Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In Chris Holtmann, Ohio State landed the coach they should have wanted all along


After all that, after Ohio State fired the best coach in the history of the program, missed on some names you didn’t think that they would miss on and learned the hard way that having a coaching search play out in the middle of June in the public eye can lead to some embarrassment, the Buckeyes got the man that they should have targeted all along.

Chris Holtmann, the new Ohio State head coach, is what Thad Matta was 13 years ago, when he was the new Ohio State head coach.

Holtmann is a little older than Matta was at the time, and Matta had a little more success at Butler and Xavier than Holtmann had at Gardner-Webb and Butler, but they really aren’t all that different. Neither coach has an ego that needs to be stroked. They aren’t attention whores, which is the perfect demeanor for a basketball coach to have on the campus of a football school. Both have a reputation for “doing it the right way”; it’s silly for anyone to out-and-out say that any coach doesn’t cheat, but talk to people in recruiting circles and you’ll have a hard time finding anyone to tell you that either Matta or Holtmann are doling out Ricky Roe duffel bags to every recruit that visits campus.

But the most important part here is that both Matta and Holtmann are terrific coaches. Matta never got the credit he deserved for being great at his job. Before arriving at Ohio State, he went to four NCAA tournaments — winning at least a game every year — and won his league three times in the four years that he was a head coach. The only year he didn’t win his league was when he went to the Elite 8 with Xavier in 2003. From 2006-2012 at Ohio State, he won five regular season titles, four tournament titles and reached two Final Fours and one national title game.

Holtmann hasn’t won a league title yet, but he did turn Gardner-Webb around, taking them from the Big South basement to a second-place finish in his third season. His time at Butler, however, should not in anyway be underestimated. Remember, for a second, where the Bulldogs were four years ago, when Holtmann arrived on campus as an assistant coach on Brandon Miller’s staff. Brad Stevens had just left the previous July to take over the Boston Celtics, four months after Butler had finally joined the Big East. In Miller’s one season as head coach, the Bulldogs went 14-17 and finished just 4-14 in the league.

Β  Β  Β RELATED: Who should Butler target to replace Holtmann?

Then, in October of 2014, Miller took a leave of absence from the program that he would never return from.

Holtmann stepped in and immediately turned the program around. Butler went 23-11 in his first season, 22-11 the year after and 25-9 this past season. They’ve been to the NCAA tournament and won a game in each of the last three years, and next year’s team, which is coming off of a Sweet 16 appearance and a second-place finish in the Big East, may enter the year in the preseason top 25.

The program is recruiting at levels that we’ve never seen it recruit at. They’re rightfully sitting near the top of a league that includes programs like Villanova and Xavier. If Ohio State hadn’t come along and scooped him up, there’s no reason to think that Holtmann couldn’t have won a Big East title with the Bulldogs at some point in the near future.

Even without Holtmann at the helm, Butler still may be able to make that happen.

And that’s because Holtmann ushered them out of the darkness and into a new era for Butler basketball.

That should never get overlooked, and there’s only one reason to think that he may not be able to do for Ohio State what he did for Butler: recruiting.

Recruiting players to Butler and recruiting players to Ohio State is a different ball game. He’ll mostly be targeting the same regions — his bread-and-butter with the Bulldogs was Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, but he pulled kids out of Rhode Island and Georgia, not to mention that he tapped into the transfer market effectively — but he’ll be trying to get a different caliber of player. Recruiting at that level is not always clean, and there are few that believe he will resort to that in Columbus.

You can win at Butler by finding the kids that want to play for you, whether it’s because they’re from Indiana, they love the coaching staff or they were under-recruited, overlooked and accurately evaluated by your staff. If Holtmann can do the same for the Buckeyes, then Ohio State should be right back in the mix at the top of the Big Ten sooner rather than later.

No Haas, no problem: No. 2 Purdue sneaks past No. 10 Butler, into Sweet 16

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Leave a comment

No Haas, no harm.

Playing without Isaac Haas, their senior 7-footer who fractured his elbow in an opening round win over Cal St.-Fullerton, the Boilermakers shot 11-for-24 from three and got a valiant effort from their other 7-footer, freshman Matt Haarms, in a 76-73 win over No. 10-seed Butler.

The second-seeded Boilermakers advanced to the Sweet 16 for the second straight season. They’ll take on No. 3-seed Texas Tech in the East Region semifinals on Friday evening in Boston.

Purdue was led by 20 points from Vincent Edwards, Purdue’s senior leader, who scored 20 points on 6-for-8 shooting as his partner in crime, sophomore Carsen Edwards, shot just 4-for-17 from the floor and finished with 13 points. The biggest shot of the night came from another senior, Dakota Mathias, who buried a three with 14 seconds left that put Purdue up five.

But the real story here was Haarms.

The freshman will be thrust into a critical role for the Boilermakers throughout the rest of this tournament, and I don’t think that it’s crazy to say that the Boilermakers will go as far as he allows them to go. Haarms is the only big man currently on the Purdue roster that played any kind of meaningful minutes this season. Purdue played roughly 100 possessions during the regular season without Haas or Haarms on the floor, and it’s probably safe to assume that the majority of those possessions were played during garbage time, when the walk-ons were on the floor.

Haarms finished with seven boards, six boards and a pair of blocks in 27 minutes, doing a good enough job in the role that he was asked to play to keep Butler from lighting up the Boilermakers in pick-and-roll actions and in protecting the rim. He is certainly a better defender than Haas, particularly in space, but he is no where near the threat that Haas is on the offensive end of the floor. It limits what Purdue can do offensively, and with a game coming up against one of college basketball’s best defensive teams, a group that prides themselves on their ability to run teams off the three point line, we could be looking at a situation where Purdue really needs that interior presence.

What Haarms can provide will be a difference-maker.

I hope he’s ready for it.

VIDEO: Jordan Poole got a hero’s welcome in Michigan’s locker room

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jordan Poole hit the game-winning, buzzer-beating three to send Michigan into the Sweet 16.

And as you might expect, when he made his way back into the Wolverine, he was greeted with a wall of water:

Let’s see that from another angle:

I can never see enough of these videos, but perhaps this is the best part: Two weeks ago, after Michigan won the Big Ten tournament, John Beilein was absolutely drenched in the locker room, having to go to his press conference sopping wet, cold and wearing a towel around his shoulders.

So on Saturday night, he did the smart thing. He wore a poncho and goggles and went on the offensive:

Sunday’s betting lines, point spreads, over-unders

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Here is the full TV schedule, with spreads, over-unders and betting lines, for every game for final day of the first week of the NCAA tournament.

Detroit: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce

  • 12:10 p.m.: No. 2 Purdue (-3.5) vs. No. 10 Butler, CBS (143.5)
  • 2:40 p.m.: No. 3 Michigan State (-9) vs. No. 11 Syracuse, CBS (129.5)

Charlotte: Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson

  • 5:15 p.m.: No. 2 North Carolina (-6.5) vs. No. 7 Texas A&M, CBS (151.5)
  • 7:45 p.m.: No. 9 Kansas State -10) vs. No. 16 UMBC, CBS (135.5)

Nashville: Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Jamie Erdahl

  • 6:10 p.m.: No. 2 Cincinnati (-8) vs. No. 7 Nevada, TNT (136.5)
  • 8:40: No. 1 Xavier (-5.5) vs. No. 9 Florida State, TNT (159)

San Diego: Carter Blackburn, Debbie Antonelli, John Schriffen

  • 7:10 p.m.: No. 4 Auburn (-1.5) vs. No. 5 Clemson, TBS (146.5)
  • 9:40 p.m.: No. 5 West Virginia (-12.5) vs. No. 13 Marshall, TBS (159.5)


Saturday’s NCAA Tournament Recap: An evening full of buzzer-beaters and monster performances

Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Leave a comment


No. 5-seed Kentucky advanced to the Sweet 16 with a win over No. 13-seed Buffalo, and the star of the show was the guy that’s been Kentucky’s best player for three months: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He finished with 27 points, six boards, six assists and a pair of steals on 10-for-12 shooting while making both of his threes and 5-of-7 free throws.

That’s a ridiculous line, one that makes me wonder whether or not we were premature in saying that this Kentucky team does not have a superstar that can take a game over.


  • ZACH NORVELL, Gonzaga: Two days after hitting a game-winning shot against No. 13-seed UNC Greensboro, Norvell went for 28 points, 12 boards, four assists and two steals — sidenote: !!!!! — as the Zags beat No. 5-seed Ohio State.
  • ANGEL DELGADO, Seton Hall: 24 points, 23 boards, five assists, career over. Salute, sir. It’s been a pleasure.
  • KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: Evans finished with 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting to lead the Red Raiders to the Sweet 16 with a win over Florida.


You make the call here.

Was it Jordan Poole’s buzzer-beating three for No. 3-seed Michigan:

Or Clayton Custer hitting Loyola-Chicago’s second game-winner in the span of three days?:


The buzzer-beater that didn’t matter … did.

Myles Powell, with Seton Hall down 83-76, hit this running three at the buzzer. It meant that the final score was 83-79, meaning that Seton Hall covered the 4.5 points that Kansas was favored by. It also meant that the Pirates covered the second half line (Kansas -1.5) and Seton Hall’s wild last minute rally meant that this game also hit the over:

Bad beats everywhere.


No. 1-seed Kansas was +21 in the 22 minutes that Udoka Azubuike played on Saturday. They were -17 in the 18 minutes he didn’t play.

No. 1-seed Villanova shot 17-for-41 from three in an 81-58 win over Alabama to get to the Sweet 16.

Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter overwhelmed No. 7-seed Rhode Island as No. 2-seed Duke is now a Sweet 16 team.

VIDEO: Jordan Poole’s last-second three sends No. 3-seed Michigan into the Sweet 16

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

For the first time in this NCAA tournament, we have a buzzer-beater.

After Devin Davis missed a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds left, No. 3-seed Michigan went the length of the court and Jordan Poole, a freshman who was scoreless on the night, buried a three as time expired to send the Wolverines into the Sweet 16 with a 64-63 win:

When asked after the game how a freshman was able to make that shot, Michigan head coach John Beilein said he has “an overdose of swag.”

Poole’s three bailed out Michigan in what was an otherwise ugly performance.

John Beilein’s club shot 35.6 percent from the floor, 8-for-30 from three and looked stagnant and bogged down offensively for 39 minutes and 56.4 seconds before Poole saved their season.

No. 6-seed Houston got 23 points from Rob Gray, who was again sensational and certainly deserved a chance to extend his career for another game. He had 39 points in a win over No. 11 San Diego State in the opener and was the best player in the West Region for the first weekend of the tournament.