When Chris Holtmann was the head coach at Butler, he was involved with The Crossroads Classic, which pitted the four best college basketball programs in the state – Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame and Butler – against each other. Now at Ohio State, Holtmann's current team doesn't have anything close to an in-state rivalry.
One of the criticisms that always came down on Thad Matta was that he wouldn't schedule the premier in-state opponents such as Xavier, Cincinnati or Dayton. Holtmann, however, has already taken the first step in changing that.
"We have engaged in some of those conversations. I have talked to Gene (Smith) about it," Holtmann said in August during the 'Evening With Chris Holtmann' event held at the Schottenstein Center when asked about playing more in-state opponents. "Those are quality programs, there's no question about it. Part of our job is to provide an opportunity that is exciting for our fans. We are working on some things."
Ohio State and Cincinnati have already scheduled a home-and-home with one another starting next season in the Queen City. However, with the Buckeyes, Bearcats and Musketeers all residing in the top-10 of the most recent Associated Press Top 25 poll, we decided to take things a little bit further.
The state of Ohio has some of the best college basketball in the entire country, and we at Eleven Warriors believe it is time to showcase the talent the Buckeye State has to offer, so we have taken the liberty of presenting you with The Ohio Classic, a proposed single-elimination tournament that features the top 13 Div. I teams in the state.
How exactly would this all work? Glad you asked.
As this is a tournament that would require a good amount of planning in terms of sites (more on that later), the seeding would need to be pre-determined so that accommodations could be made well in advance. We took the 13 Div. I teams in the state and seeded them based on first their AP ranking, and then using KenPom's advanced statistical rating system, which ranks every single Div. I program in the nation. (Any secondary ranking system that ranks all 351 Div. I teams could be used in this scenario.)
With a 13-team tournament, the first four teams receive a first-round bye. Currently, Xavier and Cincinnati sit fourth and fifth in the AP Poll, respectively, which would give them the No. 1 and 2 seeds in The Ohio Classic and a seat on the couch for the first round. The No. 3 seed would go to the Buckeyes, who currently sit at No. 8 in the AP Poll following a week that saw Ohio State upset Purdue and roll over Iowa.
That leaves Mid-American Conference leader Toledo as the No. 4 seed, as the Rockets currently hold the highest KenPom ranking of any other Div. I Ohio school, checking in at No. 104.
The bottom two teams in this discussion – Cleveland State and Youngstown State – would partake in a play-in game on the home floor of the higher-ranked team. As it stands, the Vikings hold a slightly higher ranking in KenPom, therefore they would host the play-in game.
The full bracket, as it would stand today going off of our seeding system, would look as it does below.
Because many of Ohio's in-state schools play in the MAC, it is inevitable that these teams will surely meet up in this tournament at some point. If and when that happens, the game would not count toward the teams' conference win-loss records, but would of course count on the season's overall record.
When and Where?
The next order of business, of course, is when to hold this tournament, and what venue to hold it in?
As many know, football in the state of Ohio is pretty important during the month of November, and drawing attention away from it is considered a sin in some homes across the state. Therefore, we propose The Ohio Classic be held following the Big Ten Football Championship Game and after all Ohio state football playoff games, and before the start of full-time conference play at the turn of the new year. If you use December 2017 as a model, that gives you three weekends to choose from before we dive back into college football bowl season.
As far as the location? It's very simple. The play-in game and all first-round games will be held on the campus of the higher seed, with the play-in game on Tuesday night and first-round games on Wednesday. On Thursday evening, the top-four seeds will host the second-round games on-campus before the final four is decided. Friday would serve as a rest day before traveling to Nationwide Arena in downtown Columbus for the semifinal and championship rounds, which would be played on Saturday and Sunday respectively.
We realize that 13 teams is a lot, and there are certainly ways to narrow this down, but the idea of an entire week devoted to Ohio college basketball creates too much excitement, especially with three teams in the top eight in the country currently playing in the Buckeye State. While it may be wishful thinking now, we certainly hope that someday soon, the state of Ohio will adopt The Ohio Classic, or something very similar.