Seeking to make a solid first impression, men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann welcomed Ohio State season-ticket holders for an exclusive event on the first day of August.

During “An Evening with Coach Holtmann” on the main floor at Value City Arena, those in attendance were afforded, among other opportunities, the chance to ask Holtmann any questions they would like.

One that was posed to Holtmann drew applause even before completion from the most devoted of Buckeyes fans, those who sign up to see the season without knowing who will fill out the schedule: Will he do something about the nonconference scheduling and consider playing in-state opponents such as Cincinnati, Dayton and Xavier?

“I’m certainly not opposed to it,” Holtmann said. “Part of our job is to provide an opportunity that’s exciting for our fans. We’re working on some things.”

One of those “things” came to fruition Tuesday morning, when Ohio State announced that it will open the next two seasons with a home-and-home series against Cincinnati. To open the 2018-19 season, the Bearcats will play the Buckeyes at a newly renovated Fifth Third Arena. The next year, the teams will meet at Value City Arena.

"We have great respect for the UC program and Coach (Mick) Cronin,” Holtmann said in a statement. “The idea of challenging ourselves in the nonconference while also providing an attractive game for our collective fan bases certainly made sense to us. We understand the challenge of opening the season on the road vs. a high-caliber opponent with a younger team provides some risk, but we felt like it was the right decision at this time.”

The games will take place on the first allowable day of competition each year.

Ohio State and Cincinnati have played only twice since 1962, both times at a neutral site. The Buckeyes beat the Bearcats in Indianapolis during the 2006-07 season and then in the 2012 Sweet 16 in Boston.

The last regular-season game between the teams came in 1921, when Cincinnati won in Columbus 33-17.

“This is a great thing for Ohio, for basketball in Ohio and for the fans of these great universities,” Cronin said. Supporting this and agreeing to play Cincinnati in a home-and-home series is a first-class move by Ohio State, coach Chris Holtmann and the OSU administration.”

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy