Sometimes it’s not what you won but how you won that feels like the bigger victory. Consider: nabbing the last roll of toilet paper just before the annoying dude who cut you off in the grocery store parking lot then rushed past the mother with three kids to grab the last shopping cart.
Cue the cackling sound effect.
Likewise, it’s not simply that Chris Holtmann just won the Seth Towns sweepstakes, but who the Ohio State men’s basketball coach beat to the punch: blueblood bully Duke.
Take that, Dick Vitale; aka Dickie V; aka Dookie V. Your worst-kept-secret favorite team just got outflanked to the last roll of TP. Towns is worth more to the Buckeyes than a spare-a-square of Charmin, of course. The Northland product and Harvard graduate transfer picked Ohio State over Duke during a two-team "reveal" Saturday night on ESPN.
Given that The Worldwide Leader has taken to showing replays of decades-old Sunbelt Conference water polo games — I embellish just a tad — the fact that the network was able to broadcast actual breaking news magnified the Towns announcement.
Even bigger was Holtmann one-upping Duke god Mike Krzyzewski by landing Towns, who was Harvard’s leading scoring in 2018 before a knee injury cost him the past two seasons. Coach K won’t lose sleep after finishing second to Coach NN (during this time of zero live sports to cover, stay tuned for an upcoming story on the distinctive spelling of the OSU coach’s last name. … Kidding. Maybe.), but Krzyzewski can’t be happy that Holtmann snared the top-rated graduate transfer in the nation.
True, it wasn’t all Holtmann’s doing. In explaining his decision to pick the Buckeyes, Towns said live on "SportsCenter," "Overall, it was a perfect fit across the board," adding that being near home played a big role in choosing Ohio State.
But Holtmann, who recruited Towns when coaching at Butler, also was singled out as heavily influencing the decision.
"My relationship with coach Holtmann really set them apart from other schools," Towns said.
It’s a huge get for Holtmann, especially after his highest-rated signing ever — freshman guard D.J. Carton — revealed last week he was transferring; no word yet on his landing spot.
Towns’ impact on the Buckeyes is not expected to be program-changing. The 6-foot-7 small forward is a nice addition, and also necessary given the uncertain status of 6-9 center Kaleb Wesson (early NBA entry?) and with 6-9 forward Alonzo Gaffney, who missed the final four games for unspecified reasons, announcing Sunday that he’s leaving the program.
Towns possesses noteworthy if not otherworldly talent. As a Harvard freshmen, he averaged 12.3 points per game while shooting 42.8% from the floor and 38.8% from three. His sophomore numbers jumped to 16.0 points and 44.1% from three, and he was named Ivy League player of the year.
The injury could be an issue. Has he fully recovered? Rust removal will need to happen. But for Holtmann’s purposes, while Towns’ talent is important, it is just as impacting that Duke did not get him. It’s a perception thing, but perception can become reality.
In the summer of 2012, Ohio State was in the mix for Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood. Duke got him instead. Before targeting Hood, Buckeyes coach Thad Matta had gone hard after power forward Amile Jefferson to upgrade the 2012 recruiting class. Duke got him, setting the stage for OSU’s future inside game of Amir Williams and Trey McDonald. Hmm. Jefferson went on to play in 150 games — tied for seventh in NCAA history — and helped the Blue Devils to a 124-26 record in games he played.
Granted, Duke is going to win most of the recruiting battles against Ohio State, but the Buckeyes need to win some. And Holtmann just did. It’s a good look for him and the program.
Cue the cackling.