Ohio State's Chris Holtmann, Kevin McGuff preview season at Big Ten media day

Adam Jardy
The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State men's basketball coach Chris Holtmann speaks at Big Ten media day in Indianapolis on October 7, 2021.

INDIANAPOLIS – The Ohio State fight song blared, and men’s basketball coach Chris Holtmann took the court at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Five hundred seventy four days after the Buckeyes were scheduled to play a Big Ten tournament game inside this arena, he was finally back. That 2020 game never took place, COVID-19 threw a wrench into the next year of college basketball, and each men’s and women’s coach from the conference is now scheduled to appear here as part of Big Ten media day.

It’s been so long, Holtmann even told those among the more than 300 credentialed reporters who were in attendance that he was excited to see them.

“You guys contribute so much to our game, the popularity of our game … even when you ask some of those questions I don’t always love, it’s great to have you guys here and back in person hopefully for a full season,” he said in his opening statement.

Holtmann took the podium immediately after women’s basketball coach Kevin McGuff. The two-day event kicked off with Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren, who said the decision to simultaneously hold media day for both genders was to show the "proper respect and decorum they have earned.”

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McGuff, whose team endured a self-imposed postseason ban last season, said he’s looking forward to the promise of a normal season.

“That was a very difficult situation for our kids and for our program,” he said. “Our kids had worked incredibly hard to put themselves in position to have a chance to be in post-season. It wasn't on the table for us. As an institution we had to make difficult decisions. I think we made the right decision, but it was really tough on our kids.”

Holtmann, like most coaches, said he’s excited about the start of the season and what this year’s team could be. The Buckeyes were picked to finish fourth in the preseason media poll conducted jointly by The Dispatch and The Athletic, and Holtmann touted his team’s depth and experience while acknowledging that questions remain, particularly in the backcourt.

Penn State transfer guard Jamari Wheeler is an “everyday guy” who has raised the team’s compete level in all six practices so far, while Louisiana graduate transfer Cedric Russell is still finding his way as he adjusts to high-level daily competition.

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“You just want to continue to build,” Holtmann said. “As you know, the focus really has to be on the day-to-day. I think when you get outside of that, whether you're thinking individually, expectations, we have young men that are really good players that have some individual expectations. That weight can be pretty heavy if you think about it too much.”

This story will be updated as the day progresses.

ajardy@dispatch.com

@AdamJardy