Holtmann's Regret Endures Over Missing NCAA Tournament

Bruce Hooley

No one can prove Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann is wrong about what he envisions his team could have accomplshed in the NCAA Tournament, nor can anyone prove he's right.

That's the maddening thing about missing an NCAA Tournament cancelled by COVID-19 precautions.

He doesn't know, can't know, won't ever know, and the unknown is way worse than trying and failing.

All Holtmann and others in sports want is shot, a chance to compete, an opportunity to match their best on one day against an opponent that may look better on paper or on tape on via the oddsmakers, but must prove that superiority between the lines.

The fear of the coronavirus spreading rampantly curtailed that, and that can drive Holtmann crazy without that nagging, gnawing unknown meaning he in any way pushes back against the decision to cancel the Tournament.

"I've thought about it more in the last couple of weeks than I did in the first few weeks afterward," Holtmann said Tuesday. "I'm not exactly sure why. I think I just missed it. Some of it came about from watching our games in the last month and a half. I was just really excited and in some cases curious about what we could be.

OSU (21-10) projected as a No. 4-6 seed in the Tournament. Exactly which, we'll never know, because the NCAA opted not to release a bracket out of respect for the gravity of the virus' impact claiming lives.

SI.com's projections placed the Buckeyes in the East Regional as a fifth seed against No. 12 Stephen F. Austin. Had Ohio State advanced, it would have been a victory away from Holtmann's first Sweet Sixteen at OSU and an epic regional semifinal pairing against top-seeded Dayton.

"We had our flaws," Holtmann said. "I'm not delusional. But I do think we had a very good way about us."

A Dayton-Ohio State game would have featured a battle between Wooden Award-winner Obi Toppin and OSU's Kaleb Wesson in the first game between the schools since UD upset the Buckeyes in the 2014 opening round, 60-59.

Holtmann's optimism about the Buckeyes' post-season didn't touch on any specific opponents, but rather on the difficulty his team posed by being a Top 10 finisher in the Kenpom.com analytics the NCAA factors into its bracket selections.

"Our defense was just good enough and our offense was really efficient," Holtmann said. "When you have a very difficult matchup like Kalebe Wesson, his ability inside and outside, that give us a chance to get to the second weekend.

"That was a thing our guys talked about after winning a couple games our first two years. They really talked about that. And who knows what could have happened after that? I did feel good about it."

Holtmann is 5-0 in NCAA first-round games, 3-0 at Butler and 2-0 at OSU.

His final team at Butler lost to eventual national champion North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen, 92-80.

"In all likelihood, we would have been a four, five or six (seed)," Holtmann said. "That's where we would have been. When you're in those games, you're first-round game is really hard. It really is, so there's no guarantees in any of that.

"But it would have been fun to take a look at that and know who we would have played in that first game and potentially in that second game and moving forward. I would have liked to see that. I'm sure it would have made it harder, but I would have loved to see it. Having said that, I get why they didn't do it."

Post your comment below to let us know how far you think the Buckeyes would have advanced in the NCAA Tournament.

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