Ohio State men's basketball: Chris Holtmann, Buckeyes agonized on NCAA bubble

Adam Jardy

There was no live, public event at Ohio State for the 2019 NCAA Tournament’s selection show this time. Had the Buckeyes wanted to open the doors to Value City Arena and let the fans in to see whether the men’s basketball team would be included for a second straight year, it wasn’t an option: the men’s hockey team was busy hosting Penn State in a Big Ten tournament game that afternoon.

Besides, the hardwood doesn’t come complete with a couch for coach Chris Holtmann to hide underneath. After roughly 50 hours of studying his way into paranoia while wondering if the Buckeyes were going to make the NCAA Tournament, Holtmann said he could hardly handle what was a tense living room at his house.

“I was under the couch, ‘Just tell me good news when we get it,’ ” he said Sunday night. “You’ve got two more regions (to be announced) and you know you’re in that slot of 11 and you’re running out of options. You could hear a pin drop when Iowa State came up because we knew, hey, is that going to be us?”

Read more: Second-year growth key for Chris Holtmann’s Ohio State freshmen 

Then, it was, and pandemonium broke out. A 22-second clip posted to the team’s official Twitter page shows the entire team riveted to the television before erupting with cheers, hugs and handshakes all around. It was a welcome release after what they had been through following Friday’s 77-70 loss to Michigan State in a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal at Chicago’s United Center.

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Graduate transfer guard Keyshawn Woods said he couldn’t watch any basketball other than game film from the conference tournament. He went to the movies and saw “Captain Marvel.” Holtmann said he did some recruiting. Senior guard C.J. Jackson said he basically just laid down in bed.

“I just didn’t want to think about if we were going to get in or were we going to be in,” Woods said. “My approach was, come here, find out if we’re in and prepare from there. I didn’t want to think about all the possibilities of this team winning, this team losing. I didn’t want to run through all those factors. We’re in now and we’re happy and I’m ready to play.”

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Friday afternoon, after the loss to the Spartans, Holtmann said he felt “really good” about his team’s chances of being selected. Then came the time to sit and wait, and it wasn’t something Holtmann seemed to have particularly enjoyed – especially compared to last season.

This experience?

“Miserable,” he said. “Much better last year. Way better. Slept better. Then you’re looking at 5-12 games, which are dangerous games. We knew it was 4-5-6 (seed) last year. This year we thought, 10-11-play-in. I talked myself out of everything in the hours. I’ve never really been in this place.”

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This time, though, life on the bubble was ultimately kind to the Buckeyes.

“Last year we pretty much knew we were in,” Jackson said. “Playing the waiting game, some people were saying we’re in, some people were saying we’re not, we didn’t know. Once we finally got selected, it’s a little different too because it’s my last year so it means a little bit more to be selected in the tournament.”


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