PORTLAND, Oregon – Chris Holtmann’s “worst-case scenario” is two steps closer to reality.
On Tuesday, the first-year Ohio State men’s basketball coach was presented with the possibility of facing his former team, Butler, on the final day of the PK80 Invitational. Both the Buckeyes and Bulldogs are in the Motion Bracket of the three-game, four-day tournament featuring 16 teams, but on opposite sides of that bracket, and Holtmann said he wants no part in a showdown.
Thursday night, both lost their openers – Butler to Texas and Ohio State to Gonzaga. Should both teams achieve the same result in today’s games, they would meet each other Sunday. While Holtmann said he doesn’t want that to come to pass, his former players said they would approach such a game as just the next one on the schedule.
“I think it would just be a normal game for us,” senior forward Tyler Wideman said. “The fans may see it as something else, but for us we’d just go out there and try to win it.”
All sides got a chance to meet and break any ice Wednesday night in a pre-tournament event that featured messages from Nike founder Phil Knight and LeBron James, among others. Redshirt sophomore swingman Sean McDermott said the meeting was enjoyable despite Holtmann’s departure during the summer.
“Obviously being with them for two years you get to know them as people beyond the game of basketball, so our relationship with them will never change,” he said. “They’re great people to us.”
Before the season started, I caught up with the Bulldogs at Big East media day in New York on what it's been like moving on without Holtmann. You can read that by clicking here.
Butler coach LaVall Jordan said that his players were excited about the tournament and the chance to face elite national competition but that the thought of specifically playing Ohio State didn’t factor into the equation.
“We looked at all of them as how we’re going to attack it to have an opportunity to just win the first game, and we wanted to play better (in the opener),” he said after a 61-48 loss to Texas. “It’s a question that’s been asked, but we were looking at Texas and now we’ll look at Portland State.”
According to KenPom.com, both teams are projected to win today, if only slightly. Ohio State is given a 51 percent chance to beat Stanford in a game that will tip at 9 p.m. Eastern while Butler is an 84 percent favorite to beat Portland State in a game that gets underway at 3 p.m. Eastern.
“It would just be another game for us,” sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin said.