If you, like most people, slept on the OSU men's team this year, here's a quick guide to catch you up in advance of March Madness
Ohio State's basketball decline was just long enough for some to deem our local university a “football school.” But this season, everything changed; the basketball team was actually good, exceeding expectations in every capacity. Although some turbulence occurred as play wore on, this season certainly showed that it's time to get excited about Ohio State basketball again. So, just in time for the NCAA Tournament — which Ohio State will be playing in this year — here's a recap of the highs and lows of the team's season (so far).
Chris Holtmann arrives
Time to face facts: Under former Head Coach Thad Matta, Ohio State's basketball program underachieved in its past few seasons. The team needed new blood, desperately. With the arrival of Chris Holtmann from Butler University, the team's upswing was instantaneous. As such, after leading the team to Big Ten success and catapulting them into the top-25 AP Poll, Holtmann's been named Big Ten Coach of the Year. It's now abundantly clear that Ohio State couldn't have tapped a better coach to lead its program. Remember, this is only his first year on the job.
The elite talent, Keita Bates-Diop
Averaging 19-plus points and close to nine rebounds a game, Keita Bates-Diop was key to Ohio State winning this year. Whether it was the double-double he put up against Purdue or the 32 points he dropped against Michigan State, the Big Ten Player of the Year was a real force and ever-willing to put his team on his back. His achievements don't end there — he's now one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Player of the Year award (think Heisman for college hoops). Just think: With March Madness yet to be played, this guy's not even finished tearing through Division 1 Men's Basketball.
Re-emerging as a Big Ten powerhouse
When did we first realize this year's team was something special? It was likely in one of these three moments: when it started 9-0 in Big Ten play; toppled a then-No. 1-ranked Michigan State squad; or when it made a No. 3 Purdue team look mortal. All of this would've been even more impressive if Penn State didn't deliver an improbable buzzer-beater in its first matchup with the Buckeyes (not the last disappointment caused by Penn State — more on this later). Earning a double-bye and the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament said it all: Ohio State's back.
You know, it's hard to win all the time. Especially when the season's as long as it is. That didn't make the Buckeyes losing two of its final four games any easier to handle. The second matchup against Penn State ended in an absolute drubbing, and the follow-up loss to Michigan days later wasn't exactly a delight, either. Ohio State ended the season on a high note, though, by beating Rutgers and Indiana in its final two games.
Big Ten tourney run cut short (stupid Penn State)
If college basketball is a game of personnel matchups, then we can definitively say Ohio State matches up terribly with Penn State across the board. In its first tournament game, Ohio State (of course) drew the only Big Ten team it wasn't able to beat all year. Though the game was competitive up to the final buzzer, the Nittany Lions escaped with a 69-68 victory and completed the season sweep of the Buckeyes. The loss cut Ohio State's fairytale season short, but hopefully the extra time proves advantageous in readying for the Big Dance.