Big changes in the off-season have led to big results for the Buckeyes.
Chris Holtmann took over for Thad Matta as the Ohio State Men’s Basketball coach just over six months ago. In the short time since he’s stepped into his new role, he’s made a big impact on his team and in the conference.
The rookie Big Ten coach became 16-4 after the Buckeyes’ 71-65 win on the road: a respectable improvement compared to the Buckeye’s record of 12-7 through this point last season. Holtmann is also the first Big Ten head coach since 1923 to win his first seven games in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes, 7-0 in Conference play so far, managed just seven conference wins total last year, going 7-11 against Big Ten competition. The team is even ranked in the AP top 25 for the first time since March of 2015.
So, what’s different this season from last?
While the coaching change is the easiest thing to point to, the players have certainly stepped up.
Jae Sean Tate is playing well, as usual, while C.J Jackson has stepped into his role as a starter nicely. Kam Williams, despite seeing a dip in minutes from last year, has played and shot more efficiently, improving upon his shooting from last year of .391 FG% and .376 3pt. FG% to this year with .480 FG% and .492 3pt. FG%.
But, as you may well know, the big story is Keita Bates-Diop. The redshirt junior has really come into his own and is easily a contender for Big Ten POY. From posting 9.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season, Bates-Diop is scoring 19.8 points per game and snagging 8.8 boards. All this while seeing significant improvement in his field goal, three-point, and free throw percentages.
Actually, the team as a whole is just shooting the ball better. The Buckeyes are scoring six more points per game this season, and they’re doing so with significant improvement in their efficiency.
Even the effort from this year’s squad is up. Fans can visibly see an improvement on both ends of the court when it comes to playing with higher energy. Rarely would you see a Thad Matta led team from the last couple of seasons put together a solid effort for 40 minutes a night. But under Holtmann, that’s no longer the case. The team seems locked in from the opening tip night in and night out.
Whatever Holtmann is doing, it’s working. The Buckeyes are playing consistently, the young players and recruits are stepping up and contributing when they need to, and Ohio State has a legitimate star player for the first time in a while. Let’s hope this success continues through the remaining 14 games, and maybe we’ll get to see our Buckeyes make a run at the big dance this spring.