Ohio State Is Once Again the Dominant Program in the Buckeye State

By David Wertheim on March 23, 2019 at 8:45 am
Chris Holtmann
Brett Rojo- USA TODAY Sports

#VARSITY got a big win last night.

I'm not sure if you saw this, but Mick Cronin decided to open his mouth a little bit this week, and for absolutely no reason went in on the Ohio State football program having their spring game at Paul Brown Stadium, a facility which has absolutely no affiliation with the University of Cincinnati or its athletic programs.

Mick's endgame was to try and get the UC faithful to show up big for their game in Columbus yesterday, and it worked. The Bearcat contingent at Nationwide Arena was strong. However, as usual, Mick couldn't back it up on the court, as his team fell to Iowa. 

Cronin, in 13 seasons at Cincinnati, has only made one Sweet Sixteen, back in 2011-12 when, you guessed it, they were eliminated by... Ohio State.

Unfortunately, after that 2012 season, the Ohio State program began to go downhill fairly quickly. After an Elite 8 season the following year, and a D'Angelo Russell-led tournament appearance in 2014-15, the Buckeyes bottomed out, not making the tournament for two seasons.

During this time, other programs in Ohio were surging. UC made the tournament both of those years, as did Xavier (who reached the Elite 8 in 2016-17). Even Dayton under Archie Miller rattled off four straight tournament appearances, which included a win over Ohio State, from 2014-17. 

Of course, you heard the classic "Ohio State is done, UC is the premier program in Ohio" nonsense that people in Cincinnati love to say (Sidenote: being from Cincinnati, I will absolutely never understand the hatred that UC and their fans have for Ohio State. Buckeyes fans literally do not care about UC. I guess it's Napoleon Complex or something). 

It all changed when Chris Holtmann was hired, though. Immediately, Ohio State went from a team who missed the NIT to a five-seed, recording a victory before faltering to Gonzaga in the second round.

This year, with extremely low expectations, Holtmann managed to beat UC in their new arena on opening night, squeak into the NCAA Tournament, and record (at least) one more win. 

The coaching job done this season by Holtmann has been masterful, but let's take a look on the other side, down in the 513. 

Cincinnati fans have begun calling Mick "Marvin Cronin" because of his tendency to have a solid regular season, lead his team to the playoffs, and then choke immediately, similarly to a former Bengals coach.

It happened again, as the Bearcats blew an early 16-point lead against Iowa to falter in the second half and lose. 

Xavier failed to make the tournament this season under first-year coach Travis Steele (even in an extremely weak Big East).

Dayton has now missed the tournament in each of the past two seasons under Anthony Grant. 

Meanwhile, Chris Holtmann has rattled off two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including this season when the Buckeyes weren't picked to do much of anything. 

“To come here and play as well of a defensive game as we played and our guys were tremendous," Holtmann said after the game. "Players win games and our players attacking their responsibilities in terms of our game plan was tremendous.”

Holtmann should give himself some of the credit, too. The gameplan that the players executed so well was ultimately devised by him. To so many, it has been an honestly unbelievable turnaround by the Ohio State program in such a short amount of time.

Obviously this means nothing, but just 28.7% of brackets in the ESPN Tournament Challenge had Ohio State moving on. Apparently, some people forgot to watch what Holtmann has been doing in Columbus, because it's honestly witchcraft.

With a top-ten recruiting class next season, Ohio State will likely (barring any unexpected personnel changes) feature their best roster in several seasons. And with another opening date against Cincinnati, this time in Columbus, the Buckeyes will have a chance to prove their standing as the top dog in Ohio once again.

For now, however, we can rest easy. The Buckeyes are back on top in the state.

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