COLUMBUS, Ohio- New Ohio State basketball head coach Chris Holtmann is definitely no Thad Matta. With Matta known as a coach that did not schedule tough in-state opponents for his team, Holtmann, in his first months on the job, did not follow that way of thinking and is already making an impact on scheduling.
The Buckeyes will begin a home-and-home series with the University of Cincinnati to begin both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.
Holtmann said that he was not the only one behind this idea of his team facing the Bearcats.
“I give Gene Smith, our athletic director, a lot of credit because I think he was certainly behind, in a lot of ways, this idea of playing this and supporting a series like this,” Hotmann said. “I had to sign off on it. He wasn’t going to tell me that you have to play it, or maybe he was. Certainly, we both had to be in agreement on that.”
Once the Buckeyes and the Bearcats face off to begin the 2018-19 season, it will end a 97-year drought of not playing each other in the regular season. However, Ohio State got the best of Cincinnati in their last matchup, defeating the Bearcats in the NCAA East Regional Semifinals in 2012.
Holtmann said that the Ohio State fan base has been eager and have had a “thirst” for a series between these two teams that he never really understood until he became the head coach. However, in terms of scheduling, it involves more than just giving fans what they want to see.
“If your fans are hollering at you to play a certain team and it is of no benefit, I’m going to have to say, ‘sorry fans, but this isn’t the most prudent move right now,’” Holtmann said. “This met all, I think, the requirements to be a very high level game and it was certainly a big part of it.”
In the 2016-17 season, the Bearcats went 30-6, including a perfect 18-0 record at home, losing to SMU in the American Championship. This landed Cincinnati an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, in which the Bearcats lost to UCLA in the second round.
Holtmann gets why his predecessor did not schedule these kind of games. However, he feels as though that these kind of games against these kind of opponents provide a rare opportunity for his Ohio State team.
“I understand, in some ways, why it hasn’t happened in the past,” Holtmann said. “I’m not an idiot, but Cincinnati is a Top 25 program right now. If you win that game, that’s a good RPI game and that helps you.”