When Chris Holtmann took the Ohio State job in June, the expectations, at least from outside of the program, were low.
Less than a year later, the Buckeyes not only finished second in the Big Ten, but took home a number of conference awards on Monday. Keita Bates-Diop was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, while Holtmann earned conference coach of the year, as Ohio State claimed the top two individual awards of the Big Ten postseason.
Not only did Bates-Diop and Holtmann come out on top of the conference award lists, Jae'Sean Tate and Kaleb Wesson also earned Big Ten honors, as they were named to the second-team and All-Freshman lists respectively.
Finishing second in the league and with the top coach and player in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes are clearly ahead of schedule from where most expected them to be just months ago, even by Holtmann's earliest estimations.
"We felt like potentially we could get to some type of postseason, whether it be NIT or if things went really well for us with some of the older guys, (the NCAA Tournament)," Holtmann said. "We also felt like we had some work to do in recruiting in the classes behind these guys just in terms of depth and numbers. I think what it says is that we are off to a good start. It affirms, or validates maybe in their mind, what we have been preaching. Not only are there great team accomplishments, but along with any kind of team accomplishments come exciting individual acknowledgements as well."
The crazy part of this season for Ohio State is that there is even more to accomplish. The Buckeyes sit at No. 2 in the Big Ten Tournament seeding and will take on the winner of the No. 7 Penn State and No. 10 Northwestern matchup after a double-bye. To show how far Holtmann has brought the program, the Buckeyes fell in the first game of the tournament a year ago, losing the No. 11 vs. No. 14 matchup to Rutgers, which ultimately ended their season.
Bates-Diop, who did not play but was in attendance for that game, said the loss is still fresh in the minds of the Buckeyes, who don't want to be one-and-done for a second straight year.
"It definitely sticks in our mind because that was the last experience we had in the tournament. First day, first round against Rutgers," Bates-Diop said. "I didn't get to play, but I watched the whole thing unfold. It was rough. It was hard and I don't want to experience that again."
Even if the Buckeyes do drop the quarterfinal matchup to either the Nittany Lions or the Wildcats, it is clear that the Ohio State men's basketball program has taken a giant step forward in getting back to national prominence in year one under Holtmann.
Regardless of what happens down the stretch, Holtmann said the 2017-18 season will be and should be viewed as a success.
"Absolutely, but we've got work to do," Holtmann said Thursday when asked whether or not the season would be viewed a success regardless of the final outcome. "We've got a lot of challenges in front of us and a lot of fun stuff in front of us. I think (this season) has been wildly successful, but we are hungry to do more and see what this group can be."