Friday, Ohio State will open NCAA Tournament play when it faces No. 6 seed Iowa State in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
One day removed from the official unveiling of the brackets, coach Chris Holtmann discussed the situation and the Cyclones on his weekly radio show. If you couldn’t listen, here are the highlights.
*Having watched some more Iowa State film, Holtmann had a few thoughts on the next opponent.
“Iowa State, they play four guards and their 5 can shoot it a little bit,” he said. “They’re a spread-it-out system. The game plan is still in progress. We did talk to coaches in and out of their league and the consensus was they think they’re the most talented team in the Big 12, particularly like they were this last weekend.
“They play primarily man-to-man. Not great interior size, but what you see with a lot of teams, they go 6-5 (through) 6-9). They don’t have a smaller guard they play. They’ve got some young guys. They took a transfer (Marial Shayok), which I knew was going to be a really good player for them. I remember when they got him, because he was a good player for Virginia, he is a versatile guard and he’s had a terrific year for them. He’s that dynamic, bigger guard.”
*Holtmann again relived what it was like watching the bracket be unveiled while wondering what would happen.
“The only thing that got me concerned was when I saw Cincinnati get a 7 seed and then they put Temple and Belmont in, and I thought we were ahead of both those schools but you never know,” he said. “It was anxious. We had the players over at the house. I was pretty convinced on Saturday we were going to be in, based on our players had earned it. Sunday, I didn’t look at anything until about noon. Then I started to talk myself off the bubble, so I called Gene Smith and said are you sure we want to have the players over at the house? I went from well-in to out.”
Saturday, Holtmann was out recruiting but also keeping tabs on multiple games with potential bid-stealers.
“I watched the Buffalo-Bowling Green (game),” he said. “I stayed up to watch the Washington-Oregon game. I watched Wichita State-Cincinnati, and before that Memphis and Houston. I was checking them off. Come to find out, we were the lowest of the 11s, so we’re playing the best 6. It was us or Belmont, who was going to go to Dayton.”
*It’ll be a long wait to play Friday. Ohio State will be the late game in Tulsa.
“We’ll probably utilize a shoot-around,” Holtmann said. “Our hotel is 15 minutes from the arena, but you’re only given 20 minutes on the floor. We are probably going to go to another facility nearby where we can spend more time walking through some stuff and get our guys moving and out of the hotel.”
*Sunday’s day of practice was a challenge because they didn’t know where they might be playing or when.
“We weren’t sure if we were going to be playing Tuesday in the NCAA First Four or the NIT, so it changes your practice schedule,” he said. “We were going to go a skill, run-and-shoot, to get the wind Sunday. (One assistant) made a point, we might need to hit today, because we might be practicing light on Monday and traveling to Dayton or playing a home game (Tuesday). We hit (Sunday) and went a little longer than we normally would. Once we saw our name there, I told the group, the second-best news of the day is you’ve got tomorrow off.”
*Sophomore forward Kyle Young continues to deal with a pair of leg injuries.
“He’s not 100 percent, but I think he’s probably 75 percent or maybe 70,” Holtmann said. “His ankle’s still bothering him and he still has pain in his leg, but he’s practicing more. I think that has helped him. If you don’t practice and you’re a guy where your game is built on playing hard, playing with energy and a level of physicality, it’s easy to lose some of that.”
*In the Big Ten tournament, Holtmann said he liked the matchup with Indiana for a few specific reasons.
“They have two bigs who shoot but don’t make a whole lot,” he said. “They’re really good players, but that’s not really their strength. What that allowed us to do with Kaleb was park him in the lane and he was able to affect their defense with his size and his length. And he stayed out of foul trouble. It’s a good matchup for us.”
*The next game took a turn against Michigan State when Keyshawn Woods picked up a second foul early in the first half.
“It really hurt our team,” Holtmann said. “His play has separated himself from some of our other guards, so there’s a drop-off right now. That’s just the reality, the way he’s been playing, making shots. That, and Kaleb’s obvious limitations in foul trouble were killers for us. He came here to play in the NCAA Tournament and his games at Creighton, at Illinois, versus Indiana, were critical for getting us over the hump.”
*Holtmann took a submitted question about Luther Muhammad’s shooting stroke starting to improve, as shown against Indiana.
“I thought what he did was, he took good shots,” Holtmann said. “I think that makes a big difference for you when you’re struggling. Kaleb gave him a great kick-out for a wide-open three, and Keyshawn gave him a great kick-out for a wide-open three. Then he got some hands on balls, got out in transition a few times. Both him and Duane gave us a lift.
“He’s a guy who’s always struggled at two-point, challenged finishes. The guy who has to drive and get to the line when he can is Duane Washington, because he’s a little bit better in that area. We desperately need to get to the line more than we do right now.”
*Big Ten foe Michigan State received a No. 2 seed after winning a share of the regular-season title and winning the conference tournament. Its reward is to be placed in the same bracket as overall No. 1 seed Duke.
“I don’t get it,” Holtmann said. “I don’t understand it, because they beat Michigan three times and Michigan got a better draw, matchup-wise. I don’t know what all goes into that. I do think overall the committee did a great job including the teams they include. I really thought they were good enough to be a 1 seed.”