There is no better time than bold prediction time. Bold predictions are fun because they don’t have to be right, but you feel pretty awesome when they are. For my bold prediction and as a resident Chris Holtmann defender, I am going to stay on brand with this one. I am predicting Ohio State men’s basketball will win a national championship in the next five years.
Now let me say this from the jump. I understand how out of left field this actually is and more than anyone, I understand how hard it is to win it all in collegiate sports. Ohio State football has been an upper echelon program for about two decades consistently now, and they have only two championships from those incredible teams.
Plus, Ohio State basketball just suffered what was maybe the worst loss in program history in the NCAA tournament, and people are not as high on coach Holtmann as a clearly am. However, there are some things that bode in his favor historically and the direction the program is heading, so we are going to dive into that.
Let’s do some background work first. Holtmann has been at Ohio State for four full seasons now. Holtmann played college hoops at Taylor University with John Groce, and was the first assistant that Groce hired when he took the job at Ohio University. He spent three seasons as the head man at Gardner Webb and three more as the head man at Butler. He is 201-128 overall as a head coach, which is good for a 61 percent winning percentage. Since Chris Holtmann took over the job at Ohio State in 2017, he is 87-43 (.669) overall and 46-32 (.590) against Big Ten opponents.
Contrary to popular belief, Holtmann has exceeded expectations since he arrived at Columbus. In his four seasons, he has exceeded the Buckeyes Big Ten standing prediction twice, hit it exactly once and was a bit lower than expected one year. However, that year they faced multiple injuries and still were the No. 2 team in the country at one point in the season.
2017-18: 12th in B1G, no postseason — Athlon Sports, Mitch Light
2018-19: 12th in B1G, no postseason — Big Ten Network, Andy Katz
2019-20: Third in B1G– ESPN/No. 3 seed — Athlon Sports, Mitch Light
2020-21: Fifth in B1G – Kyle Boone, CBS Sports/Eighth – Sports Illustrated, Molly Geary
2021-22: Second in B1G — USA Today
2017-18 – Finished second in B1G, No. 5 seed — lost in the NCAA Second Round
2018-19 – Finished ninth in B1G, No. 12 seed — lost in the NCAA Second Round
2019-20 – Finished sixth in B1G, 4-6 seed likely — tournament cancelled due to COVID-19
2020-21 – Finished fifth in B1G, No. 2 seed — lost in the NCAA First Round
2021-22 - ?
Now, a lot of people are upset that Ohio State has not seen the Sweet 16 in a decade. Realistically, the only year they have had a true Sweet 16 or better contending team in Holtmann’s tenure so far was last season. Yes, that was a bad loss — no doubt about it. But it was one loss. Even Coach K lost to Lehigh once.
As I said before, winning a championship is not easy. It has taken even the best coaches ever a long time to cross that threshold. Here are some main examples.
- Jim Calhoun - 27 years
- Jim Boeheim 27 years
- John Calipari - 20 years
- John Wooden - 18 years
- Roy Williams - 17 year
- Bill Self - 15 years
- Coach K - 16 year
- Gary Williams - 24 years
- Lute Olsen - 24 years
- Jay Wright - 22 years
- Tony Bennett - 13 years
I put Tony Bennett last on the list because he is a great example. Bennett experienced the worst loss possibly ever in the NCAA tournament, becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed. Not only that, but they lost by 20. People thought Bennett wasn’t the guy, couldn’t win in the tournament and was never going to get Virginia to the promise land.
They won the national championship 392 days later.
Now, I am not saying Ohio State will win a national championship next season, although I do think they will be very, very good.
Also, in college basketball and amongst coaches who have won a national championship, the average amount of years at the helm before winning their first title was 14.9. Chris Holtmann is entering year 11 as a head coach. Through five more years, he will be right on the average.
Experience is key to winning in the tournament. Holtmann will have a lot of seniors over the next five years as they are bringing in great recruits, but likely not guys who will be one and dones. Not to mention, as of right now, Ohio State has the No. 1 recruiting class in the country next season coming to Columbus, and they still have spots to fill.
The highest-ranked pair of classes that Ohio State has had since 247Sports started ranking team classes in 2000 was No. 2 overall in 2006 and No. 3 overall in 2010. Both of those classes saw a Final Four and the 2006 group went to a national championship game.
Also, according to 247Sports, five of the top 25 recruits in school history will be on the team next season with E.J. Liddell staying in Columbus for one more year. (Bruce Thornton, Malaki Branham, Roddy Gayle, Felix Okpara and Liddell). If the 2022 class stays in the top three, history of at least a Final Four is on their side.
Nothing in sports is guaranteed, especially when dealing with a tournament like March Madness. But as I said, it’s bold prediction time and I am putting mine out there. Let’s watch and find out.