Ohio State still trying to build 27-game men's basketball schedule

Adam Jardy
Buckeye Xtra

Chris Holtmann’s calendar remains perfectly functional.

He’s hoping that his phone follows suit.

Wednesday afternoon, the Ohio State men’s basketball coach held a teleconference to discuss the status of his team, his incoming recruiting classes and the state of the approaching season. The date was exactly two weeks shy of the first official date on the 2020-21 college basketball schedule, which for the Buckeyes was supposed to mean their first game.

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Initially, that game was supposed to be in the Bahamas as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Then, when the start to the season got pushed back by roughly two weeks and the tournament was renamed and moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the game was supposed to be against Memphis on November 25 as part of the Crossover Classic.

Now, as the Buckeyes start to sprinkle intrasquad scrimmages into their preseason, Holtmann is still trying to set his schedule after rising COVID-19 rates forced them to withdraw from that event and its three-game guarantee.

"Right now, we’re hoping that my phone will start buzzing and we can finish up a few things here in the next couple of days," Holtmann said.

“I think we made the right decision. (Head Ohio State football team physician) Dr. Jim Borchers had a real conversation with me last week about the positivity rate in South Dakota and I appreciated him. We had been tracking that pretty closely. It was a tournament we really wanted to play in. That’s why we stayed in it as long as we did.”

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The Buckeyes officially withdrew last Friday, sending Holtmann scrambling for games.

Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann, right, yells to his his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Wisconsin, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 70-57. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

“It has been a challenge,” he said. “It’s probably been about 70% of my work days and nights have been scheduling. The toughest thing is both teams have to agree to it and be engaged and have a date at this point and want to play the game. We’ve had some great ideas about some potential matchups but we just haven’t been able to have a unified agreement on the game yet.”

Teams are permitted to play as many as 27 games this season. They can reach that number if they play in a three-game, multi-team event (MTE) like the one Ohio State was scheduled to participate in. Without an MTE, teams are capped at 25 games. A two-game MTE would allow a team 26 games.

Holtmann said the goal remains to play as many games as possible.

“I do want to play 27 games as opposed to what some programs are doing in terms of playing 25,” he said. “We want to play 27. I think that’s important for our group, so that will mean we’ll have to do some sort of exempt event whether that’s here or someplace else.”

The most likely outcome for the Buckeyes is to host their own MTE, and a source has told The Dispatch that they could be planning to host games on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Right now, Ohio State has four games on the schedule: home against Morehead State and Alabama A&M on Dec. 2 and 5, respectively, at Notre Dame on Dec. 8 as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and against North Carolina in Cleveland on Dec. 19 as part of the CBS Sports Classic.

The Big Ten is also still working on its conference schedule, which is expected to consist of 20 games.

“We obviously have some exciting non-conference games,” Holtmann said. “The biggest thing for us is we’ve got to get some games scheduled. We’re close to that. We’re hoping to put the finishing touches on that, I’m hoping, in the next week or two.”

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And as a final reminder, while the hope is to schedule 27 games, how many the Buckeyes will end up playing remains an unknown.

“I’m putting a 27-game schedule together,” Holtmann said. “I don’t think we’re going to play 27 games, but I’m putting one together.”