For many Buckeye fans, Chris Holtmann felt like a consolation prize when he was first hired at Ohio State. That's because before the school even parted ways Thad Matta, Indiana had already hired the coach which would have been their top choice: Archie Miller.
But two seasons later, you'd be hard-pressed to find any Buckeye fan willing to make a trade, because Holtmann has been undeniably the more successful of the two.
In his first season, Holtmann inherited a depleted team with a shallow bench that was picked by some to finish 13th in the Big Ten. He quickly added Kyle Young, Musa Jallow and graduate transfer walk-on Andrew Dakich to fill the bench and got to work.
It's safe to say he exceeded expectations.
Preseason Big Ten standings predictions for Ohio State, which finished 153 and second in the league under Chris Holtmann:— Eleven Warriors (@11W) February 26, 2018
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Under Holtmann's leadership, the Buckeyes won their first nine Big Ten Conference games, handed then-No. 1 Michigan State an 80-64 loss, and beat conference-leading Purdue on its home court, all with a team near-unanimously picked to finish in the bottom third of the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes finished the season 25-9 overall and 15-3 in conference, tied for second place in the Big Ten. They also won a first-round NCAA Tournament game against South Dakota State.
Indiana's preseason outlook ahead of the 2017-18 season wasn't exactly rosy either, with Miller having to replace four of the Hoosiers' top five scorers from the previous year. But Miller wasn't able to overachieve near the same way Holtmann did. Instead, Indiana finished the season 16-15 overall and 9-9 in the Big Ten, missing the NCAA Tournament.
On paper, the following season should have been a comeback year for Indiana and a building year for Ohio State, but that's not exactly how it turned out.
The Hoosiers returned NBA hopeful Juwan Morgan and got De'Ron Davis back from injury while adding five-star guard Romeo Langford, projected during the preseason as a top-10 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Indiana was picked to finish third in the Big Ten in an informal media poll conducted by the Columbus Dispatch and The Athletic.
Meanwhile, the situation was bleak again in Columbus. Ohio State lost five of its top-seven scorers from the previous season, including the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, and was picked to finish 8th in the Big Ten.
While Ohio State did, in fact, finish 8th in the conference, Indiana did not live up to expectations. The Hoosiers finished tied with the Buckeyes for 8th in the Big Ten, but had a worse overall record and lost two head-to-head matchups against Ohio State.
Despite the expectations, it's Ohio State that will likely make the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight season with Indiana on the outside looking in once again.
Through two seasons, there's been no comparison between the two. Holtmann has overachieved, Miller has underachieved. Holtmann is about to make the NCAA Tournament for the second time, Miller is about to miss it for the second time. Holtmann has even dominated the head-to-head matchup, going a perfect 4-0 against Miller and the Hoosiers in his two seasons.
And Holtmann doesn't seem to be slowing down, because the Buckeyes are about to get even better. Holtmann just signed three players rated higher out of high school than anyone else on the current roster, giving Ohio State the top recruiting class in the Big Ten.
It's far too early to judge either of their young careers fully, but Holtmann is off to a fantastic start at Ohio State, showing he was always the right man for the job.