Skull Session: Ohio State Upsets Purdue, Mike Krzyzewski and Jay Wright Defend Chris Holtmann and Garrett Wilson Praises Marvin Harrison Jr.

By Chase Brown on February 19, 2024 at 5:00 am
Jake Diebler
Adam Cairns/USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Skull Session.

The Basketbucks are back!

Have a good Monday.

 CHOO CHOO. Wait, Jake Diebler is goated.

In Diebler's first game as interim head coach, Ohio State upset Purdue, 73-69, in front of 18,353 fans at Value City Arena.

Ohio State’s challenge seemed insurmountable entering Sunday. Having dumped Chris Holtmann on Valentine’s Day, the program welcomed defending National Player of the Year Zach Edey and Purdue to Columbus. In the previous three matchups between the teams, Edey averaged 24.6 points, 12 rebounds and one block as the Boilermakers went 3-0 and outscored the Buckeyes 233-190.

While Edey found success against Ohio State again on Sunday, collecting 22 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in the contest, Bruce Thornton’s 22 points, Jamison Battle’s 19 – all in the second half – and a massive performance from Zed Key (nine points, five steals) helped Ohio State take down the Boilermakers in the Buckeyes’ latest upset of a top-two opponent at home.

As Eleven Warriors editor and bourbon aficionado Ramzy Nasrallah said, Ohio State is “The Purdue Football of College Basketball.”

Ohio State’s win proved that belief can be one helluva drug.

“We prepared to win this game,” Diebler said in his postgame press conference. “I told our guys last night that we’re going in this to win; we’re not going in this to be close. They had earned the right to play well. I told them in a couple of the timeouts, ‘Stay aggressive and keep swinging.’ Our staff kept echoing that. As the game went on, they believed. It will be important moving forward that we keep that same mentality. There will be adversity moving forward in games and beyond, but we want to keep that mentality.”

Several people texted me after the game on Sunday and asked, “Can Ohio State still make the tournament?” The answer is yes, but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves here. 

Ohio State’s last five opponents are Minnesota (in Minneapolis), Michigan State (in East Lansing), Nebraska, Michigan and Rutgers (in Piscataway). To reach March Madness, I think the Buckeyes will need to win at least four of those five games and a couple more at the Big Ten Tournament. Keep in mind Ohio State hasn’t won a road game in… *checks notes*... 414 days. The team would need to win three (and at least two at a neutral site) to go dancing. That’s a tall task.

Yet, before Sunday, I would have said beating Zach Edey and Purdue was a tall task for Ohio State, and here we are.

Why not the Buckeyes?!

 ONE IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER(S). Last week (before Ohio State’s win over Purdue), former Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and former Villanova coach Jay Wright discussed Ohio State’s decision to fire Chris Holtmann on the latest episode of “Basketball and Beyond.”

Neither coach was a fan of the move.

“After three years at Duke, I’d be fired,” Krzyzewski told Wright. “Part of building culture is going through adversity. We were fortunate to be allowed to do that. Our schools were fortunate because we were allowed to build a culture. Our culture is still there at Duke. That’s what you want to keep going.”

Wright echoed Krzyzewski’s sentiments.

“It’s almost like everybody is a junior college now,” he said. “We’ve got to put a team together, and we’ve got to win right away because we might not get a chance late in the year. They might not be patient with us. That’s why I brought up Holtmann. Seventy percent of Ohio State’s points come from freshmen and sophomores. If those guys stay, whoever gets that job next year is going to have a hell of a team. No one is waiting on those young teams anymore. It’s so different.”


I get it.

I get where Krzyzewski and Wright – two of the best college basketball coaches ever – are coming from.


In seven seasons as Ohio State’s head coach, Holtmann had a 137-86 record, a 67-64 mark in the Big Ten and took the Buckeyes to the NCAA Tournament five times (including the canceled 2020 tournament). Yet, Holtmann never took Ohio State to the Sweet 16, and in the past two seasons, the program had a 30-30 record (9-25 Big Ten), missing the Big Dance in 2023 and trending in that direction in 2024.

In Krzyzewski’s first seven seasons at Duke, Krzyzewski had a 146-77 record, a 49-49 mark in the ACC and took the Blue Devils to the NCAA Tournament four times, including two Sweet 16s (1986, 1987) and one national championship game (1986). In Wright’s first seven seasons at Villanova, he had a 148-83 record, a 64-50 mark in the Big East and took the Wildcats to four NCAA Tournaments, including three Sweet 16s (2005, 2006, 2008) and one Elite Eight (2006).

Their situations were not the same.

I admire that Krzyzewski and Wright came to Holtmann’s defense, but it was time for him and Ohio State to head in different directions. There was evident before Ohio State’s win over Purdue on Sunday, and it should be undisputable after the Buckeyes’ upset to close out the weekend.

 GAME RECOGNIZE GAME. In two seasons with the New York Jets, Garrett Wilson has collected 178 receptions for 2,145 yards and seven touchdowns. Oh, and those numbers came with Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco (that’s 2023 NFL Comeback Player of the Year Joe Flacco), Mike White, Trevor Siemian and Tim Boyle as his starting quarterbacks.

That’s impressive.

Most impressive.

In a recent interview with the New York Post, Ryan Dunleavy asked Wilson if he expects to become the “next generational pass-catcher” in the NFL. In his response, Wilson welcomed the praise; however, he humbly directed such a title to another former Ohio State wide receiver: Marvin Harrison Jr.

“The best way I can describe Marvin is he’s a grinder,” Wilson said. “He’s always going to be the best player on the field, but in the rare case that he wasn’t, he would be grinding the whole day after to make sure that was never the case again. That’s my favorite thing about him.”

Wilson recognized Harrison’s work ethic as soon as he arrived on Ohio State's campus in 2021.

“He did 18 reps at 225 pounds on like his second day of being (at the Woody),” Wilson said. “I had done my test two years earlier, and they had to change the bar to 185 for me. It was a big discrepancy. It was like, ‘Oh, wow. This dude is not joking around.’ It tells you a lot about his work ethic. That’s not (strength) you have. You build that.”

Along with Chris Olave and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Wilson said he helped Harrison prepare for his future at Ohio State and the NFL. 

“There was never any competition,” he explained. “We were just trying to drop all the knowledge possible on Marvin. Knowing I was going to be declaring when I was a junior, Chris was a senior and (Harrison) was a freshman, it was like, ‘How can we make sure that when it’s his time to play, he’s going to be ready?’”

Harrison’s work ethic, combined with imparted wisdom from Wilson, Olave and JSN (an elite trio to learn from!), allowed Harrison to collect 155 receptions for 2,613 yards and 31 touchdowns in his Ohio State career. In three seasons with the Buckeyes, Harrison was a Heisman finalist, a two-time unanimous All-American, a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and a two-time Big Ten Receiver of the Year.

The 6-foot-4, 205-pound pass-catcher will be a top-five pick in the 2024 NFL draft. One week before the NFL Scouting Combine begins in Indianapolis, Harrison’s consensus destination among draft analysts is the Arizona Cardinals at No. 4 overall.

 STROUD THE COMEDIAN. It was all over social media at the end of last week, but ICYMI, this video of former Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud clowning on Fred Taylor and Channing Crowder of The Pivot still has me laughing, so I’ll share it here:

Stroud’s “Come on, man, what is we talking about?” killed me, as did his “I thought you went to Bama or something.”

It was also hilarious listening to Stroud talk basketball with Micah Parsons on “The Edge.” In the video, Stroud said he scored 40 points on former UCLA and current Miami Heat forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. in a varsity basketball game for Rancho Cucamonga High School.

Over the weekend, Parsons and Stroud shined at the 2024 NBA Celebrity All-Star Game. Parsons scored 37 points and Stroud scored 31 as Team Shannon defeated Team Stephen A., 100-91, at Lucas Oil Stadium. Parsons won the Celebrity Game MVP.

 SONG OF THE DAY. “Rest In Peace” - Undertaker Theme Song (WWE).

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