Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
This week’s topic: When will Ohio State mens basketball finally end its road losing streak?
The Ohio State men’s basketball team dropped yet another Big Ten road game this past weekend, making it 40 consecutive such losses dating back to 2019... Alright, so 40 is a lie. You got me. But it certainly feels like 40 losses and four-plus years since the Buckeyes last won a conference road game.
In reality, OSU has lost just (italicized for sarcasm) 14 consecutive Big Ten roadies, with their last conference road win coming on Jan. 1, 2023. And oh, what a glorious day that was (more sarcasm). Just a few hours earlier, as the ball dropped to signify a new year, the Buckeyes’ football team was having their heart(s) ripped out and stepped on and then thrown into incoming traffic.
A bit grim? Perhaps. But I can’t hide that the increasingly dark Chris Holtmann era has me feeling some type of way (shoutout to Rich Homie Quan).
14 consecutive Big Ten road losses is downright embarrassing. As is Ohio State’s 8-21 total conference record over the past two seasons. Especially if/when you remember that the Buckeyes were 24-16 in the B1G in the two seasons prior to 2022-23. And they won 11+ conference games in four of Holtmann’s first five seasons.
So they weren’t hanging banners, but they weren’t bad either! Now the Scarlet and Gray find themselves in a race to the bottom of the B1G, with Holtmann driving the bus and pressing the pedal to the metal.
Even worse, fans are developing apathy. Nobody wants to consume a bad, boring product, which is what OSU men’s basketball has become. And for those who say that the Big Ten has gotten better or that the standard should change/has changed, give me a break.
Simply put, Holtmann has failed to meet expectations in recent years. Since the 2017-18 season, his teams have not exceeded 21 total wins or finished in the top-3 of the regular season conference standings. Meaning that this season will, in all likelihood, mark six straight in which Ohio State falls short of the aforementioned benchmarks.
For comparison purposes, neither Jim O’Brien nor Thad Matta put together more than two consecutive seasons without reaching 22 wins and/or a top-3 finish in the Big Ten... Because they were fired/forced to resign after just a few lackluster campaigns! Sure, O’Brien had some other things going on, but the point remains: Holtmann has been clinging to mediocrity for half a decade. And don’t get me started on his lack of success in March!
With that out of the way and out of my system, it is time to address today’s topic/question for You’re Nuts, which was posed by my partner Gene Ross. He asked, “When will the Ohio State men’s basketball team end their Big Ten road losing streak?” And I actually have a few predictions.
First, I predict that OSU will not win a B1G roadie until sometime next season. Feb. 22 (this season) at Minnesota seems like a possibility. As does the team’s regular season finale at Rutgers on March 10. But unfortunately, I cannot sit here with any level of confidence and say that I expect the Buckeyes to win on the road for the remainder of this season... Primarily because of their coach.
For that reason, I also predict that Chris Holtmann will no longer be the coach of the Buckeyes when they win their next B1G roadie, sometime in December of 2024 or January of 2025. That last part sounds depressing, but Ohio State only has five more opportunities this season, and then I think it will be time for Holtmann and the program to part ways.
I am typically not one to call for anyone’s job, but Holtmann simply is not and has not been getting it done. If he were to lose 19-straight conference road games, there would be no justification whatsoever for retaining him as the Buckeyes’ coach, even if Gene Smith is on his way out — and things seem to be trending in that direction.
It’s a bummer, Gene, but that’s what I got. OSU will not win another Big Ten road game until Holtmann is swapped out for... Thad Matta, perhaps? Can I interest you in a reunion?
Just throwing it out there.
I’m not going to pretend that I'm the world’s biggest Ohio State men’s basketball fan out there. In reality, I’ve probably watched the women’s team more this season, as it has been a far superior product than the alternative — shoutout those lady Bucks!
That being said, things are not looking so good for Chris Holtmann’s group, both in a literal and a metaphorical sense. The Buckeyes have dropped five of their last six games, and as Josh already touched on, an almost-impossible 14 consecutive losses on the road against Big Ten opponents dating back to last season. To draw even more attention to the streak, Ohio State’s most recent performance on the road was one of its worst: an 83-58 loss to Northwestern, a team that ranks in the bottom third of the conference in scoring.
If Ohio State is going to right the shape and finally earn that elusive road victory before the end of the 2023-24 campaign, it only has a few more opportunities to do so. The Buckeyes only have 11 games left in the regular season, and five of those are on the road: at Iowa on Feb. 2, at Wisconsin on Feb. 13, at Minnesota on Feb. 22, at Michigan State on Feb. 5 and the regular season finale at Rutgers on March 10.
Of those five teams, the Buckeyes have already played three of them at home, defeating both Minnesota and Rutgers in Columbus and losing to Wisconsin 71-60. Ohio State’s only meetings this year against the Hawkeyes and the Spartans both take place on the road, with the two conference foes each currently sitting with identical Big Ten (4-5) and overall records (12-8).
Probably the least likely win among those teams for Ohio State are the Badgers, who having already beaten Holtmann’s squad by double-digits on their own home floor sit atop the Big Ten at 8-1 in the conference and are currently the No. 6 team in the AP Poll. Iowa hasn't exactly set the world on fire, but their 85.3 points per game lead the B1G, and the Buckeyes have had more than their fair share of defensive woes of late. Minnesota is the definition of middle-of-the-pack in nearly every department, but it's hard to beat the same team twice in one season. The same goes for Rutgers, whom OSU narrowly defeated in early January.
That leaves me with just one option remaining for Ohio State to potentially end its road slid: Michigan State on Feb. 25. A matchup which, by the way, the ESPN matchup predictor gives the Spartans an 82.3% chance of winning.
Do I like the odds for the Buckeyes in this one? Well... not really. Michigan State has dominated Ohio State in East Lansing, posting a 17-6 mark against the Buckeyes at the Breslin Center. In fact, OSU has not won a game on the Spartans’ home court since 2012. Ohio State did defeat MSU in the last meeting between the two teams, 68-58 in 2023, but that game was played in Columbus.
So, by all accounts, it does not seem likely for Holtmann’s team to actually win that game, but it seems to be at least feasible among the remaining options. In reality, the most probable chance for Ohio State to end the road losing streak would likely occur in the season finale in Piscataway against Rutgers. However, having only beaten the Scarlet Knights by four at home in the prior meeting this season, that is no sure thing either.
As Josh predicted, there is a greater than zero chance that the Buckeyes finish out this season without picking up a Big Ten road victory, as crazy as that may sound, which would bring the streak to 19 consecutive losses in-conference away from home. I don't think there's much of anything Holtmann could really do to save his job at this point — outside an incredibly unlikely Big Ten Tournament run that gets his team into the NCAA Tournament — but it would still feel nice to get the monkey of his back by winning one of these B1G roadies to close out the year.