It's an understatement to say that it's a grim time for Ohio State basketball.
The Buckeyes have lost five of their last six games, and a 25-point blowout defeat at Northwestern on Saturday set a new low for the season. They are now on a 14-game road losing streak.
Seven years into his tenure at Ohio State and coming off a 16-19 season that saw the Buckeyes lose 14 of 15 games during one stretch of play, there are a lot of fans in Columbus – it's safe to say a majority – who want Chris Holtmann replaced.
Outgoing Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith didn't write off that possibility when asked about Holtmann's future by The Columbus Dispatch last week while saying that no decision has been made yet as the season plays out.
Yet, when asked directly on Monday whether he feels any added pressure to produce results, Holtmann displayed little more urgency than usual.
"I think you always feel pressure to perform and get your team playing its best, whether it's early in the year, late in the year, this time, November, December, January, February, you always feel that for sure," Holtmann said. "You always can feel it, too, when you're struggling a little bit."
That fit with the overall message of Holtmann's press conference on Monday.
The coach wants to keep his team focused on the present moment and have his players shut out the negativity that's floating around in public spheres, calling it "unimportant" dialogue.
"Our only focus is today," Holtmann said. "Even though it is a quick turnaround against a really good Illinois team, I think, in some ways, that can be a good thing, and we're excited to see how our guys respond today. So much of athletics is about how you respond and we have an opportunity to respond."
Holtmann said the team's response will involve addressing areas in which it is deficient. Perimeter defense has been a particular thorn in Ohio State's side of late, with Nebraska and Northwestern combining to go 24-of-45 (53.3%) from beyond the arc against the Buckeyes.
"We've gotta show it to them on film. We've gotta do it in practice," Holtmann said. "We've gotta defend the three-point line better, we've gotta offensive rebound better because that's been a strength for us. We've gotta be much more efficient on the offensive end than what we've been, in particular last game."
If that betterment is to come against the Fighting Illini, it will have to come on short notice. Only three days separate that contest and the team's implosion against the Wildcats.
"I think that's the challenge in front of us right now, an exciting one at that," Holtmann said. "Figuring out how to really maximize our time as we do have short turnarounds, different styles of play that we're playing against, teams that have different strengths. Being ready for that, but at the same time keeping our focus on what we have done well and, obviously, needing to do that better."
Ohio State tips off against Illinois at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in Value City Arena. The game will be streamed by Peacock.