It may be college football season, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t talk about a little college basketball as well. From the moment Chris Holtmann was named the head coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes men’s basketball team, he vowed that he wanted his team to have a much tougher non-conference schedule than the Buckeyes have had in recent memory. Yeah, the scarlet and gray have been involved in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, but outside of that and another game or two, they’ve had a dismal non-conference schedule.
Well, it looks as though Holtmann’s wish for a tougher one has begun with a bang. On Tuesday, the university announced that the Buckeyes will open against the Cincinnati Bearcats both in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. Holtmann is very excited about the two season openers against the in-state foe and is looking forward to the challenge.
“We have great respect for the UC program and Coach (Mick) Cronin,” Holtmann said. “The idea of challenging ourselves in the nonconference while also providing an attractive game for our collective fan bases certainly made sense to us. We understand the challenge of opening the season on the road vs. a high-caliber opponent with a younger team provides some risk but we felt like it was the right decision at this time.”
On the other side of the matchup, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin echoed Holtmann’s excitement, not only about making the matchup happen, but also the fact that it will be a great way to start the two seasons as well.
“This is a great thing for Ohio, for basketball in Ohio and for the fans of these great universities,” Cronin said. “I want to thank everyone involved in making this happen. We are very excited about reopening our arena next season. Supporting this and agreeing to play Cincinnati in a home-and-home series is a first class move by Ohio State, Coach Chris Holtmann and the OSU administration.”
Over the past few years, the Bearcats have been in and out of the Top 25. They have arguably been better than the Buckeyes over the past four or so years.
This is a good start in improving Ohio State’s non-conference schedule going forward, but Holtmann mentioned that the Buckeyes aren’t done and are still looking for quality opponents to add to their future schedules.
“We will continue to work to put together a challenging and attractive nonconference schedule in the future within the constraints of the Big Ten schedule as well as the games that have already been contracted.”
Ohio State leads the all-time series over the Bearcats, 6-4. The two last met in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, when the scarlet and gray took down Cincinnati in the Sweet 16, 81-66.
The Buckeyes haven’t played at Cincinnati since 1920, but that will change in one of the next two years.
While no dates have been set, the two schools have already agreed to play the first allowable date of competition in both 2018 and 2019. It has yet to be decided who will host the game each year in the home-and-home series.
Holtmann still has plenty of work to do to improve the non-conference schedule going forward, but this is a definitely a step in the right direction.