Each of the last two seasons, Chris Holtmann’s Ohio State Buckeyes have exceeded expectations since the head coach took over for Thad Matta in 2017. They were expected to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten and instead not only made it to the NCAA Tournament but won one game in both tournaments as well. With little to no expectations, Holtmann’s teams played at the best when they were under the radar, even when they were ranked.
This season is different. For the first time since Holtmann arrived in Columbus two years ago, the Buckeyes are ranked in the preseason AP Poll. Ohio State checked in at No. 18 in the first AP Top 25 of the season.
The Buckeyes not only lost just two players that played significant minutes from last year (C.J. Jackson and Keyshawn Woods) but they added the 12th-best recruiting class in the country — four-star point guard DJ Carton, four-star power forward EJ Liddell, four-star small forward Alonzo Gaffney, and three-star center Ibrahima Diallo — this season.1
For the first time, Ohio State will not only have expectations to live up to with Holtmann leading the way, but they are already projected to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten, unlike the projections the previous two years.
Given the type of talent, experience, and coaching that is in Columbus, they should be just fine. It will be quite an exciting season for Ohio State this fall, one that Buckeye Nation hopes will turn into something even more special in March.
During Big Ten Media Day, Ohio State was picked to finish third in the Big Ten, behind only Michigan State and Nebraska. Carton and Liddell were the top-two vote-getters to win the preseason Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
Many analysts believe the Big Ten will be quite good this season. In the preseason, poll, Michigan State (No. 1), Maryland (9), Ohio State (18), and Purdue (23) represent the conference. That also means that the conference schedule will be quite tough for the Buckeyes as well, which will prepare them for March. To add to that, with a loaded non-conference slate that features games against Cincinnati, Kentucky (in Las Vegas), West Virginia (in Cleveland), Villanova, and North Carolina, the scarlet and gray will be tested early and often. It will not only allow Holtmann and the coaching staff to make adjustments as the season goes on, but it will also give them plenty of opportunities to see the type of team they have this season.
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.
Ohio State is no longer the hunter. They flourished in that role, but this season is expected to be different. This year (and hopefully beyond), they are the hunted. Their success each of the last two seasons along with the fact that they are ranked prior to the season tipping off this season gives them a target on their back. The Buckeyes were able to outperform expectations during Holtmann’s first two years in Columbus, but now they must try and do so when everyone knows they can (and should) be good.