Numbers Behind What Currently Projects to Be Another Lost Season, And Potentially the End of a Head Coaching Tenure

By Chris Lauderback on February 4, 2024 at 10:10 am
Chris Holtmann
Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

After a Friday night loss to Iowa - Ohio State's fourth-straight overall, seventh in its last eight contests, and 15th consecutive on the road - the man in the (coaching) box for the Buckeyes, Chris Holtmann, is perceived to be in deep trouble. 

After 6.5 years of slightly above average to poor results, fans are in no excuses mode after another poor January has the Buckeyes down in a hole. I'd say fans are sitting in an angry chair as they flick dirt on Holtmann's tenure but if they are indeed in chairs, they aren't at Value City Arena judging from flatlining attendance numbers driven by poor on court performances. 

Yeah, I was listening to Alice In Chains as I put fingers to keyboard for this one. And what those fingers will type next - a host of numbers and factoids summarizing this season and Holtmann's tenure to date - might make you a Sickman. 


Dating back to January 6, Holtmann's Buckeyes have lost seven of eight contests and four straight. 

Holtmann has now endured three different four-game losing streaks at Ohio State over 6.5 years. Thad Matta had four in 13 seasons in Columbus. 

Holtmann has also posted two separate five-game losing streaks during his OSU tenure. Matta never had a five-game losing stretch. 

Of course, Holtmann's worst stretch was a nine-game bender last season as part of his 2022-23 squad losing 14 of 15 games. That nine-game losing streak was the worst run by a Buckeye team since Jim O'Brien's 1997-98 group lost 17 straight. 

Holtmann's two five-game and one nine-game stretches are the three worst losing streaks by any Ohio State team dating back to 2002. 


Holtmann's struggles in the month of January are well-documented but worth repeating as part of his tenure to this point. 

Ohio State is just 26-30 in the month of January under Holtmann, good for a .464 winning percentage. 

Did you know exactly half of those 30 losses were by 10 points or more? 

And if you subtract Holtmann's first season in Columbus when he went 8-1 in January with a roster headlined by Matta recruits in Keita Bates-Diop, Jae'Sean Tate and Kaleb Wesson, Holtmann's Buckeyes are 18-29 (.383) in January. 

Other than that 2017-18 season where they went 8-1, Holtmann's squads posted just two other winning Januarys going 6-2 in 2020-21 and 5-3 in 2021-22.

He's 4-13 across the last two Januarys. 


A killer factor in Ohio State's troubles over the last few years is a defense that regressed each of the last four seasons after Holtmann's first three squads were extremely tough on the defensive end of the floor. 

Obviously there are tons of defensive metrics you can isolate but one I particularly find value in - Ken Pom's adjusted defensive efficiency rating - which measures a defense's points allowed per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponent - tells a bleak story. 

2023-24 103.9 126
2022-23 101.6 106
2021-22 99.3 111
2020-21 97.1 82
2019-20 92.0 19
2018-19 94.4 25
2017-18 94.9 15

It's hard to win games when you can't slow the opponent's offense knowing that your own shooting will come and go but defensive effort can always be a constant. 

This season has been particularly bad, as the numbers above illustrate, and a key reason is Ohio State's inability to defend the three-point line. 

After Friday night's loss, the Buckeyes ranked No. 297 in the country in defending the three-point line allowing opponents to shoot 35.7% from the beyond the arc. 

During the current stretch of seven losses in eight games, Holtmann's squad allowed opponents to connect on 45.1% of their three-point tries (69-of-153). Six of those eight games saw opponents make at least 41% of their triples with Ohio State losing five. In three of those contests the opponent shot over 50% from beyond the arc with OSU losing each time.

Sometimes you run into hot shooting teams. It happens. But this isn't about an unlucky team. It's about the defense doing stuff like this. 

Not great. 


While Holtmann has fared well in non-conference games in the months of November and December, once the calendar flips to Big Ten season, he's often run into issues. 

Of course his most recent seasons have amplified the fan base angst as his current squad is 3-8 in B1G play after last season's group went 5-15 in B1G regular season contests giving him a combined 8-23 record over the last 1.5 seasons of regular season conference play. 

That 8-23 mark is anchored by a 1-16 record in road contests amid the well-chronicled current 15-game road losing streak. 

Zooming out to capture his results over 6.5 years of B1G action and you see five of his seven seasons, pending a miracle this year, have the Buckeyes finishing in 5th-place or lower in the regular season standings. 

After Friday's loss, Holtmann is now 66-63 in regular season B1G play, good for a .512 winning percentage. You have to go back 27 seasons to find a worse run when Randy Ayers won just .444 of his B1G regular season games (64-80) from 1989-97. Twenty-seven seasons. 

We also know he hasn't won the B1G conference postseason tournament and in fact, in 13 seasons as a head coach across Gardner-Webb, Butler and Ohio State, Holtmann has yet to win a regular or postseason conference crown, assuming the Buckeyes don't capture either of those this season. 

You have to go back to Gary Williams' three-year OSU tenure ending in 1989 to find an Ohio State coach that didn't win the Big Ten regular season or postseason title at least once. (The postseason tournament started in 1998.)


Holtmann has fared pretty well in attracting highly-rated high school prospects to Columbus, particularly over the last few years, though I suppose you could argue whether those players have generally developed to full potential.

Augmenting that talent by bolstering the roster through the transfer portal however has been a challenge. Holtmann has landed some decent role players to be sure, but he's largely swung and missed in landing a big time transfer that could really step up and be a legit difference maker. 

In fact, while bringing in 15 guys (not including Abel Porter) via the transfer portal over his tenure to date, just one of those guys, Justice Sueing, managed to average at least 10 points for a full season in Columbus while Jamison Battle will undoubtedly join Sueing once this season is in the books. Battle has been huge for the Buckeyes so far this season, posting 14.2 points per game buoyed by 45% accuracy beyond the arc while averaging 5.3 boards per contest. 

The other 13 transfers have logged contributions ranging from yikes to serviceable: Andrew Dakich, Keyshawn Woods, CJ Walker, Jimmy Sotos, Seth Towns, Jamari Wheeler, Cedric Russell, Joey Brunk, Sean McNeil, Isaac Likele, Tanner Holden, Dale Bonner and Evan Mahaffey. 


Due in large part to the team's performance over the last 1.5 seasons but certainly not limited to that scope, a general apathy is creeping into a large section of the fan base while others are simply angry. 

No matter in which bucket fans fall, the fact is fans are voicing their opinion on the state of OSU hoops by opting not to spend their discretionary income on tickets to watch a program on the decline. 

As our own Andy Anders summarized earlier this week, this year's Buckeyes are drawing an average of just 10,531 fans into Value City Arena this season, good for the worst mark since the building opened back in 1998. 

2017-18 13,495 +9.5%
2018-19 13,922 +3.2%
2019-20 14,531 +4.4%
2020-21 N/A N/A
2021-22 13,276 -8.6%
2022-23 12,181 -8.2%
2023-24 10,531 -13.5%

While this year to date is the worst of the worst from an attendance perspective, it's worth noting the year over year decline post-pandemic. 

Anger and apathy. Not a great mix for ticket sales. 

Make no mistake, I take zero joy in presenting the facts above. Zero. I actually hate it.

I love Ohio State basketball - I have been an avid fan since the days of Troy Taylor, Ronnie Stokes, Tony Campbell, Joe Concheck, Dennis Hopson and others from the early-mid 80's when I could watch and remember. 

I also think Chris Holtmann is a tremendous person. Character-wise, he's worthy of leading a relevant college basketball program in a power five conference. I've written as much in the past and said as much on our Eleven Warriors Show. But at some point, elevating a program, consistently challenging for conference titles, and not just making the NCAA Tournament but advancing to the second weekend have be in play.

That hasn't happened here. It just hasn't. And it's clear fans are over it. Now we just have to see if Holtmann can dig out of this mess with extreme urgency or if new athletic director Ross Bjork will have to make a very important decision in a few months. 

One or the other has to happen because the status quo shouldn't be good enough at Ohio State. 

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