Chris Holtmann And Ohio State Basketball: Who Saw This Coming?

Chris Holtmann And Ohio State Basketball: Who Saw This Coming?

Mark Russell

Chris Holtmann And Ohio State Basketball: Who Saw This Coming?


This was supposed to be the rebuilding year of all rebuilding years in Columbus. Don’t tell that to Ohio State’s new sheriff, Chris Holtmann. The Buckeyes may be the most pleasant surprise in all of college basketball.


 

Chris Holtmann and Ohio State: Who Saw This Coming?

Seriously… who could’ve imagined? When Ohio State relieved beloved Buckeye basketball coach Thad Matta of his duties at the helm, things looked bleak for the men’s squad. It seemed like Athletic Director Gene Smith had really made a mess of things firing Matta in early June.

The Awkward and Surprising Timing

June! The time of year that collegiate teams are hosting summer camps, making summer exhibition trips, and preparing for a chance at a conference and possible national championship run. Not a coaching change. Not on the day that a new recruiting class shows up on campus for summer classes and workouts.

Not when all the hot coaching commodities had been spoken for. Among them my personal choice — Archie Miller — whom Indiana hired away from a successful Dayton program shortly after firing Tom Crean. A former OSU assistant under Matta at that.

The timing seemed completely wrong. Thad deserved better than this. Who can Ohio State possibly bring in at this late stage in the game? Enter the unassuming Chris Holtmann.

Cautiously Optimistic

I’ll admit, I was bewildered about the timing of Matta’s departure and I really wasn’t happy about it. I made up all kinds of scenarios in my mind, all of which were purely speculative. To say the least, my expectations for Buckeye basketball were pretty low this season.

It’s no secret that Ohio State is a football first school. With that said, Ohio State fans are passionate about their teams. Just recently, fans packed Value City Arena to watch the OSU wrestling team against No. 3 Iowa.

The Ohio State fan base loves to see the young men and women in Scarlet and Grey representing its university.

Resetting Expectations For Ohio State

Jan 7, 2018; Columbus, OH, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes head coach Chris Holtmann talks to Ohio State Buckeyes forward Jae’Sean Tate (1) during the first half against the Michigan State Spartans at Value City Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Which makes what Holtmann has done in just half of a season all the more exciting.  Nobody was expecting this. Anytime a change in leadership comes, there is a wonder how everyone will mesh together.

But under Holtmann’s charge, the basketball Buckeyes seem to be buying into his message. And they seem to be coming of age at the right time. With only one loss in the Big Ten, this team has exceeded all expectations … and then some.

Who knows if they can keep up the momentum to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament or even into the NCAA National Tournament?

Here’s what I do know… a few days ago, after a last second loss to Penn State in Value City Arena, someone tried to rile me up by asking me what I thought about Ohio State losing to a middle of the pack Nittany Lion team. My response was this, “It all has been a pleasant surprise.  I’m just enjoying the ride.”

It remains to be seen if this Chris Holtmann team is playing above itself or if he’s building something special for years to come. Maybe both. As an eternal OSU optimist, I’m choosing to believe the latter. I just didn’t see it coming… at least not this soon.

 

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