COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The No. 13 Ohio State men’s basketball team is having its most successful month of January since 2018 when Chris Holtmann was in his first season.
That year, the Buckeyes went 8-1 tearing through the Big Ten, including double-digit wins over Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State and Iowa.
But OSU struggled the last two years in January going 1-5 in 2019 and 2-5 last year. The pendulum has swung back during the first month of 2021 as the Buckeyes boast a 4-2 record with a chance to end January 6-2 if they beat Penn State and Michigan State this week.
During his press conference Tuesday, Holtmann said one reason for their struggles the last two years is the Big Ten improving since his first season.
“Our first team had really a terrific Big Ten season, but the league wasn’t near as good,” Holtmann said. “These last two years, as the league has gotten much deeper and better, we have taken some lumps.”
Last year, the Big Ten was on track to have between 10-12 of its 14 teams play in the NCAA Tournament with No. 19 Ohio State ranked as the fourth-highest Big Ten team holding a 21-10 record.
As of Jan. 26, ESPN’s Andy Katz predicts the Big Ten will send 11 teams to the NCAA Tournament, which would break the record for most teams in one conference to make The Big Dance. The Big East set the record with 11 bids in 2011, but that was also a 16-team league.
Six Big Ten teams rank in the AP Top 25 with the 12-4 Buckeyes coming in at number 13 thanks to four wins over top 15 teams with three of those wins coming on the road.
“I didn’t make a whole lot of us almost going undefeated our first month of January,” Holtmann said.
Just like three years ago, Holtmann isn’t putting much emphasis on his team playing well right now. He’s not making a big deal about their performance this month because they went 2-5 last year, but that ended up being OSU’s best team in the last three years, according to Holtmann.
“Our best team here, numbers wise, was last year. Offensive, defense, efficiency, across the board that was our best team here,” Holtmann said. “I think what sometimes gets forgotten about, in particular with last year’s group, is the roll that we got on after those struggles in January.”
Going on a roll is an underlying theme for the Holtmann-led Buckeyes in February. During his first three years, Ohio State has gone 16-7 in the second month of the year.
The skinny of it is not over-analyzing how the Buckeyes perform when the new year starts, but evaluating how they play down the stretch like last year’s team, which went 9-3 in their last 12 games.
Ohio State returns to action Wednesday when it hosts Penn State at 7:00 p.m.