Ohio State (10-3) will face No. 5 North Carolina (10-2) at the CBS Sports Classic in New Orleans on Saturday, and unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the Tar Heels are probably going to be angry. That’s because they just lost to Wofford, 79-75, in Chapel Hill on Wednesday.
Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann would rather face a North Carolina squad coming off a 40-point win than a four-point loss.
“Yeah, no question,” Holtmann said on Tiki and Tierney. “Success can always breed a little bit of complacency. Losing can certainly alert you in a lot of ways. (Someone told me), ‘Boy, you’re going to get their best shot tomorrow.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’”
Holtmann knows from experience. His final game at Butler came against North Carolina, as the Tar Heels beat the Bulldogs, 92-80, in the Sweet 16 last March.
“They’re really good,” Holtmann said. “Coach Williams, I don’t think he gets enough credit for the kind of job he does. They’re talented and they’re big and they’re really physical, and as you said, they’re going to be on high alert. I think we’re going to have to play exceptionally well because I think they’re an elite team. Everybody has a game or two like they had against Wofford. I’m sure they’ll be really good tomorrow.”
Tip-off is at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Holtmann enjoyed three highly successful seasons at Butler before replacing Thad Matta at Ohio State. Holtmann, 46, called it a “life-changing decision.”
“It’s a shotgun marriage,” Holtmann said. “You’re forced to make these decisions – or you’re at least presented with these decisions – and the clock’s ticking on you. You don’t have a whole lot of time to really process it all. It was a really compressed 36-, 48-hour window for myself and my family. Butler was incredible to us, and it was a tremendous four-year experience for us, a three-year experience as the head coach. I feel like we left the program in a good place. Anytime you’re a head coach, you’re a steward of a program for as long as you’re given that opportunity. It was a gut-wrenching decision, but I’m excited about this opportunity. Our staff and our families are.”
Matta led the Buckeyes to a pair of Final Fours but missed the NCAA Tournament in 2016 and 2017. Last year, Ohio State finished 17-15 – its worst record since 2003-04 (14-16).
“We know we have some work to do,” Holtmann said, “but we’re really excited about being Buckeyes.”