Besides on-court success and his expertise on the recruiting trail, one of the most glaring things surrounding head coach Chris Holtmann from the moment he came to the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2017 was that he wanted his team to have one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country, regardless of how good the Big Ten is. Heading into 2019-20, it seems as though he finally got his wish, at least on paper.
With the announcement of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchups on Thursday, Ohio State now knows the majority of their non-conference schedule, at least their toughest games, which matter most:
There’s not only plenty of talented teams on that least but plenty of NCAA Tournament success and national titles on it as well. The Buckeyes are hoping to be one of the best teams in the country for the foreseeable future and when they will play teams like that, it will only improve them both individually and as a team.
A tough out-of-conference schedule not only prepares the Buckeyes for a grueling 20-game conference schedule, but it will also get them ready for March as well. Heading into Year 3 in the Holtmann era, 2019-20 will be the first time that Ohio State will actually have some expectations under the head coach. The first two years they exceeded the projections that were made by the majority of reporters and opposing coaches, making the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons. This winter, they are expected to not only compete for the Big Ten title, but even a national championship, or at least make the Elite Eight or Final Four.
With a 20-game Big Ten slate that will feature teams such as Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Purdue, among others, they will already have plenty on their plate in the latter half of the season. Now, it looks as though they will have their hands full throughout much of the season. With a team that features just one senior (Andre Wesson) on scholarship, it will get the younger players ready for the big stage sooner rather than later.
A tough non-conference schedule will not only maximize their potential early in the season so that they can learn from their mistakes, but it will prepare them for March when winning and success matters the most. If they do well against those out-of-conference teams it will give them plenty of confidence heading into the rest of the season; at the very worst they will be able to learn what it takes to compete with the best teams in the country. With high expectations in 2019-20, Holtmann has now put his team in the best position to hang a banner(s), which is all that really matters in the end.
To be the best, you have to beat the best. Holtmann’s Buckeyes are doing everything they can to do just that.