Like the rest of the Big Ten and some mid-major schools, Ohio State had to deal with an extended layoff between its conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament, giving the Buckeyes 13 days in between game action.
Chris Holtmann reached out to colleagues of his – including Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens – to get input on how to handle the break in action, and might have even used a few of those ideas.
While he didn't say whether or not it was one of the ideas he got from Stevens or another coach, Holtmann took his team off-campus for a team scrimmage during the week off, at which point the Buckeyes ran into a minor hitch as the team bus was unavailable. Holtmann said that the players then piled into coaches' cars for a 45 minute drive, which allowed players and coaches to bond in ways they might not have before.
"It's been good. It was good to go and scrimmage at another place the other night and have a meal together and spend time together. We actually had a bus issue, so we had to hop in coaches' cars and drive over together," Holtmann said Sunday. "I had (Jae'Sean Tate) running co-pilot with me and the Wessons with C.J. (Jackson) in the third row. So 45 minutes, you get a chance to actually talk to your guys and spend time with them on a different level. We took the caravan there, and that was a good thing. We (still) need good days of preparation."
As for what Ohio State worked on and what the Buckeyes will continue to work on until tip Thursday at 4 p.m. against South Dakota State, Holtmann said it is simple what his team has to do, recounting his past successes and failures in the tournament as the head coach at Butler.
"I have found that in tournament play, you really have to be efficient in both areas. Virginia beat us a couple of years ago, and we couldn't stop them, believe it or not. We scored on them, but we had trouble stopping them," he said. "Our defensive numbers were not very good that year, but offensively we were very good. In order to have a chance to advance in this tournament, you really need to be efficient in both areas.
"You have to be able to stop people defensively, and be efficient offensively," he added. "Teams that advance, most of them are top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. If you are slanted one way or the other, you are susceptible."
According to Ken Pomeroy's advanced statistical analysis, Ohio State ranks 27th in offensive efficiency in the country this season and 16th in defensive efficiency. If Holtmann's criteria for tournament success holds true, the Buckeyes could potentially make a run in the Big Dance.
Here are the 5 teams that are Top 25 in Offensive & Defensive Efficiency, according to @kenpomeroy: Virginia, Villanova, Duke, Michigan State & Gonzaga. Purdue, Ohio St, Michigan on fringe. Can be good barometer.
— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) March 12, 2018
For reference, South Dakota State is 41st in offensive efficiency and 55th in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
The Buckeyes and Jackrabbits are set to meet in Boise, Idaho, with the game being televised on TNT, following the conclusion of the No. 4 seed Gonzaga vs. No. 13 seed UNC Greensboro matchup.