Ohio State is still awaiting word on who it will face in this year’s ACC-Big Ten Challenge, but coach Chris Holtmann believes it will be a home game for the Buckeyes.
In a wide-ranging interview today on FM-WXZX (105.7), Holtmann said the fact that Ohio State will travel to face Creighton in the Gavitt Tipoff Games likely means an ACC team will be coming to Value City Arena this season.
“I don’t know the ACC Challenge opponent, either,” Holtmann said. “I do think we’re home, because we try to balance it with the Gavitt Games. That’ll nice. We’ll have multiple quality non-conference home opponents including one from the ACC, and it sounds like every indication I’ve gotten is that’s going to be another tournament team and challenging opponent.”
Ohio State will open the season at Cincinnati and also play UCLA in Chicago as part of the annual CBS Sports Classic. In addition, the Big Ten is expanding to a 20-game conference schedule, which eliminates as many as two non-conference home games and replaces them with one home and one road Big Ten game.
For a team with four freshmen and a graduate transfer all expected to play important minutes, it’s shaping up to be a challenging schedule. That’s something Holtmann has said he generally prefers.
“We’re so young and so new and there are as many unknowns as many any team I’ve ever coached,” he said today. “How demanding do you want the schedule to be? Time will tell if it was too much for a young team. The reality is you can’t play Creighton and Cincinnati and UCLA in every game in your non-conference. That’s not feasible, but I do like playing a challenging non-conference. I don’t know that I’ve coached a team that’s this young and inexperienced.”
Owing to that youth, the Buckeyes are taking a foreign trip to Spain this August. Specific details have not been announced, but it will provide extra practices and games for players to get accustomed to each other.
“It’s really important,” he said. “One of the reasons we did it was because we knew we were going to have a young team. I think we’re going to be one of the youngest teams in the Big Ten and maybe as young as any team in the country. Having some of our returning players get to know our young guys and vice versa, that’s why we are doing this trip. Not only that, but we have a fifth-year player in Keyshawn that implementing him into our team is going to be good. (Florida State transfer guard) CJ Walker’s got to sit out a year as well. When you have a number of new faces like we have, it’s nice to have a trip like this.”
With Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals set for tonight, Holtmann was also asked about has impressed him from watching LeBron James.
“The way he has maintained his athleticism and his body at the age of 33 and the miles that he’s put on his body is phenomenal,” Holtmann said. “It’s incredible. I think the second thing is he sees things before they happen, and his understanding of the game, his IQ, it’s been well-documented, but when I talk to guys who have coached against him, one of the things they mention first is LeBron will call out actions that they’re running more than any other player in the league as he’s coaching up his teammates defensively.
“I think when you see a player do that, it’s incredibly impressive. And when you package that with his skill and athleticism, that’s why he’s going to go down as certainly one of the very best that’s ever done it.”