Chris Holtmann talks St. John Arena, an indictment and more in creating Ohio State schedule

Adam Jardy
Ohio State Head Coach Chris Holtmann holds the ball that was thrown out of bounds in the second half during the game against High Point Panthers at Value City Arena in Columbus on December 29, 2018. [Samantha Madar/Dispatch]

The process of putting together Ohio State’s 2019-2020 men’s basketball non-conference schedule had its share of customary hiccups, from agreeing upon dates to balancing the strength of foes.

But an indictment to a third-party scheduler? That was a new one for coach Chris Holtmann. In an interview with WBNS-FM on Monday night, hours after the non-conference slate was announced, Holtmann said one of the hangups involved someone with no direct affiliation with the university facing an indictment for an unspecified reason.

“We had some glitches in our schedule that took a lot of maneuvering in the last two months,” Holtmann said. “It had to do with crazy stuff. One of the schedulers got indicted so we had a tournament fall through that we had done in the fall.”

As a result, the Buckeyes will host the Ohio State Classic, an event they created themselves that will feature games against Stetson, Purdue Fort Wayne and Kent State. Those opponents might not move the needle much – they finished Nos. 325, 192 and 143, respectively, according to last year – but the in-state game against the Golden Flashes provides an opportunity to continue what is going to become a tradition.

That game will be played at St. John Arena, the program’s former home. Last year, the Buckeyes hosted Cleveland State the night before the football team hosted rival Michigan.

“We will do that every chance we get particularly with playing the team up north on a Saturday at home in the Shoe,” Holtmann said. “(In those cases) we will almost always plan on playing a Friday game in St. John Arena. That’s a tradition we would like to make happen. We decided that Monday (before the Michigan game) would work best with an in-state school like Kent State.”

The response to last year’s game against Cleveland State was met with near-unanimous approval, which has led to talks about possibly playing multiple games at the now-vacant arena.

“We love playing in there,” Holtmann said. “We have toyed with the idea of playing a team like a Villanova in the non-conference or even playing a Big Ten opponent in St. John. (Athletic director) Gene (Smith) and I have talked about it. We’ve discussed playing as many as two. It will always be one, but obviously there’s other factors that go into that that you have to be aware of.”

The schedule also boasts games against perennial powers North Carolina, Villanova, Kentucky, Cincinnati and West Virginia. The game against Villanova is part of the Gavitt Games, and Holtmann said the Buckeyes had been told they could possibly play the likes of Creighton, Providence or Villanova. Likewise, in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Holtmann said he’d heard they could possibly play N.C. State, Virginia Tech or the Tar Heels.

In all, it presents a daunting schedule that Holtmann said elicited a few feelings upon completion.

“Lot of sleepless nights, lot of Advil and hopefully a lot of excitement for our great fans,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why you put the schedule together. There’s a reason, there’s a science behind putting together a schedule this challenging and competitive. A lot of it has to do with giving yourself the best chance to be an NCAA at-large team and also working on your seeding. There’s no guarantees on any of those, but you try to put a schedule together that fits that criteria. Then you’re obviously taking into account what games your fans would enjoy seeing.”


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