There are some obvious issues with this team that have been discussed numerous times: turnover rate, finishing at the rim, 3 point defense, etc. And I don't think my 4 years of experience coaching middle school rec league basketball qualifies me to suggest how to fix those issues (though DJ Carton playing almost exclusively off the ball comes to mind for the turnover issues).
But I did a deep stat dive and came to this conclusion: the Buckeyes need to share the ball better and all 8 rotation players need to have solid contributions. This team does not have a player that can carry them (ET, Sully, KBD, etc.) when others to do not show up They don't need everyone to be great, they just need everyone to at least be solid.
In their biggest wins (Nova, PSU, Kentucky), it is crazy how well they shared the basketball and how balanced the scoring was in comparison to the last couple of weeks. Against Nova, 7 of the 9 Buckeyes that played scored at least 8 pts. They had 18 assists. Against PSU at home, 7 of the 8 rotation players scored at least 8 pts (EJ Liddell had 5) and they had 16 assists. Against Kentucky, all 8 players that played scored, with 7 notching 7 or more pts. They had 15 assists. In their last 5 losses, the Buckeyes have not reached 15 assists and they had 10 or less in 3 of those games (Yikes). And as you will see in my player breakdown, too many guys are having 'dud' games in this stretch. They cannot afford to really have any against good teams.
Andre Wesson- I honestly don't think he can play any better than he has the last few games. He has to be pissed that besides his brother, he is getting very little help. In the past 5 games, Andre has averaged 13.3 pts, 5 rebs, 53% FG.
Kaleb Wesson- Kaleb is far from perfect. He still turns it over way too much and struggles to finish in the paint. But he is a solid 2nd or 3rd Team All Big 10 Player that has improved tremendously with defense, fouling issues, and stamina. In the past 5 games, Kaleb has averaged 16.8 pts, 9.2 rebs, 44% FG. Not nearly as impressive as big bro, but Kaleb has shown up. He's not a MVP savior type player. Kaleb and Andre need help.
Kyle Young- obviously he missed 2 games due to surgery. But if you combine the game he was experiencing appendicitis symptoms (wvu) and the two road games post surgery (psu, IU), KY has averaged 1pt and 5.3 rebs in 59 mins of play. In the aforementioned 3 big wins, KY averaged 9 pts and 6 rebs in 75 mins.
CJ Walker- In the last 5 losses, CJ has 7 assists and 7 turnovers and shot 33%. In the 3 big wins, CJ had 19 assists, 3 turnovers and shot 53%.
Duane Washington- outside of Saturday's solid showing (20 pts, 60% shooting), Duane shot 37% or worse in the 6 games since returning from injury. In the previous 9, he shot 40% or better in 8 of the games.
Luther Muhammad- In the 3 big wins, he made 11-17 (65%). In their 6 losses, he was 4-25 (16%). Yikes. He did get to the free throw line 6 times (made all 6) in 9 mins at psu. That was good to see and hopefully a positive sign.
DJ Carton- Turnovers are a consistent problem (this is why I think Duane should be the 2nd PG, but I digress). Even in the 3 big wins, DJ had 7 total turnovers. But he also has had dud scoring games. In 43 mins of play against WVU and Wisky, he scored 3 pts. They cannot afford games like that from DJ.
EJ Liddell- EJ has played pretty well the last 2 games. In the previous 4 games (all losses), he scored 9 pts in 64 mins. This is a kid that has scored 8 or more pts in 11 of 14 games.
Long story short, I truly believe the Buckeyes can play with and beat nearly everyone when all 8 rotation players give at least solid performances. Nova, Kentucky, and PSU are not elite teams, but all 3 are sure fire tourney teams if the season ended today, and Buckeyes blew out two of them and beat the other by 6 pts on a neutral court. On the other hand, this team cannot beat good, or even mediocre teams (especially on the road) if even 2 or 3 rotation players don't show up on a given night.
The good news is hopefully they are as healthy as they have been (with the exception of Gaffney) in a while. The good Duane Washington looked like he was back and hopefully we will see the good Kyle Young back shortly, maybe this Thursday. EJ and DJ have looked better the last 2 or 3 games. And I don't think they will have a more favorable 3 game stretch the rest of the year(Minney, @NW, Ind) with plenty of rest/practice/ prep time before the Minney and Indiana games.If they can't get it going now, I am afraid they never will.