When the season started, not many people thought Ohio State would even be watching the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, let alone without much suspense.
Yet on Sunday evening, hundreds of fans filed into the Schottenstein Center to watch as the Buckeyes heard their name called for the first time since 2015, an occurrence not many thought possible when Chris Holtmann was hired in June.
"No," Holtmann said when asked if he thought at the beginning of the year a No. 5 seed in the tournament was a possibility. "A 5-seed is really hard to get. Less than 20 percent of teams in college basketball are playing in this thing right now."
After a season that saw Ohio State finish second in the Big Ten and compile a 24-8, 15-3 record, the Buckeyes have already accomplished more than most thought they could in year one of the Holtmann era. Now, the Scarlet and Gray are going to try and overcome the odds one more time.
While Holtmann said prior to the Big Ten Tournament that the 2017-18 season should be viewed as a success no matter what Ohio State did in the postseason, the Buckeyes are still striving to shock the college basketball world again.
“A 5-seed is really hard to get. Less than 20 percent of teams in college basketball are playing in this thing right now.”– Chris Holtmann
"We’re an easy upset pick, I’m sure, and we’re going to have plenty of people who are going to go in that direction," Holtmann said. "We’ve got a lot to prove. At the end of the day, hopefully we can go out and perform and play well."
For the likes of Jae'Sean Tate and Keita Bates-Diop, the run to the tournament is something the veterans have experience just once before, and they want to make themselves heard in the Big Dance.
In 2015, Tate and Bates-Diop were freshmen as Ohio State earned a No. 10 seed in the tournament. The Buckeyes bounced No. 7 seed VCU in the first round, before getting rolled by No. 2 seed Arizona, 73-58. Tate was a starter during Ohio State's last tournament run, while Bates-Diop played off the bench for the majority of the season, and in the tournament.
Tate said Sunday that while the Buckeyes were able to defy the odds this season, his team isn't satisfied with just being in the field of 68.
"You don't go into March just to be satisfied with winning one or two games, you go in trying to win," Tate said. "That is our whole mindset. Prepare for the opponent in front of us. The key is just to play who is in front of you. You look up at the end and say you gave it your all. That is what makes a good tournament run."
Ohio State is set to open the tournament Thursday against No. 12 seed South Dakota State at approximately 4 p.m. on TNT. While Tate said he doesn't know much about the Jackrabbits, Holtmann said the Buckeyes already have video clips ready to study as the preparation for the tournament begins late Sunday night.
"All the video is set up and ready to go. We looked at all the potential 11, 12 (seeds) and already began the video work," Holtmann said. "Our staff is already in the bunker."