Despite Successful Season, Ohio State is Widely Viewed As a Potential Upset Pick in The NCAA Tournament

By James Grega on March 14, 2018 at 10:10 am
Chris Holtmann

Ohio State finished the 2017-18 season with a 24-8, 15-3 record, and its top player and head coach took home Big Ten Player and Coach of the Year Awards. 

Yet, the Buckeyes are a popular pick to be a quick out in the 2018 NCAA Tournament, their first Big Dance since 2015. 

Even minutes after the brackets were finalized, Chris Holtmann was well aware that his team was being picked as a quick out in the tournament. 

"I read somewhere today that we haven't had a quality win in a month. It wasn't by any of you fine journalists by the way," Holtmann joked with the media in Columbus on Sunday night. "I literally chuckled because the person who said this clearly has not coached or played in the Big Ten, certainly not at Indiana on Senior Night. Those are hard games to (win). Did we play perfect? No. Could we play better? Absolutely. (But) that's a hard thing to do on Senior Night. I don't want to take that away from our guys or our program in any way. Do we need to play better in spots? Sure."

Ohio State has lost three of its last five games, with the wins coming against Rutgers on Senior Day and against Indiana on the Hoosiers' Senior Night, when the Buckeyes pulled out an 80-78 win in a double-overtime thriller in Bloomington, Ind. 

The Athletic's Seth Davis is one of the many national media members that believes Ohio State will be a quick out in the tournament. Davis told 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland on Monday that the Buckeyes peaked too early, and that its early success won't carry over into the tournament. 

"Basically every year, one No. 12 seed beats a No. 5 seed," Davis said. "I picked South Dakota State to win for that reason. Basically, (Ohio State) has gotten more out of their talent than just about any team in the country, which is why Chris Holtmann should be on the short list for any coach of the year, largely because of the circumstances in which he took the job.

"But that makes you wonder when you get to the tournament, are they going to be out-talented? They are not going to be out-talented by South Dakota State, but I do think they would be out-talented by Gonzaga."

Davis picked Ohio State to be ousted after the first game. ESPN's Joe Lunardi said he feels the Buckeyes can get past the Jackrabbits, but will fall to Gonzaga in the second round. Even Sports Illustrated has Ohio State's first-round matchup against South Dakota State as the fourth-most likely upset pick in the first round of the tournament.

Holtmann said despite what others outside his program might think, the focus for his coaching staff and his team is simply preparing to beat the Jackrabbits on Thursday in Boise, Idaho. 

"Our job right now is to prepare us to play as well as we can play on Thursday. We know we are playing a really good opponent. You're playing really good teams from here on out," Holtmann said. "(There's) a lot of even games that come down to the last minute or two, in all of them. We're going to need to play better than what we have in stretches, but I also think we have done some good things as well."

Even before the national analysts had a chance to break down the matchup, Holtmann said Sunday he believed Ohio State would be an upset pick against the Jackrabbits. 

"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."

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