Ohio State's season couldn't have started any better.
With a roster chalked full of young inexperienced talent, the Buckeyes pulled off wins on the road against Miami (Fla.), at a neutral site against Notre Dame, and at home against Butler to help build an impressive out-of-conference resume.
Now, only a couple of weeks later, all of that seems like a distant memory.
The ball got rolling when Ohio State lost David Lighty for anywhere from six to 12 weeks with a broken bone in his foot. The young Buckeyes managed to stroll through two cupcake games against Iona and North Carolina-Asheville without Lighty, but his presence was sorely missed Saturday afternoon against West Virginia.
The Mountaineers came into Value City Arena and bullied the Buckeyes with their physical and aggressive style of play, which amounted to a 76-48 trouncing of Ohio State. At one point, West Virginia built a 32-point lead and despite being undersized, outrebounded the Buckeyes 35-33.
Lighty, the unquestioned leader of this team, was the anchor to a defensive unit that was one of the best in the nation. His aggressive and physical style was needed badly against West Virginia, and without him the Buckeyes backed down from the Mountaineers overwhelming pressure.
That response has to be a concern for head coach Thad Matta heading into Big Ten play, where the M.O. is "if you can't beat 'em, beat 'em."
A loss wasn't necessarily a bad thing for this young team's psyche, but a game so demoralizing has to have an effect on their mentality. There certainly is much work to be done for Ohio State to compete for a Big Ten title, and so little time to do so. Wednesday marks the start of Big Ten play when the Bucks take on Iowa in Columbus.
To make matters even worse, Rivals.com is reporting that true freshman point guard Anthony Crater is set to transfer only 10 games into his collegiate career.
Color me confused and at a loss for words. Crater is the No. 2 point guard behind Jeremie Simmons, and was getting a shade over 13 minutes per game. While that is not substantial playing time, I'm not quite sure what more you could be looking for as a true freshman.
Crater hasn't quite put together a performance warranting him more minutes on the court, so if that is his reasoning for the impending transfer, it seems to be very counter-productive. If Crater transfers to another Division I institution, he must sit out a year, meaning he gets zero minutes for the rest of this season, and half of next season.
I don't want to speculate what his reasons may entail, but I really feel that there is much more to this situation than playing time. More details will surely surface, so keep a watchful eye on this puzzling development.
Crater's decision leaves an already short Buckeye bench that much shorter, and now Ohio State must turn to seldom-used junior point guard P.J. Hill.
Hill does have some experience as he was the backup to Jamaar Butler during Ohio State's NIT championship run last season. Hill was beaten out by JUCO transfer Simmons and Crater, which speaks volumes as to where Hill stands in terms of ability.
Another option would be to turn to true freshman Walter Offut to take Craters minutes, but neither Hill or Offut possess Crater's on-ball defensive skills.
Looking toward the future, the '09 class remains without a commitment, meaning either the Bucks start looking for a point guard in the '09 talent pool or trudge on without a "true" point guard for the next two seasons.
Either way, the ground that was once so solid beneath the Buckeyes feet, seems to slowly be crumbling. The big question is, will Ohio State be able find solid footing or will their promising start to the season be all for naught?
*This news has been confirmed. The following quotes have been edited into the original article, click to see original source*
"He felt he wasn't needed like he shoud have been neeeded in the program. Unfortunately, it's one of those things where he felt the things that (Coach Matta) had promised him coming in, he's not living up to what he said. (Matta) told him he would be the starting point guard, when he got in or he would back up Mike Conley, and if Mike would leave, (Crater) would be the starting point guard." - Carlos Fordham, Anthony Craters former AAU Coach
"If someone ever promises you anything in recruiting, turn and run the other way because this is life and there are no promises made in life. The greatest answer, if I'm ever asked that question is 'I didn't promise Greg Oden he would start.' If there was one guy I could make a promise to start, it was Greg. I talked to Anthony (Crater) on Saturday, and I said 'Did I ever promise you anything?', and he said 'No, you didn't.'" - Head Coach Thad Matta