
With four injured players — including last year’s MAC Player of the Year — Ohio just lost steam, and it's out of time.
After a 68-66 loss to Kent State in the MAC semifinals, the Bobcats’ declined to play in a postseason tournament, confirming rumors that the team wouldn’t play in any other tournament besides the NCAA or National Invitational Tournament.
“I mean, it's over,” Simmons said plainly. “It's over now. There's nothing you can do to get it back, so you've got to move on.”
Positives did show, though, towards the end.
Simmons took full reign of the Bobcats, and the rest of the MAC.
He finished with 16 points and six assists per game on 43 shooting percentage. He was honored with First Team All-MAC and All-MAC Tournament selections.
He even reached the 1,000th point milestone in just two seasons.
Jordan Dartis continued his historic 3-point shooting pace, finishing his sophomore year ninth-best in the nation in 3-point shooting percentage at 44 percent.
Carter bulldozed his way to one of the best freshman campaigns in Ohio history. He averaged 14 points and nine rebounds after being thrusted into the starting center position 18 games into the regular season.
And from these three, Ohio’s future remains on an upward trajectory.
“I know this, and some of you guys that have been around the team all year long, if you didn't concede that this group exceeded expectations after what we went through, then you just don't like me or the team,” Phillips said.