Since the first few months of Chris Holtmann’s tenure at Ohio State, college basketball fans within the state have been tantalized with the possibility of an annual intrastate event. At his prior stop at Butler, Holtmann took part in the Crossroads Classic, which pits four in-state powers Indiana, Butler, Purdue and Notre Dame for an annual two-game event held in Indianapolis.
Holtmann has been interested in the idea of creating a similar event here, one that would likely feature Ohio State, Cincinnati, Dayton and Xavier. For the next two seasons, the Buckeyes will open with a home-and-home series with the Bearcats. But any such four-team event in Ohio has been complicated by the Big Ten’s expansion to a 20-game conference schedule starting this season.
That, coupled with the conference’s already agreed-upon annual games against other conferences as well as Holtmann’s desire to take part in a marquee preseason event, all further muddy the waters.
“We’re looking at doing something like that,” Holtmann said Wednesday at the team’s media day inside the practice gym at Value City Arena when asked about an Ohio Crossroads Classic. “I don’t know that it’s going to happen. Yes, is the short answer: (the 20-game schedule) does make it more difficult.”
This season, Ohio State will host Syracuse as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and also travel to Creighton for the Gavitt Games, which annually pits Big Ten and Big East teams against each other. Last year, the Buckeyes did not participate in the latter event but did play in the PK80 Invitational in Portland, Oregon, which featured 16 teams all sponsored by Nike to celebrate founder Phil Knight’s 80th birthday.
That was a one-off event, but Holtmann has repeatedly said he hopes to get the Buckeyes on the schedule for future early-season tournaments.
“The other thing we would like to do is continue to play in like what we played in last year, which was the PK80 or the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas,” he said. “We’d love for our fans to come out and be a part of that, or Maui.”
The Cincinnati series was an idea previous Ohio State coaching staffs had been reluctant to consider, but Holtmann said it was the Buckeyes who approached the Bearcats about getting them on the schedule. He viewed it as the right thing for his program and not just something that would generate outside interest. Asked specifically if he is required to play a certain number of home games, Holtmann said he was not aware of any stipulation but that he had such parameters at Butler.
“It has to align with what our program goals are, and program energy is part of it but also putting a schedule together that gives you a chance to have an at-large berth is another,” he said. “When you add all those things up, it made sense.”
Although congestion will undoubtedly play a role, Holtmann did not completely rule out a future Crossroads Classic-type event.
“It’s not dead by any means,” he said. “We’re still looking at it. There’s just going to be some years where it’s going to be impossible to do.”