Ohio State Basketball is having an underwhelming season, but Chris Holtmann deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Message boards and social media are often a toxic place for any fandom, but the vitriol toward Chris Holtmann at Ohio State Basketball seems to be rising.
Frustration is understandable. Nobody was saying the Buckeyes should be a title favorite this year, but they were expected to slide into the NCAA Tournament with little issue. Instead, they’re stuck towards the bottom of the Big Ten.
This season, the Buckeyes are a woeful 11-16. Things looked okay in non-conference play, but the team has given very little in Big Ten competition, winning just three games to this point. Only Minnesota and its one victory have fewer victories in the league. The Buckeyes are riding a seven-game losing streak.
As you may recall, fans were clamoring for Holtmann’s job at the end of last season, too. The difference is that last year’s season ended in the NCAA Tournament – the second round, mind you, not the first round.
If this turns out to be the start of a downward spiral for the Buckeyes program, then it would be time to start talking about moving on from Holtmann At the moment, it’s just too soon.
It’s fair for fans to be frustrated that the Buckeyes haven’t progressed past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament under Holtmann. But there’s yet to be a single March Madness during his tenure that lacked Ohio State (though that seems likely to change soon).
The coach also keeps winning on the recruiting trail, consistently reeling in top targets. The team’s best player this year is Brice Sensabaugh, a freshman averaging 16.4 points per game.
And while Ohio State’s roster looked decent on paper entering the season, the program was coping with a number of losses and the integration of veterans and freshmen alike. Outside of Sensabaugh, other key freshmen include Bruce Thornton and Felix Okpara. Tanner Holden, Sean McNeil, and Isaac Likekele all arrived via the transfer route. The departures entering the year included Malaki Branham, Kyle Young, and E.J. Liddell.
Expectations are always high at a program like Ohio State, which is seemingly near the top of the list in every major sport. The Buckeyes are perennially ranked in football and women’s basketball, two of the other sports that get the most coverage. Men’s basketball is expected to always be in that echelon too.
But it’s worth noting that the Thad Matta era started off unevenly too. In his third season, the Buckeyes made it to the NCAA title game. But the team didn’t advance out of the first weekend twice in his first five years and didn’t make the NCAA Tournament twice either. After that, Ohio State reeled off four straight trips to the second weekend of the Big Dance, their most recent coming in 2013.
The frustration of not making it to even the Sweet Sixteen in a decade is palpable. The difference between a bad coach and good coach is much greater than the difference between a good coach and a great coach. Holtmann is a good coach. It’s too soon to determine if he can be a great coach.
It’s always darkest before the dawn, Buckeyes fans. This is a dark time for the program. Nevertheless, Chris Holtmann’s resume and recruiting wins make him worthy of one more chance to see if he can elevate Ohio State to the next level.